Digital Comics vs Print: Dawn of the Digital Age

By | July 15, 2018

Superman Man of Steel #1 Dennis Janke Cover

I have been collecting comics for about twenty-four years and things have certainly changed since my first trip to the comic book store. I still remember walking into Bad Guy Comics and being mesmerized by Dennis Janke’s cover of Man of Steel #1. I just had to have it.

Back then, I was limited to buying comics from my local shop or trading for them. I guess I could have stolen the comics I wanted, but stealing an issue of Superman would be just wrong. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough newspaper route money to purchase MOS #1 and none of my friends were dumb enough to trade for it, and so I wasn’t able to read Big Blue’s newest adventure (tear).

A Technological Advancement That Tony Stark Would Be Proud Of

Tony Stark Kaboom

Fast-forward to 2018 and the comic book woes of yesteryear are long gone (along with kids having newspaper routes). To put things in perspective, you can read The Walking Dead #1 for close to free even though it’s going for $4,500.00 on eBay. How you ask? Well, you don’t need to have deep pockets, or resort to a life of crime to get your hands on TWD #1. All you need is a Comixology account.

I’ll be up front with you, I never liked the idea of digital comics. I always bought floppies and trades because I liked investing my money in something physical, and lasting. However, as I dabbled in the black arts of digital comics I realized that I could save thousands of dollars and conviently enjoy my comic book collection.

Saving Up To Be A Billionaire 

Bruce Wayne Mercedes

A current comic issue runs somewhere around $4.99; about two or three dollars less than a movie ticket. Most superhero movies entertain you for a run time of about two hours or so. In contrast, it takes about twenty to thirty minutes to enjoy a twenty-some page comic. So, in a way, you aren’t getting the same value for your dollar. Of interest is that LA Times just did a story about how comic book sales are down while superhero movies are racking in billions of dollars.

Of significance is that Comixology runs a lot (and I mean a lot) of sales. The sales usually discount trades (which contain about five to six issues) by 75% or more. I just picked up Darwyn Cooke’s Deluxe Edition of DC: New Frontier for $5.99; it typically retails for around $39.99!

Trade Reading In A Flash

Flash Rebirth

Reading comics in trades is growing in popularity because you get a complete story (or story arc) in one book without waiting for it to be released (via single issues) over a long period of time. It’s time to wake up and smell the lightning bolts! Trades rarely increase in value because they are basically reprints of original content and it could be argued that owning physical trades is kind of pointless (more on that later).

I had the hardest time coming around to buying trades because I felt like I was loosing out on owning that single issue that could be worth millions one day. Let’s be honest, that’s never going to happen. Single issues that are currently worth a lot of money are super old, extremely rare, and/or contain a monumental moment that no one saw coming. These issues are far and in between and it’s no fun to buy hundreds of comics hoping that one of them might be that gem in the rough. It’s far better to buy comics (print or digital) for the pure enjoyment of them instead of looking to get rich quick.

The Drawbacks Of Owning Physical Comics

There isn’t anything wrong with owning physical trades, but there are drawbacks. Here are a few of the drawbacks:

  1. You can’t read them in the dark.
  2. It’s too tricky to read them while eating and drinking.
  3. They warp and crinkle when you read them during certain weather conditions.
  4. Sometimes the word balloons and the art is too close too the spine making the trade difficult to read/enjoy.
  5. Transporting multiple trades is a pain, especially if you are going on vacation.
  6. They typically cost more than their digital counterparts.
  7. They can take up a lot of bookshelf space.
  8. Instant gratification. The comic you want is downloaded to your device in seconds.
  9. You don’t have to deal with travel time/expenses, shipping fees, etc. in order to obtain the comics you want.

The Drawbacks Of Owning Digital Comics

Owning physical trades and/or floppies has its benefits. The obvious benefit of owning physical comics is the touch response you get when handling them. Certain comics are made to feel a certain way; it’s a small but unique benefit.

Another benefit of physical comics is the opportunity to sell, trade, and/or share them with others. I belong to the 11 O’Clock Comics Facebook group and the members there like to build a community by sending comics to each other. It’s a fun way to experience new-to-you comics.

Online suppliers like Discount Comic Book Service offer physical comics close to, or even better than, the cost of digital comics (you can read my review of DCBS here). Additionally, exclusive content is built into certain physical comics that you can’t get anywhere else; such as, letter columns, sketches, etc.

Recognizing The Benefits Of Digital Trades

Times they are a changing and so are comic books. I never imagined that my iPad would be loaded up with over 700 trades (thanks mostly to the deep discounts that Amazon had). I can easily browse my digital collection without digging through long boxes and/or searching the bookshelf. My entire collection is at my fingertips and everything (even older comics that were published on newsprint) are in HD clarity.

But there is something else that makes digital comics revolutionary.

A Unique Way to Read Comics

Comixology offers a unique way for you to read your digital collection and it has completely changed my reading experience. It’s called Guided View. Guided View allows you to read your comics one panel at a time. Now you will never be spoiled by looking too far down the page.

Guided View isn’t perfect because the art and text sometimes gets pixelated when its re-sized to fit your reading device, and double-page spreads aren’t as breath-taking. But overall, I prefer GV to the traditional way of reading comics.

The Verdict

Right now, there is no way to tell how well digital comics are selling. Publishers still seem confused about the digital realm and how to find an audience without upsetting brick-and-mortar retailers. Some publishers offer a code with their physical comics that allows you to download a digital version of what you just bought. Other retailers discount their digital content far greater than others in hopes of generating interest. There is no rhyme or reason when it comes to the digital marketplace. Regardless, the consumer seems to be benefitting from the confusion.

If Deadpool was holding a gun to my head and told me that from now on I had to choose between digital comics and physical comics, I would choose digital comics. I’d make that hard decision because current comics don’t hold their value, digital comics are usually cheaper, and its a lot more convent to read digital comics.

I still collect physical comics and have a pull list at my LCS so I haven’t gone cold turkey, yet.

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