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Four color print is dead?

July 7, 2010
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Every so often, the media comes out with the latest scary headline. Will digital blank be the death of the physical form of blank?? Today that blank is comics.

NPR had a story recently titled Iron Man’s Next Challenge: iPad Users. From the article:

Marvel Inc. says it is testing the waters with its release next Wednesday of the Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 comic simultaneously in print and on the iPad. But for comic book shops, the backbone of the industry, it’s a more complicated picture.

I’ve got the free Marvel Universe app on my iPod Touch that allows me a few free older comics and some options to download others for a fee. I’ve toyed with the app a little, and found its controls a bit lacking. I was stuck on a particular page with no idea how turn it before giving up. Also, on my iPod, it was just too tiny to see and appreciate the art. That and motion-y comics have always annoyed me. Panning across the page dramatically and worse: showing one panel at a time. Meh.

Don’t muck around with the comic reading experience. I don’t need you telling me where to look, or the pace at which I should be reading. The art and bubble placement should do that, not your panning and fades. My biggest pet peeve is the panel-at-a-time viewing. No. No. A good comic book artist uses the entire page in his/her composition. The position of an arm in one panel leads your eye to something happening in the next. Don’t chop up that flow, numb-nuts.

The iPad, on the other hand, might be a better experience for comics due to screen size alone. You won’t need to view it one panel at a time to actually see what is going on. But will it be the death of comics as we know it?

Short answer? No. Back when the internet first popped up, digital comics appeared. People were wringing their hands over the death of comics then, too. But it didn’t happen. In fact, the article even goes into comic sales over the past 10 years.

Comic sales totaled about $700 million in 2009 and have remained about the same over the past 10 years, says John Jackson Miller, who writes comics and tracks comic books sales at his website, The Comic Chronicles.

Some 90 million comics are sold each year, and despite the recession, sales have not taken much of a hit.

“Last year, we were down 2 percent year over year, and the previous year, we were up 2 percent year over year,” Miller says. “In 2010, so far, it’s been a very bumpy ride — up one month, down the next.”

Now, newspapers are taking a hit. News being freely available online, I am certain that newspapers will be dead eventually. But not comics. Why not?

Comics are completely different from any other media. You don’t head on down to the newspaper stand to buy the latest edition and debate whether Israel is taking the right action with Palestine with the other guys hanging out there. No, a newspaper you read and toss. Books get a little closer. Books have a story. But again, a book store isn’t where you hang out and chat up with strangers about who would win in a fight: Mikael Blomkvist or Hercule Poirot. And series books don’t really come out as often as comics.

Comics are an experience. Comics are nerd therapy. Once a month, you leave your house and interact with your own kind. The stories never really end, and the characters are all rendered in a million different ways. My favorite part of comics isn’t reading them, it’s heading out to Carol & John’s comic shop and talking with everyone there about them. Bitching about Quesada screwing with Spidey. Asking when Mike Allred has new work coming out. We’re fans. And we gather at comic shops.

Comics may change and try new ways of telling their stories, but the shops will not be dead anytime soon.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Chas Leonard permalink
    July 9, 2010 6:34 am

    …Actually, one of the few reasons I would consider buying an iPad is to read comics… I just hope I don’t
    drop it! (Haw)

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