DC Digital – You’re Doing It Wrong

The DC Comics App
The DC Comics App

I have a confession to make. I’m an online comics retailer, but I’m a huge fan of digital comics. I’ve had an iPad for about 3 months now, and in that time I’ve purchased a number of titles via DC Comics’ iPad app.

On New Year’s Day DC had a massive sale on Blackest Night and I bought 12 comics for .99 each. A great deal (I own the single issues AND the hardcovers of all these titles, but I wanted them digitally so I could have them with me). I picked up Chase #1-4, one of my all time favourite comic series, and I was trying to figure out whether this would be how I get comics going forward.

Unfortunately it won’t be. It’s simply not cost effective, and downloading comics on the iPad is a slow and cumbersome job. The average comic takes quite a few minutes to download, and there’s no way to do it in the background (that I’ve figured out), which means my iPad has to sit idle for a bunch of minutes. If you have an iPad you know that it’s an impulse tool. “Oh, I want to look this up.” Grab iPad, look up what you need to, put iPad away. All is good. Having it “down” for even a few minutes becomes irritating. Combined with the fact that my iPad is now how I read emails, Twitter, and Facebook, and it sucks not having it available.

Having a desktop version of the app which would let me manage my collection and somehow tell iTunes what to sync up with my iPad (or even better just simply wirelessly transfer stuff over) would be tons better.

I love buying books using the Kindle app, so I’m used to using my iPad to purchase digital content. Same with digital music and movies, I use the iPad for that all the time.

I don’t have a problem not owning a physical artifact, in fact that’s one of the most compelling features of digital comics for me. Owning a comic is a burden. Owning a digital artifact is simple. Digital storage is pennies and I have plenty of it (I have a 4TB array in my home server right now which even though my content is mirrored, still has an astonishing 3TB free right now). Physical space…not so much. With our recent basement renovation I have even LESS space down there than ever before.

Price though IS a barrier. I can’t conceivably pay more for a digital product than I do for a physical one.

No other medium works this way. Well, except movies which I refuse to buy on iTunes either because quite frankly it’s dumb to buy a digital file for $20 when I can get a physical DVD for $5.00 and rip it for free.

DC announced their new day-and-date digital comics program. $2.99 per title, dropping to $1.99 a month later. If you want to get it when it comes out (when the actual conversations will be happening online), you’re out of luck. Hey, early adopters…just wait a month. You’re good at that right?

Meanwhile I can buy that same comic from my local comic shop for $2.39 (a 20% discount is pretty standard, we offer it at All New Comics, some online shops offer 25-50% off cover price, other shops give 15% off).  So digital is more expensive than print.

A print subscription is $19.99/year on the DC Comics Website.  $1.65 an issue.

Digital is more expensive.

I won’t even use Amazon as an example (although I believe collections of comics for sale digitally should be bundled and sold for the same 33% off cover Amazon offers for new TPB’s).

Instead, let’s look at something that is directly similar to comics, it has a subscription offered by the publisher directly, and there are electronic versions as well.

I have a digital subscriptions to both Wired Magazine and Family Handyman. Both are on my iPad.

Wired available on it’s own dedicated app. It’s not only a magazine, but each issue is interactive, with the addition of video and cool interactive elements. It’s not as good as the print edition, in my opinion it’s better. A 1 year subscription to the digital version of Wired is $20.00. Up until this point I paid $3.99 an issue digitally. Meanwhile I paid $40.00 a year for my print version, and about $5.99 an issue if I bought it off the newsstand.

It is released day and date with print (faster than my print subscription which usually arrived 2-3 weeks after shipping.

Family Handyman is part of the Zinio app, which let’s you download and read tons of publishers stuff. I had a print subscription which was $20.00 a year. Each issue is $4.99 on the newsstand. Digitally each issue is $1.99, and an annual subscription is $10.00.

It’s released day and date with print.

Remember, there’s no real market for pirating specialty magazines like there is for comics, although I’m sure Wired is available on torrent sites somewhere, the entire issue IS available online via the website.  However the barrier to entry is so low it just made sense to buy this thing that I enjoy every month (which let’s me know when it arrives even!).

Apple just announced yesterday that they have integrated newsstand sales with their iBooks application, which means iBooks just became useful to me.

Now is the time for DC to make a bold announcement.  Support the new digital economy.  Buy Comixology, PanelFly, or and turn them into your exclusive app.  Offer low cost subscriptions, and turn the apps into something that the comics can’t be.  Include Facebook style postings and ways for fans to interact with each other, and embrace the future.

Imagine if the movie industry had said no to VHS tapes which movie theatres were telling studios would ruin the movie business.  Imagine if studios had listened to rental stores that said pricing DVD’s at $20.00 would ruin their rental business.  When movie studios (and the music industry) stopped listening to their consumers and didn’t provide them with their content in a way they wanted it (digitally), sales plummeted.

DC is trying to prop up the past of comic shops by holding back the future, and it simply won’t work.  Comic shops also need to change or die, they need to provide experiences that are different than what we’re used to, and they likely can’t continue to sell a $3.00 product and hope to pay their expenses which have doubled or tripled in the last decade while their profits have remained flat.

Not understanding the lessons of the past will destroy the ENTIRE industry, and not just the few thousand stores that are still around.


The DC Comics Reboot of 1986

The Crisis on Infinite Earths
The Crisis on Infinite Earths

September 2011 will see a whole new DC Universe begin, a move which was originally scheduled to happen in 1986, and which didn’t take place then because so many titles were in the middle of great runs.  Instead we got a few titles rebooting due to the Crisis on Infinite Earths (the TPB is available at All New Comics right now).

Crisis took decades of convoluted DC history, where multiple “Earths” existed, each with a specific purpose.  Earth 1 was the Silver Age earth, home of “The Flash”, Barry Allen, “Green Lantern”, Hal Jordan, as well as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and so many others.  Earth 2 was home of the Golden age characters such as Flash Jay Garrick, Green Lantern Alan Scott, an older Superman, a world where Batman was dead, but he and Catwoman had given birth to a daughter who became Huntress, and an entire legacy of heroes had become Infinity Inc.

Other earths housed creations that DC Comics had purchased but never integrated into their mainstream universe.  The Charlton heroes of Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Peacemaker, The Question, Judomaster, and Nightshade (who had all been remade as The Watchmen by Allan Moore a year earlier) lived their own earth, as did the Captain Marvel Family, Crime Syndicate of Amerika, and tons of others.

At the end of the Crisis, all of the earths were merged into one.  Wonder Woman was turned into clay, and the world started over with only a few heroes remembering what had happened.

It was a perfect time to reboot everything, and we got some wonderful stuff out of it.

George Perez’s run on Wonder Woman is one of the defining runs for the hero.

John Byrne’s Man of Steel was a defining moment for Superman, and turned him from super-human uubermench into someone who audiences could relate to.

Batman got a facelift and Frank Miller was able to tell the Year One stories.

However the changes weren’t line wide.  Legion of Super-Heroes and Teen Titans stayed in current continuity which created massive problems for both titles.  How do you have a Legion when they were inspired by Superboy…a character who in this new world had never even existed.  Who was Donna Troy?  She actually predated Wonder Woman in this new world.  Even simple things like the Justice League now had significant problems as Superman hadn’t made his debut until years after many of the other heroes.

With a bunch of partial reboots, things quickly got murky and other events were created to clear up the anomalies.  Along came a Superboy story in Legion, a whole event in Titans, and finally Zero Hour and eventually Crisis on Infinite Earths and the weekly series 52, which finally brought the whole thing full circle, and returned the concept of a “multiverse” back to the DC Universe, about 20 years after it was eliminated.

Flashpoint seems to be a chance to revisit this concept again, and maybe create a brand new world which can be started pretty much from scratch with some of the best writers in the industry learning the lessons of yesterday to create a better tomorrow.

Or at the very least…tell a bunch of cool stories for the next year.


DC Comics Starts It All Over Again

The Full JLA
Jim Lee and Geoff Johns' JLA

In September of 2011, the entire DC Universe will start from scratch.  That month 52 new titles will debut, all #1’s, and all with new creative teams. The move spins out of the FlashPoint storyline, a summer storyline where Professor Zoom, the reverse Flash (one of Flash’s most deadliest of enemies) has altered time to change the world.  A world where Bruce Wayne and his mother died, while his father Thomas lived and became the Batman, where Superman was never found by a kindly pair of farmers and raised as their own, where Aquaman and Wonder Woman battle for control of what is left of Great Britain, and where nothing is as it should be.

The new DC Universe is being created whole cloth by the two creative visionaries of the new DC Universe, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.

Johns is responsible for the revitalization of dozens of heroes including the JSA, The Teen Titans, Green Lantern (and the entire corps), Superman, and most recently Flash.

Jim Lee most famously revitalized the X-Men in the 90’s, but also created his own universe in WildStorm, and has recently had terrific runs on Batman, Superman, and the All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder title.

Together they will be taking on the Justice League (one of only two comics to be released on August 31st from DC Comics).

So what does the future look like for the DCU?

Update: Comic Book Resources has updated the creative teams of a bunch of titles.

  • A new title starring Superman written by Grant Morrison.
  • Birds of Prey #1 – This new ongoing series will not feature the work of longtime “BoP” writer Gail Simone. In fact, many tried and true approaches to books will be getting a second look at DC in September.
  • Teen Titans #1 – The new start for the teen team will be written by “Red Robin” scribe Fabian Nicieza.
  • Justice Society of America #1 – Only one of a number of current titles that will welcome a creative team shift, the future of the original superhero team will apparently not involve current writer Marc Guggenheim.
  • Wonder Woman #1 – Don’t expect the recent changes from writer J. Michael Straczynski to stick when the Amazing Amazon sees another new #1 hit.
  • Green Lantern #1 – Even with a new #1, Green Lantern remains in Johns’ hands, and readers can expect the effects of major crossovers like “Blackest Night” to stay in place moving forward.
  • Hawkman #1 – While fans have known a “Hawkman” series by James Robinson has been in the works since the writer mentioned it on a panel at New York Comic Con, Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston has been reporting the rumor that the book will be drawn by “Batman & Robin” and “Outsiders” artist Philip Tan.
  • Aquaman #1 – No surprises here. The already announced series featuring the sea king by Johns and Ivan Reis will be part of the relaunch wave.

Another Update – June 2nd

DC Comics The Source has published a post titled “The New Justice” where they introduce 11 titles with their creative teams.

  • Justice League – Writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee
  • Wonder Woman – Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang
  • Aquaman – Writer Geoff Johns and artist Ivan Reis
  • The Flash – Writer/Artist Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
  • The Fury of Firestorm – Writers Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone, and artist Yildiray Cinar
  • Green Arrow – Writer JT Krul and artist Dan Jurgens
  • Justice League International – Writer Dan Jurgens and artist Aaron Lopresti
  • Mr. Terrific – Writer Eric Wallace and artist Roger Robinson
  • Captain Atom – Writer JT Krul and artist Freddie Williams II
  • Braver and Bolder – Told by some of comics’ most exciting writers and artitsts

Update – June 3rd.  Back to Bleeding Cool, where Rich Johnson is now reporting  – DC Relaunch: Four Green Lantern #1 comics in September.

  • Green Lantern #1 by writer Geoff Johns, artists Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy.
  • Green Lantern Corps #1 starring Guy Gardner, John Stewart and more. Writer Peter J. Tomasi, artists Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna.
  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #1, a team made up of Rage, Avarice, Fear, Will, Hope, Compassion and Love under the leadership of Kyle Rayner. Written by Tony Bedard, art by Tyler Kirkham and Batt.
  • Red Lanterns #1: Previously announced, Atrocitus and the Red Lantern Corps in their own series. written by Peter Milligan, art by Ed Benes and Rob Hunter.

There’s a ton of possibilities, and I’m actually quite excited by them.  I imagine this won’t go much more than a year, and in the end the powers that be will just relegate this to a shelf on a wall and call it “new earth”, and bring the “Earth Prime” status quo back.

But just for a second, imagine What If?  Chat with me in the comments, and make sure you read how this ALMOST happened in 1986.