It’s pretty obvious that the world of digital comics is expanding at a phenomenal rate. As tablets and smartphones become more commonplace it won’t be too long before the number of readers of digital comics could eclipse that of regular paper comics.
Companies like DC and Marvel sell digital downloads and even offer free downloads to sample their comics. And it’s very easy to download comics. Just download an app with Comixology, iVerse Media’s Comics + or even from comic book companies themselves. In fact, Marvel, DC, IDW, Dark Horse and others also offer free apps.
After downloading the apps, just sign up for a free account. Readers are taken to the sites’ main menu where they can buy comic books. There are literally thousands of titles to choose from, no more running around to different comic book stores to find that elusive issue that is sold out everywhere. A simple search button will yield instant results. At this point the sites don’t have complete collections but the library is growing so it won’t be inconceivable to have a complete collection of Fantastic Four digitally.
Once they’re downloaded, the comics go into the cloud so they can’t be lost even if you’re device is damaged. Anyone can go into a friend’s laptop or desktop and view their own comics. While comics can be read on traditional computers, reading them on mobile devices is the way to go becausenow the digital comics are as portable as regular paper comics. What’s more is that images can be enlarged to better appreciate the art and a simple swiping of fingers allows page turning to be easier than regular comics. Plus readers don’t have to worry about being careful with reading mint comics and the online comics don’t have any ads to skip over.
Before buying comics, readers are given a preview of a couple of pages to sample the comic. This can be a disadvantage to regular paper comics where a reader can conceivably skim through the entire issue before deciding to buy the comic. But many times, companies offer several-page previews or even an entire first issue which gives one a better idea of what they’re going to buy.
These free downloads are an excellent way to preview comics or characters. DC jumped at this opportunity by offering downloads of popular characters and calling them for example Flash 101, which offers origins and first appearances of characters, complete with cover galleries. It’s a great introduction for new readers and DC should use this concept more with their lesser known characters. One can only wonder why Marvel isn’t doing this.
DC certainly has the edge when it comes to digital comics. It seems as if they wholeheartedly embraced the concept especially when they launched The New 52 earlier this year when they relaunched their titles on paper and digital on the same day. These digital comics revived DC’s sales, in fact, for September 2011 they were the only company to have reported a sales increase of 1000% that is simply incredible.
However, not all is perfect with digital comics. To really compete, digital comics must offer more for the same price. For example a paper comic is $2.99 or $3.99 and that is supposedly due to production and print costs. Then why are online comics the same price? Sure if one is patient, individual issues usually drop in price weeks later, but why should the costs be the same on the first day of issue? If companies are to charge the same price then incentives should be offered. This could include creator commentaries, scripts, galleries and sketches. The comics should have a toggle button pencil inks and even one to remove the word balloons so readers can really appreciate the artwork.
Companies need to take advantage of the interactive features that are possible with online comics. One thing that can be done is to include live, real-time reader comments and updates. This means that a reader can finish a book then be able to comment on the issue which will show up immediately in that book’s commentary section.
While currently downloaded comics offer suggested links to similar titles, the comics should offer a link to a superhero homepage, that is that homepage would explain who is the character, show maps and galleries and databases on characters and story arcs. In DC’s case, offer a link to their 101 introductions or include it with the initial download of a particular comic. Annuals should be annotated with sound f/x which could be an incentive to buy them.
There is still room to grow with digital comics. Perhaps some of these suggestions could be utilized to fully realize digital comics’ potential. In the end this could be what saves comics.
José Soto and GEO