On Saturday at San Diego Comicon, a panel gathered to discuss the effects of the digital market on the comics industry. It is amazing that in one breath a statement can be made that is both abhorrent to long time devotees of the medium yet is perfect common sense at the same time.
As a former comic store manager, the words uttered by Mark Waid struck fear in me.
“There was not a single Sony executive worried about the record store in my neighbourhood.”
This was very true, and no one can deny the strength of the digital download market for music today. Indeed, I have to confess, the majority of comics I read nowadays are in digital format. I have limited storage space, so online access or direct download has proved an ideal solution for me. Yet there are certain comics when, especially after reading them on my laptop, I hightail it down to my local store because I want a paper copy.
I applaud the digital market for the creators’ costs as well. In the mid-Nineties when I reigned supreme over my own comics’ empire (that is one shop), I remember that the cost of paper rose by a factor of three in as many years. According to Mr Waid, the cost of printing the raw comic has doubled in the last five years. To break in as a new creator or new company entails even greater expense, whereas to publish online the high cost of paper is simply replaced by the cost of web space and bandwidth, although greater promotion is, of course, required.
I remember in the earlier discussions of downloading music that without the guidance of the record companies, the world will be flooded with lower quality music, but I have yet to see the evidence of this. No doubt there is some truth in this, but quality always rises to the top of the pile. So, could we be seeing the beginnings of a whole new wave of innovation?
In the meantime, our wages as readers (if we are lucky enough or old enough to be waged) are stagnant; nor does our living space increase by the year. There are far more people connected to the internet by computer, phone or tablet than live within easy travelling distance of a comic book store, so new markets can be accessed. Yet where would this leave our stores?
Merchandise will always sell, and if a store can specialise in this, whilst finding other ways to engage the local community in events, then they will survive. I fear ‘evolve or die’ will be the catchphrase for the LCS for the next few years, but I look forward to seeing what arises out of such challenges.
Meanwhile, it’s a busy week on the shelves. It seems not so long ago that I was writing about Infestation Outbreak #1, yet the second issue ships today. The same can be said for Fly, and the third issue of Phoenix arrives as well. Of course Invincible #81 and Incorruptible #20 continue as strong as ever, and my remaining recommendations are Dracula In The Company of Monsters #12, The Sixth Gun #13, Jonathan Hickman’s FF#7 and if you haven’t looked at Time Lincoln yet, today sees the release of the trade paperback The Fate Of The Union, so you can catch up.