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Digital ComicsAlliance: Archie Hits Windows Phone 7, Transformers Go On Sale

Welcome to Digital ComicsAlliance! This is the news post, and we’re going to tackle the biggest news of the week, outstanding issues with digital comics, sales, and whatever else is relevant to digital comics. This week, we’ve got the exclusive announcement of Archie’s debut on Windows Phone 7, making them the first comics company on the platform, an interview with Archie co-CEO Jon Goldwater, and a monster sale on Transformers comics.

THE COMMENTARY

The bulk of the digital comics conversation has revolved around the moves (or mistakes!) of Marvel and DC. This is with good reason — they’re the two largest publishers in the industry, and they have the catalog and backlist to make or break digital comics for the rest of us. At the same time, you can’t really expect them to be the ones to innovate in any meaningful way. The real innovation comes from the smaller guys, the companies that are more agile and more willing to try out new initiatives and build their fanbase.

Archie has managed to blaze a few trails, from being the first major publisher to go almost entirely day-and-date with their digital comics to publishing an extremely wide selection of comics across a number of digital comics distributors. Their offerings aren’t quite mirrored across each service, but the bulk of their comics are available anywhere you see the Archie A.

Archie is officially expanding to Windows Phone 7 with an iVerse-powered app. The Windows Phone 7 platform isn’t even a year old yet, having launched last fall, and Archie is the first comics publisher on the platform. Windows Phone 7′s major selling points are the inclusion of both Microsoft Office and Xbox LIVE on a mobile device, which makes it perfect for both productivity and entertainment.

It makes perfect sense. Office is the standard for word processing, for better or for worse, and Xbox LIVE is practically synonymous with online gaming at this point. While the OS isn’t on the level of Android or iOS yet, Windows Phones have a very wide possible audience. Staking a claim on what’s practically uncharted land with a brand as strong as Archie is a smart move. Everyone knows Archie — you could find the digests in your local grocery store long after other comics had been squeezed off the shelves.

The move to Windows Phone is a good example of how Archie is approaching digital comics. Where Marvel and DC have taken up one figurative spot and said, “No more, this is enough,” Archie is making sure that they’re well represented on every single device that you can read comics on, and there’s no target too small to pay a proper amount of attention to.

We spoke to Archie Co-CEO Jon Goldwater in light of this new release, and you can read the quick Q&A below.

ComicsAlliance: Archie has a positively aggressive digital program. You’re first on Windows Phone, and you’re available on the other platforms. It seems like you guys have all of the bases covered. Digital comics are clearly important to Archie. My question is, why the hard push, when most of the industry is still taking baby steps?

Jon Goldwater: We want to make Archie titles available to anyone who wants them — whether it’s through subscriptions, visiting a comic shop or downloading them on your device. Not everyone has a comic store down the street, not everyone wants hard copies of their comics,and so on. We want to cater to as wide a base as possible and we also want to make sure we’re making the best product available to our customers for a reasonable price and in a timely manner. The last thing we want to hear is “I couldn’t find a copy.” We have fans around the world by people of all ages — and they should be able to get copies of our books as soon as possible.

CA: How does Archie Digital, a pay service, factor into your digital comics plans? Will the content on Archie Digital mirror what’s available as digital comics?

JG: We’re in the process of synergizing our Archie Digital offerings with that of our app stores, so in the coming months you’ll see a much more synchronized storefront across our digital platforms. We’re relaunching our website in the coming weeks to update and modernize our storefront for digital and hard copies, and prioritizing digital is part and parcel of all that.

CA: Archie beat DC Comics to the punch when you went almost entirely line-wide with your books earlier this year. How has that move worked out for the company? Have you received an encouraging response from your audience?

JG: The response has been mostly positive. And thank you for noting we were first — sometimes that can get lost in the 24-hour news cycle we live in. We’ve been same day digital for months now. Being an innovator and leader in digital comics is something Archie takes great pride in, and it’s something we will continue to do. Fans have been resoundingly positive about our day-and-date initiative, and we’ve begun to engage the Direct Market in a much more direct and proactive way, utilizing variant covers, reaching out to our contacts in the retailing community with more regularity and just trying new things. So, we’re definitely looking to build our fanbase digitally and with comic shops simultaneously.

CA: Windows Phone 7 is less than a year old, with a relatively tiny market share when compared to its bigger sisters like iOS and Android. Why stake a claim on Windows Phone now, rather than once it has a wider share?

JG: As I said above, David, Archie is all about making our product available to as many people as possible. Thanks to our friends at iVerse, we’ve been able to do that on a variety of platforms. And while, as you say, the Windows Phone may be a small part of the market share, it still means that there are people out there who’s main device is the Windows Phone. And we want to be available to them. We were the first company to go same day digital, the first to have a standalone app — which has now been downloaded well over two million times — and we will continue to be at the forefront of digital comics.

CA: Archie’s partnered with iVerse for the new Windows Phone app as well as your branded app on iOS, but also maintains a presence on ComiXology and Graphicly. What’s next in Archie’s digital future? Can we expect regular digital-only content, perhaps of an archival nature?

JG: You’re going to see a lot of digital original content — which is to say, stories created, sold and marketed for the digital comics audience in the coming months.

And you’re right about archival material — you will see this digitally and also as part of our burgeoning relationship with Random House on the book side. We’ve got over 70 years of material that’s never been collected, and now’s our chance to repackage and present these classic stories to readers around the world. Amping that up and creating an extensive and available backlog of these titles is a top priority for us.

THE NEWS

-Paperkeg (Again) on Deluxe Digital comics: I’ve said before that paying four bucks for a regular old digital comic is basically insane, day-and-date release or not. I noticed that Flashpoint #1 hit ComiXology the other day at four bucks and instantly wrote it off. I made a mistake, as this Paperkeg post reveals. It costs four bucks, but it includes the unlettered pencils and inks for the issue. This is the sort of thing that I would splurge and drop four bucks on. My question is this–why was there no announcement about this Digital Deluxe edition? It’s definitely a cool idea, and probably the closest digital comics will get to an Absolute Edition. This is definitely the sort of thing that needs a statement from the publisher that explains what’s going on and (hopefully) what’s coming next. Where was DC PR when this was coming out? There are hundreds of digital comics coming out now, and special editions like this deserve a bit of hype.

-Corrina Lawson on Digital Pricing: This isn’t news, not if you’ve paid attention to the digital comics story, but it’s well worth reading. Corrina Lawson of Wired takes a look at DC’s digital offerings and promises. She finds a lot to like, but also takes DC to task on their digital pricing. I agree with everything she says. Right now, I don’t know if comics are priced according to their entertainment value. They have to compete against a lot of things that cost a little and last a long time. Can comics survive in a world where $0.99 is the norm?

-Warren Ellis On Digital Comics: Comics author Warren Ellis has recently started ruminating on how digital comics could shake out in the future. Ellis is one of the smartest thinkers in comics when it comes to coming up with new ways to deliver stories. He speaks on digital comics, DC Comics, and Marvel comics. He makes a lot of great points, and I’m not just saying that because I agree with him. Digital comics will have to be something different from regular comics in order to survive. Frankly, I expect Ellis to have a $0.99 weekly or bi-weekly serial comic out sometime in the next 12 months. I’ve found that when he’s musing in the “Wouldn’t it be nice if?” vein, he’s already making plans to see if it would be nice or not.

THE SALES

-ComiXology runs Marvel Mondays sales (wait for it) every Monday. Certain Marvel comics, usually ones from a specific series or united under a theme, are offered for half off. You can check their blog for the current sale on Monday mornings, and sometimes Sunday nights. Once Monday is gone, though, so is the sale. Keep an eye on their blog for other sales, too.

-IDW is doing a massive sale on their Transformers comics in honor of this weekend’s release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon and their brand-new partnership with ComiXology. Each Transformers comic in their library costs just $0.99 through July 4th, Monday, so get your shopping in while you can. You can check out the details of their sale here. You can download IDW’s iOS app here, which will give you access to Transformers comics and the rest of their library. IDW has a web-based store available via ComiXology, too. There are a couple hundred issues for sale here, so the odds are good that you’ll be able to find something you like.

THE PLAYERS

There are a few different ways to get digital comics right now. Here’s a selection of the methods, listed by company in alphabetical order, and the formats they support:

Archie Comics
(iOS)
Boom! Studios (iOS [identical to the Boom! offerings on ComiXology and syncs with your ComiXology account])
Comics4Kids (iOS [ComiXology for all-ages comics])
ComiXology (iOS, Web, Android)
Dark Horse (iOS, Web)
DC Comics (iOS, Web [identical to the DC offerings on ComiXology and syncs with your ComiXology account])
DriveThru Comics (CBZ, PDF, ePUB, and more)
Dynamite Entertainment (iOS,Web, Android [identical to the Dynamite offerings on ComiXology and syncs with your ComiXology account])
eManga (web)
Graphic.ly (iOS, Web, Android, Nook Color)
IDW Comics (iOS)
Image Comics (iOS [identical to the Image offerings on ComiXology and syncs with your ComiXology account])
iVerse’s Comics+ (iOS, Nook Color)
Marvel Comics on Chrome (Web)
Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited (Web)
My Digital Comics (PDF, CBZ, and more)
The Illustrated Section (PDF)
Square Enix Manga (web)
Viz Manga (iOS)
Yen Press (web)


THE BASICS

There are a few things you need to know. You no longer need an iOS device (you know: iPad, iPod, iPhone), but you will need an internet connection, web browser, and, usually, Flash. Generally, you don’t get to actually own your digital comics. You’re paying to read them, and while this has been a fairly smooth process this far, that may rankle for some readers.

Are all these distributors different? Functionally, no, they aren’t that different at all. Most of them allow for panel by panel reading (or a variation thereof) or page-based reading. The main differences are in selection. Frustratingly, certain comics are offered on several services, but released at different times. Marvel alone offers five choices. Most other publishers keep to one distribution method, and if they don’t, they tend to keep their stuff mirrored across the various methods. If you want DC Comics, you’re using ComiXology, for example, but Boom! Studios has comics on both. For Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, you’ll have to pay a subscription fee. It’s essentially Netflix for comics, however, so that may be worth it for you.

Personally, I use a mix of all the services, which is far from an optimal configuration, but one that works well. Poke around and see which one you like the most.

When do digital comics come out? Marvel has a weekly schedule, with an option for viewing the next month’s releases. That’s as close as you’ll get to a release schedule. To see what’s new on ComiXology, subscribe to this RSS feed. IDW generally releases books four weeks after they ship in print. ComiXology updates on Wednesdays, Graphic.ly updates throughout the week, and IDW’s app updates on Tuesdays, with day-and-date books arriving on Wednesday. Dark Horse updates on Wednesdays. This category on iVerse’s Comics+ site lists the updates for the week. Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited releases books every Monday.

I’ll update with RSS feeds and landing pages that show new releases as they appear! If you’re a digital comics publisher and you don’t have a feed or page that users can visit… well, please create one. We’d all appreciate it.

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