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The Digital Comics Evolution

4190207376 ebf7cf91ea 975There’s been a lot of internet jabber recently about the impending doom of the single issue comic book thanks largely to the iPad.  They say that digital comics sales are up over 1000%, and graphic novel sales are plummeting!  They express fear, despair, and anger at the thought of their consumers, their friends, withdrawing into portable, electronic hermitages where comics are downloadable at the touch of a finger.  They say surely we are witnessing the end of an era, where your local comic shop will go the way of the dodo, and everyone will be buying, reading, and sharing their comics digitally.   And, to them I say, “Calm yourselves, fools!”

I admit, I’m not a retailer, so I am removed from this issue and the theoretical Comic Apocalypse (or Com-ocalypse, if you will).  But, I am a creator, an indie publisher, and a fan, and I certainly don’t want to see the great shops around me hurting.  I understand that retailers view ComiXology (the app through which most major comic publishers sell their digital comics) as in direct competition to the stores, but, in many ways, they aren’t.  They are competing for a small part of the market, and, though they can undercut your price and match your release dates, they cannot compete with your atmosphere, your personality, your customer service, and your physical products that can be lent, collected, cherished, and sold.  We geeks are awkward, we have poor hygiene, we’re anti-social, we’re scared to talk to pretty people, yet we have comic shops in which we reign as cool, insightful, and confident masters of ourselves and the world of literature and art that surround us.  Retailers: we will not abandon you!  

It is no doubt a brave, new world (and I’m not talking about the amazing comic shop in Newhall, CA) that is changing the business of comics.  But, what we are seeing is an evolution, not an extinction.  Some shops will fail, yes, but the recent years’ decline in comic sales is wrongly attributed to the rise in digital comic sales.  Are we forgetting the recession that just smashed the U.S. in its pretty, debt-ridden, little face?  Are we blind to the genre fatigue that plagues the movie industry after the recent Snider/Nolan/Favreau (or Snolvreau, if you will) bubble?  Comics may be on a down swing and we will see what 2011 brings in all its Green Lantern/Thor/Captain America (or Greenthorica, if you will) glory, but, regardless of the success or failures of these film adaptations in the eyes of the masses, remember that we fans will still be here.  The comic industry goes through ups and downs, but, since the early part of last century, they have been carried through all the trials and triumphs by a passionate and devout  fan base.  Digital comics should help to streamline the sales of comics, and, if sold correctly (*ahem* Dark Horse *cough*cough*) by which I mean bundled arcs at discounted prices, reasonably-priced single issues, and entire library of downright cheap back issues, then I have no doubt that we will begin to see more fans followed by a burgeoning comic book industry.  That means more people venturing into the brick-and-mortar stores to see what these kooky comic shops are all about, more people checking out toys, posters, graphic novels, absolute editions, omnibuses, and ultimately, more fans.  I hear time and time again that retailers aren’t in the business to make it rich; why would they be when so few do?  They are there because they love the art.  They love the look on a kid’s face when she comes back for another Spider-man book.  Digital comics won’t take away that excitement, that passion; it will just be a new way for others to share it with you!

I see the digital comic as an empowering new tool for creators to get their work to the masses.  I see an end to the distribution monopolistic, death grip that Diamond has on the retailers.  I see a rapidly expanding fan-base that can conveniently explore a world of back issues and sampler comics for a reasonable amount of money.  I see a world where comic shops will thrive selling art, literature, and toys that are collectible, personal, and beautiful.  I see a world where fans are artists, and artists are fans and creators, publishers, distributors, and merchants share and succeed alongside one another!  I see a glorious comic evolution, and I hope to see you there with me!









Sam Rhodes


Favorite MovieYojimboFavorite Game:  The newest version of HaloFavorite Beverage:  Ballast Point's Big Eye IPA


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