Digital ComicsAlliance: The DC Bombshell, Dark Horse Digital Exclusives
Welcome to Digital ComicsAlliance! We're splitting the feature into two parts, news and recommendations. This is the news post, and we're going to tackle the biggest news of the week, outstanding issues with digital comics, sales, and everything else on the subject. The biggest news this week is obviously DC rebooting their entire line in September, and the inclusion of day and date digital releases as part of that plan. They've announced the price, too, and we have some concerns about that.DC recently announced their pricing scheme for their upcoming line-wide day and date launch in August. You're looking at full cover price for new books, and four weeks later, they'll drop in price to $1.99 for standard issues and $2.99 for oversized issues. For a dollar extra, you can get the printed comic and the digital edition in one package. You can read more details on the pricing here.
I think that this pricing scheme is... unwise, to be perfectly diplomatic about it. I understand DC's reasoning, however. Fans proved that they're willing to pay $2.99 for digital comics over the course of Justice League: Generation Lost's run, and Marvel's presumably seen some success with their high priced digital books, as well. DC isn't a company that is in the business of leaving money on the table, so I can't fault them, as much as I wish that they would do otherwise.
The thing about the pricing is that comics have to compete against a lot more now. The types of content we consume has widened, as has the depth of choice within those types. We're no longer limited to sitcoms at eight, cop shows at nine, and news at eleven in a world where downloadable video games, Youtube, fanfiction, streaming sports, constant personality spamming via Twitter and other social networks, Netflix, and Hulu exist. Comics, which have generally turned from complete stories with bubbling subplots into parts of complete stories, have to keep up with this new world. Can they do it at this price? Let's see what else costs three or four bucks.
Renting Movies on Amazon: Renting any of the thousands of movies on Amazon or iTunes costs zero to four bucks. You could rent The Dark Knight or Red right now and be watching it ten minutes later, internet connection depending. That's two hours (or, in the case of TDK, two and a half hours that feels like longer) of entertainment, presumably with family or friends. The nigh-instant gratification of renting movies online is nice, too.
Angry Birds: There are three versions of the unbelievably addictive Angry Birds out there: vanilla, Rio, and Seasons. They're $0.99 each, which makes picking up the entire set cost a hair under $3.00. Angry Birds is a mostly solitary affair, barring breaking out the iPad at a party to try and beat each other's high scores, but it delivers hours upon hours of entertainment and, at times, frustration.
LA Noire DLC: Downloadable content for Rockstar's new crime game is going to run you four bucks. If Angry Birds isn't your speed, maybe LA Noire is. Expect hours of entertainment here, too. Mysteries require solving, and that's not something that you can sit and do in ten minutes.
A Magazine Subscription: If you own a Kindle, you can subscribe to The New Yorker or Time for three bucks a month. Regularly reading news magazines will make you better informed, which makes you smarter, which makes you more attractive. Knowing things is good, and I recommend anything that lets you learn more things. The New Yorker even has those funny little incomprehensible cartoons for you to ponder like koans.
Starbucks: The Starbucks example is old and probably a little tired, but let's be honest here: Starbucks is the new malt shop, renovated and improved for our new culture. We go there to wake up in the morning and sometimes we stop in for an unhealthy lunch. If you need a break from work, you trek to the nearest Starbucks, or Starbucks-alike, and grab a cup. If you need to kill time before a movie with your friends, you go to Starbucks and trade three or so dollars for coffee or tea. Going to Starbucks can be an intensely social experience if you do it right, whether you go there as a respite from work, to get your mind off something else, or just for the coffee.
Cheap Wine: As ComicsAlliance's own Professor of Pug-ology Caleb Goellner suggested, picking up a jug (cheap) or box (cheapest) of wine from your local liquor store costs three or four dollars. Ever heard of Two Buck Chuck? As its rhyming name suggests, if you're looking to get tore up with some friends, make a lot of bad decisions in a single night, and wake up with a monster hangover, you'd be hard pressed to find a better deal. (Rhymes are not classy, they are delightfully trashy.)
Swisher Sweets: Cigarettes are unhealthy, we know this, but a lot of us smoke anyway. If you're having a really hard day at work, the sort of day where you wouldn't mind throwing your computer at your boss's head and quitting in an explosive fashion, what do you do? You walk down to the corner store, buy a pack (or a loosie), and smoke it while standing somewhere quiet and quietly cursing everything in the entire world. It's cheap (and versatile) stress relief.
Oxidado: There's a new hallucinogenic drug that's sweeping Brazil at the moment called oxidado. It will probably get you addicted from your first hit and turn you into a living zombie weeks down the line, but it's got to be said: it costs about $1.25 a rock, which means that it's cheaper than crack despite being stronger. I'm not recommending that you do this, obviously, but it has to be said. Some people like this sort of thing.
Three of My Favorite Beatles Songs Revolver is probably my favorite Beatles record, and you can buy "She Said She Said", "And Your Bird Can Sing", and "Tomorrow Never Knows" from iTunes for just under four dollars. That gives you three songs sung by John Lennon and enough ammunition to start a fight at a party. I'm a fairly recent convert to Beatlemania, but as near as I can tell, everyone who has ever heard a Beatles song has strong opinions on pretty much anything to do with the Beatles. Say you prefer Lennon to Paul McCartney, say that "She Said She Said" is the best breakup song ever, or say "Tomorrow Never Knows" is a "true masterpiece" and I guarantee you'll get an argument that lasts hours and perhaps even a new enemy out of it.
Can comics match up to the value of any of these? Comics, monthly comics, feel particularly more disposable as time goes on. The long mega-arcs that people like Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns tell are a better value in trade paperback, and mid-list comics like Batgirl have complete stories, but may not be completely satisfying in floppy form.
Basically, my question is this: is there any way, shape, or form that paying three bucks for a digital comic that I like is as reasonable as paying a similar price for any of these other experiences? I like comics a lot, but I don't think that they're at that level. Maybe I'm wrong. I bet I'm not, though.
-Axel Alonso Talks Digital Comics With Complex: Digital comics only come up briefly, but Alonso's response to a question about concerns with digital distribution is interesting. He says, "We need to provide comics to the reader at premium quality and an affordable price with added material, that additional hook that incentivizes people to give them a try." I agree, but I don't think Marvel has quite managed to pull this off yet. Alonso speaking on this publicly is probably a good sign, though.
-Digital Dark Horse Retailer Exclusives: This was announced last year, but Dark Horse is ready to begin rolling out their retailer-exclusive digital comics. Go to a comic shop and you get a code to download an eight-page digital story. July features a BPRD tale (with art by Guy Davis!), August has Buffy, and September has Mass Effect. This seems pretty interesting, but the fact that they're just announcing a three month program is even more interesting. That seems a little meager, and the press release doesn't actually say whether or not it will go past these first three months.
-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.
-Right now, and throughout the weekend I believe, you can buy Jeff Parker and Roger Cruz's X-Men First Class for $0.99 on the Marvel and ComiXology iOS apps. This is a good idea, considering the big movie release of the weekend is the slightly different X-Men First Class.
-Dark Horse's $0.99 weekend sale this time around is for Eric Powell's The Goon. The Goon is funny and gory horror comics, kind of. It's more funny than scary, except when it isn't. It's very good, no matter the ratio of laughs to screams. Visit Dark Horse Digital this weekend for the sale.
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])
Graphic.ly (iOS, Web, Android)
IDW Comics (iOS)
Image Comics (iOS [identical to the Image offerings on ComiXology and syncs with your ComiXology account])
iVerse's Comics+ (iOS)
Marvel Comics on Chrome (Web)
Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited (Web)
My Digital Comics (PDF, CBZ, and more)
The Illustrated Section (PDF)
Viz Manga (iOS)
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.