by Orion Tippens, ADC
Digital Comics, where are you going?
Recently, the leading digital comics multi-platform app, Comixology, achieved over 50 million downloads in single-issue comics and graphic novels. That is the good news for the comics industry, at least in knowing that many people are now exposed to the sequential-art storytelling format.
Of course, not all comics fanpeople will accept the new medium. Digital comics are all bits and bytes, with no real chance for resale of purchase and the fear that all purchases could disappear of the service permanently dies out. Those who favor the digital format will relish in the higher definition color, availability selection, and “light” reading. There have been breakthroughs to further the revolution of digital-comics reading, including the single-panel “Guided View” option, cross-platform account access with cheap digital exclusives, and free samples. Is that enough?
No, but the publishing industry is improving. As digital piracy will continue, innovation is needed to usher in this potential new digital golden era.
Marvel Comics, meanwhile, has announced its new “Marvel Infinite” imprint. Within are a few curious ideas to enhance traditional narratives including the “control the caption boxes and how they’re delivered to the reader.” Marvel also announced its new Augmented Reality system for mobile devices, where the scanning of strategically placed QR codes adds to its comics content.
However, a well-sequenced art narrative is all one needs to enjoy a comics story to its fullest. That being said, the industry should focus on innovative ways to get the readers better involved with published content. This can be done by enhancing not just the experience of reading the comic, but also getting involved with other aspects including the setting, the technology, and the invitation to new, innovative ideas.
Here, below, are my crazy ideas to ponder in the new and revolutionizing expanse of the comics-publishing biz. Interested companies, feel free to take note and steal (through credit would be nice). Ponder the possibilities. If such ideas are in the works, please point them out in the comments below. Or even better, add a few of your own.
Annotative tagging – Red Lanterns, Secret Invasions, Renegade Clonetroopers, obscure Grant Morrison characters got your head in a spin? Backtracking on such elaborate mythologies may procure in difficulty for those with empty wallets, or lacking in free time. A simple solution, especially for the new readers, would be genius. How about, for those fancy touch screens, a simple tagging system with access to some sort of large information collective on repeat characters, past events, and relevant back issues? Perhaps holding down on some returning character can pop up some information on background, abilities, favorite pie, whatever. Does this take away or distract from the story? As long as it is optional, then no. Also, think of the other possibilities; some of which may revolutionize digital back issues, if such tagging could bring a list of relevant stories of back issues. For example: the first appearance of Venom, the issues where he wanted to eat Spider-Man, or that time he teamed up with Wolverine.
Parallel Paraphernalia – Digital-formatted movies have commentaries, why not comics? Well, not in that way of audio clips, but something more visual. Imagine your favorite comics, with the touch of a button, could change and switch to something more in-depth. Suddenly appearing – writers notes and annotations, original script, artist concept sketches, or perhaps cute kitten pictures. Why, you may ask? All depends on how much the reader loves that comic or series. Never underestimate the power of obsessive fanboys/fangirls. Think of such a feature as a “special edition,” a chance to make extra dollars from suckers like myself.
Home Sharing – Perhaps the biggest complaint about digital comics is the lack of sharing with others. By that I mean one screen, one account, one person. Yet part of the fun of collecting comics (at least in grade school) is the sharing of this art and literature with others. Bring back the social aspect of this comics love. With a local network connection like a Bluetooth connection, or localized wi-fi options similar to Apple’s Home Sharing system, nearby friends and family could perhaps enjoy received downloads on their own devices. Access to a friend’s collection may open new readers to new worlds, or perhaps to start an account of their own. Meanwhile, there are no passwords to give out, no accidental deletions, and the potential to encourage potential geeky girlfriends (or boyfriends).
Community Integration – Who says comic stores, libraries, and literary outlets may suffer in the new digital apocalypse? People with lesser imaginations, that’s who. Or, perhaps, those promoting digital downloads for their basic value. But let’s kick it up: Using local networks, how about a renting service like Netflix, or access to a large free collection through a certain location? If you build it, they will come. Even better, allow a full library of digital back issues to sort through. Allow some stores to customize their selection or even look into reprinting rare, obscure issues. The excess profit potential could come from drinks, donuts, hamburgers! And like the comics stores of the past, nerds may mingle, and their discussions on such eternal questions – Betty or Veronica? The unmovable Blob or the unstoppable Juggernaut? This may be the comic store of your distant future!
Relevant cross-promotion – Complaining about the price of digital comics? Well, how about adding some ad revenue; it works for the main free downloadable game apps out there, including Words with Friends and Farmville. With great popularity comes all the chances for data mining: marketing info is siphoned from our private information once we’re accepting such digital fruit for free. But with that, make the comics free, but don’t hit us with annoying ads about cars most of us can’t afford. Show us the latest DC Directs, Star Wars Lego playsets, or movie trailers for movies that could disappoint us. Or perhaps, even better: use location-based features to uncover local happenings, conventions, or the best place to enjoy lattes while reading that latest issue of Orc Stain.
So, these are my thoughts for the comics of the future. Laughable, or genius? Would love to hear your feedback.
– Orion Tippens, freelance journalist and forever lover of comics.
(The ladies say there is no other. Thanks for dropping another round of knowledge, Orion! Keep an eye out, readers: Orion’s got some more in the works that’ll be popping up in the next few days – Mike)
- Digital Comic Resources: Marvel Introduces Infinite Comics (comicbookresources.com)
- Marvel to bundle free digital comic downloads with all $3.99 flagship titles (teleread.com)
- Marvel’s New Digital Comics Initiative (eoghann.com)
- Does reading comics on a mobile phone break the idea of comics? (robot6.comicbookresources.com)
- Marvel’s Evolution Of Digital Comics Looks Really, Really Good (gizmodo.com.au)
- Transmedia: Marvel Entertainment Launches Digital Comics (geobrava.wordpress.com)
- Marvel Comics Bridges The Digital-Paper Divide (geardiary.com)
- Every Marvel Comic Now Comes with a Digital Copy [Comic Books] (gizmodo.com)
- You’re Getting “Free” Digital Comics With Marvel’s $3.99 Titles – Whether You Want Them or Not (inveteratemediajunkies.com)
- Marvel at SWSX: Digital-Only Comics, New Browser (comicsbeat.com)