A Skitch in Time: Mark Millar is Wrong about Digital Comics

A few weeks ago, Mark Millar made some comments that in his opinion digital comics should not come out on the same day as the physical version of the comic. A lot of outlets have been giving this perspective a lot of weight since two of Millar’s series (Wanted and Civil War) are among the highest selling digital comics ever.

Millar even went so far as to use the slogan, “Don’t buy digital, buy comics” to help promote Kick Ass 2.

I think the part of this that really bugs me is that Millar considers people who read comics digitally to be “casual” readers. And that we shouldn’t even get to read comics until after people who buy physical comics and people who buy trades.

I’ve been reading comics for just about 20 years now. I’ve gotten rid of two comic collections over the years, each having thousands and thousand of comics.

Know why I only read digital? Well, reason one is that there aren’t any decent comic shops within a half hour drive of me.

Not to mention that increasing cost of comic books. There are very few comics that are worth paying 3 or 4 dollars for less than 5 minutes of entertainment.

And then I need to find someplace to store those comics. Since I typically read about 15-20 comics a week, then tends to add up real quick in terms of cost and storage space. With three kids, I don’t exactly have a lot of storage space.

Being able to have digital comics, books, and music has been a life saver. When Ipods came out, I was a very early adapter, same for the Kindle.

I also think Millar’s doom and gloom prediction that digital comics will shut down comic shops is absurd. DC has been doing same day digital distribution since September, and this hasn’t hurt comic shops at all. In fact, physical sales on DC books have been very high the last few months. I understand that a big part of this has been the promotion around the New 52, but if this was going to destroy the industry I think we would have seen some kind of negative impact, and that just hasn’t happened.

If digital is that ruinous for the industry, then maybe it’s time for the retailers to evolve with the times. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think brick and mortar need to go, but they definitely need to rethink their business some, or they will go the way of Blockbuster. An outdated business model that was pretty much destroyed by Netflix. Let’s face it, many comic shops these days supplement their incomes by selling video games, board games, and all kinds of other things not directly related to comics.

There actually is a good way for brick and mortar to work in conjunction with the digital market. Some people don’t have credit cards, or don’t feel comfortable putting that kind of information online. If you go to Gamestop, they sell game cards where you can purchase a game code to use to download a game for Xbox Live or Playstation Network.

You can do the same concept at a comic shop. Collectible art cards with codes to download comics. You can even do digital trades that way. Go to the store, and pay 6-10 bucks for a digital 6 comic arc that has some new art on the card. This allows comic shops to tap into the relatively small (but growing) group of digital buyers, and still give the readers the same comic shop experience.

Personally, I despise the fact that just to placate comic retailers, I need to wait a month to read most of my favorite DC books just to get them for a reasonable price. E-Books on Kindle are priced way below the cost of a physical book, because Amazon is not kowtowing to an outdated retail market.

Digital distribution really is the direction we should be heading. The mom and pop shops definitely will always have a role in the distribution of entertainment, but that role will continue to get smaller and smaller unless they change with the times. I don’t see anyone winning in that scenario.

On a purely personal level, one thing I especially love about digital comics is how portable they are and how I can access them anywhere. Same day release of digital means that I can access and review comics, which I like to think in a small way helps the industry.

When working on this column, it’s nice to be able to pull up the comics I read last week, clip images from them, etc. This is a great convenience that I just can’t get from physical comics.

What did Skitch read this week?

Demon Knights #4 – BOOK OF THE WEEK!

The Ray #1 – On pretty much any other week, The Ray 1 would have been a serious contender for Book of the Week, but Demon Knights #4 seems to be pretty important to DC Relaunch, so it takes the title this week.

Legion Lost #4 – I actually think it might be way too early to have shown that Chameleon Girl and Alastor (no word on Gates). It really felt like this story could have been developed a little more to build a little more suspense. I did like that Alastor seems to have the powers of a lot of Legion members, including Triplicate Girl! I also loved that the Black Razors showed up, and am starting to get a sense of the bigger picture of the DC Relaunch universe.

I’ll be talking a lot more about Legion Lost next week, as my column is going to be about DC’s rapidly changing creative teams. Looking forward to Tom DeFalco taking over, though I am a huge Nicieza fan.

Superboy #4 – This book was a bit of a letdown as we were promised to learn the origins of this new Superboy, and all we got for sure is “No one knows it.” Why bother making that promise if you have no intention on delivering? Each division of Project NOWHERE works compartmentalized, so there are numerous possibilities on who made this Superboy, where his DNA came from, and what his purpose is.

I did think the “letting Superboy off his leash” to manipulate him to working more with Project NOWHERE was a good idea, but everything about his fight with the superpowered serial killers felt cliche, and I am not sure any of it really would have won Superboy over to NoWHERE’s side as easy as it did. I keep thinking “there is more to this series than we’re seeing,” but that excuse is holding less and less weight with me.

Ultimate Comics X-Men #4 – Some nice twists with Rogue and seeing Kitty’s doubts, but too much of this issue was taken up by unnecessary flashbacks to what brought Stryker to this moment of attack. It just seemed like so much of this could have been achieved in a more compact manner to give the main story more attention. Same with the Pietro Maximoff meeting with Val Cooper and the President. This has been going on for months now, just get to the point already. We are at issue 5 and still have no real indication of what this new team of X-Men is all about.

Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes #3 – This comic has taken a little while to really get going, but this third issue really started to move things quickly. We get a fight between the two teams, some great sequences that show the parallels between the Federation and the United Planets, and then a great battle with our heroes dealing with classic Star Trek aliens all armed with the weapons of the Fatal Five.

For the most part, I do think this series could move a little faster (a typical complaint with me about the comics I read lately), but it’s been a really good mini series so far!

The Shade #3 – Shade’s exploration of Australian myth and legend was pretty cool, and I have really enjoyed the direction this series has been taken. Each issue gives us a lot of insight into what makes Shade tick and moves the story well, showing us his past adventures and how they tie in to the modern Shade. I especially love Shade’s embarrassment about his past exploits, which ties in nicely to the Culp infection he discovered he had during the Starman series.

Green Lantern #3 – Geoff Johns’ really tells some epic Green Lantern stories. Seeing Hal and Sinestro take on the Sinestro Corps was pretty awesome. I also liked Sinestro showing Hal some of the advanced tricks of what a Green Lantern ring can do.

It’s fun to see Hal still learning from Sinestro, even when he just wants to punch him in the mouth to get him to shut up. I do think that Johns’ love of Sinestro might go a little too far though. The idea that Sinestro put a failsafe in the Yellow Central Battery to shut it down when a Green Lantern Battery is placed in it seemed a bit ridiculous, especially with Hal’s comments that “You expected that one day you would be a Green Lantern again.”

I did like the scene with the Guardians deciding to start a “Third Army.” Those blue guys really have become good at causing more harm than good! Can’t wait to see where this goes next!

Suicide Squad #3 – Harley isn’t going to win any points from the “DC hates women” crowd in this one, as she comes off as a sexed-crazed nutter, but I definitely think it’s much more interesting than seeing her hanging over ever word the Joker says all the time.

This issue was a great way to take a little downtime to get to know the characters more, even as there was still plenty of action with Mad Dog of all characters. The arrival of Captain Boomerang at the end should really twist the dynamics some, so I’m really looking forward to that!

Resurrection Man #3 – Another series which is real well written with great art but much more needs to happen. The first issue had such promise about all these forces who are trying to utilize Rez Man for their own plans, and that was hinted again here, but in this issue seeing the Body Doubles kill him over and over again in their efforts to capture him just wore on me after a while. We get it. These are sexy, deadly, capable women. Now can we find out what the point of this capture was already?

Batwoman #3 – Batwoman really isn’t like any other comic out there, and that is a huge selling point for me. I love the massive scale of the two page spreads that pretty much dominate this series. Makes it a pain to read digitally, but it really does give the comic a very fresh feel. I loved seeing how much doubt there is in Batwoman, and how she tries to push everyone away from her because of this.

Batwoman is a powerfully done, very original comic, and I really find myself looking forward to each issue.

Mister Terrific #3 – This series finally seems to be finding it’s footing, and this has been my favorite issue so far. Brainstorm was a really good villain to show off the full extent of Mister Terrific’s skills and powers. And the aliens showing up to interrupt his down time was a nice touch.

One of the biggest problems with Mister Terrific so far is that it feels like the reader is thrown in the middle of the story, and they have made no efforts to explain who a lot of these characters are and why we should care. I often feel that I get more of an understanding about this book from reading interviews about the book than I do from reading it, and that’s definitely a problem.

Grifter #3 – The best part of this book was Cole telling the Daemonites to remember his mask and fear it. Grifter is another book in the “moves too slow” list, but I still have been enjoying it quite a bit. Especially since it’s clear the Daemonite story is going to be a big one throughout DC Relaunch.

One thing DC needs to do a better job of is explaining their cliffhangers. I have no idea why we should care that Cole’s ex was tossed into a giant open space. Maybe I am just slow, but I didn’t get the significance of this at all.

Frankenstein, Agent of Shade #3 – The battle of Monster Planet was done really well, with the story constantly amping up the danger and threat levels. I would like to feel a little more of a connection to the characters. I think after this Monster Planet story, they really need to give us a downtime issue to get a better handle on all these characters.

Irredeemable #1 and Incorruptible #1 – At grey’s recommendation, I ended up checking out Irredeemable and Incorruptible’s first issues this week. I’ve been a huge Waid fan for a long time now, and I keep hearing good things about these series. I really loved the first issues, and hope that I get a decent Christmas bonus from work so I can pick up the rest of these series as soon as possible.

Of the two first issues, I liked Incorruptible better. I just felt like I had a more immediate connection with Max Damage, where all the heroes (and former hero) of Irredeemable felt a little less accessible (likely intentionally so as we are seeing gods at war with each other). Both seem like they will read much better in long form, so I definitely want to read more of both series!

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