“We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Floppies”

Blue Beetle
John Rogers, screenwriter, blogger, and author of a fan favorite run on BLUE BEETLE, usually speaks his mind. His comments regarding the recent cancellation of the book have been quoted everywhere; we don’t want to miss out on the fun:

Wow. It’s almost as if basing your entire business model around a series of must-buy big event crossovers in a market with limited purchasing resources hurts your midlist.

Although I’ve gotten some outraged e-mails from fans, I have to say this isn’t unexpected. Both DC and Marvel are in a weird place right now — are they publishing companies in a dying market or IP companies in a growing one? The answers to these questions demand different strategies, neither of which are necessarily the best circumstances for the creative participants.

Time to go creator-owned, and digitally distributed. Because that’s the only solution that makes sense for our side of the equation.

Rogers, a content production veteran, makes his stand on the idea that digital delivery and further specialization of content may make it work:

Will you get even the paltry tens of thousands of paying customers that comics now get? I don’t know. But without the publishing overhead, you may not need that many. Let’s put it this way — stripping out distribution costs and our share of the rent for those nice DC offices in Mahattan, Blue Beetle could have cost fifty cents an issue at its worst sales level, and still paid Rafael and myself more than we made on the run of the book.

The comments section devolves into a lot of the same questions everyone has been asking since this Internet whangdoodle showed up, however.

Digital delivery…comics monetizing themselves…the end of the pamphlet…a new business model…haven’t these been the threads running through almost everything we’ve posted here over the past week or so?

Sorta related counterpoint: The Supervillain blog points out that BLUE BEETLE’s 36 issues wasn’t quite a tragically short run:

You know what never made it to 36 issues? Nextwave. Automatic Kafka. Dozens of other series that were about pushing comics forward, doing something different or fun or interesting. Not a third rate Spiderman-ripoff superhero book that hasn’t even had it’s original creative team in at least a year. The book obviously sold well enough to sustain it for 3+ years, and the only reason it’s being cancelled is because you couldn’t get more readers to buy yet another middling superhero comic. There’s nothing else to it. There was no genius there, nothing that was being overlooked. Nothing that will be missed in three months when everyone forgets about it. King City 2 may never come out. Marvel Boy 2 will never come out. So Blue Beetle was cancelled, huh? Shove it up your ass.


  1. Ron says

    I agree with John Rogers comments. Floppies are dead and digital comics are a great idea. Still, what do we read these on? Computer screens? Nuh-uh, at least for me. The technology is out there, when are we going to see hand held units for reading comics?

  2. says

    Sadly, the blame for the cancellation is being directed the wrong way. They killed the book with issue #26, the all Spanish issue. I understand that it was a neat idea, but it caused every person I had hand sold the book to during the great storyline that ended in #25 to put it back on the shelf. It still sold to my subscribers, but no longer a single copy off the shelf.

    Here in Pittsburgh, there is not much, if any, of market for Spanish only books. Blue Beetle was a fringe book. People enjoyed the prior storyline, but they were not invested in the character. Flipping through the book and seeing it all in Spanish gave them a reason to put it back and not look back. There is soooo much stuff out there right now, giving people a reason to not get your book is not a good business model.

    No real comment on digital other than how are publishers going to pay the creators? And all of the other costs involved with putting out a comic? If Free Comic Book Day is any indication, the actual publishing costs of the books is pretty small. I don’t see how Marvel is going to cover all of their expenses with people paying $60 a year to read everything they put out.

  3. Ron says

    No real comment on digital other than how are publishers going to pay the creators? And all of the other costs involved with putting out a comic? If Free Comic Book Day is any indication, the actual publishing costs of the books is pretty small. I don’t see how Marvel is going to cover all of their expenses with people paying $60 a year to read everything they put out.

    I’m not sure what this means. How does iTunes pay it’s artists? The business model is out there and I don’t think the tweaking required would be beyond anyone in the business.

    Limiting comic sales to physical units sold at brick and mortar establishments flew 20 years ago, but today we have established means of selling to more customers anywhere in the world at any time of day. No comic shop can compete with that. Would you rather sell 50K units a month at $3.99 a pop or 1,000,000 units a month at 99 cents? Plus those who don’t care for digital comics can wait for the eventual trade.

  4. Sphinx Magoo says

    Back in the 80’s, there was a sudden push by DC to putout new characters and content as mini-series or maxi-series. Books like “Tailgunner Jo”, “Amethyst”, “Manhunter” (before they decided to turn it into an on-going series), “Camelot 3000″…

    I think the online route should be applied to these types of books. Books with new characters and situations that add to the DCU or MU IP but that might not be strong enough to support a pamphlet series. Then, say, an ongoing series of online Blue Beetle comics might continue, and since he appears in “Teen Titans” there could be cross-references back and forth between the online and pamphlet comics to help generate interest. At least until comics go totally digital…

    Because, really, the plan for the future should be to protect and nurture the IPs. Sure, the original format was on pulp paper, but sticking to that format and not moving on is like an old radio or stage actor not taking advantage of the coming medium of television. I’m sure DC and Marvel would hate to think that their properties have as much relevance in the future as the Lone Ranger or Green Hornet have today.

  5. says

    I think that, unless Marvel and DC shift away from non-returnable direct market floppies back to selling them as periodicals, floppy sales will continue to fall. While I certainly prefer, and will only frequent, comic shops who place a significant emphasis on their graphic novel selection, the truth is that floppies bring in weekly customers in a way that GNs don’t. I never buy them (well, I might – MIGHT – pick up one or two a year), but I understand their necessity for the industry.
    But until you can pick them up in Wal-Mart, or the Grocery store, or the convenience store by your house, or the drug store next to your middle school, you’ll continue to see sales steadily drop as no new kids pick up the habit. The only way to rectify this is to switch back to periodicals in order to get the floppies back into accessible locations.

    In terms of digital delivery across the board? That’s just dumb. I’m sorry, but it is. If I can’t hold it, I don’t want it, and a lot of people are in the same boat – I might read individual strips in digital form, but never a longer-form narrative. -books have their novelty, but I want something I can put on a shelf and pass on to my kids.

    Now, digital delivery for the floppies and collected in print for trades? I’d go with that. If that’s the case, though, as there’s no overhead aside from artist fees and bandwidth, purchasers of a run should receive a coupon or something for a discount on the trades.

  6. rich says

    “I’m sure DC and Marvel would hate to think that their properties have as much relevance in the future as the Lone Ranger or Green Hornet have today.”

    This is a horrendously short-sighted comment. The Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet might be in hibernation. Irrelevant? Hardly. People in the DC offices may the same type of snarky remarks when Marv Wolfman wanted to revive Teen Titans in the 1980s …

  7. rich says

    “So Blue Beetle was cancelled, huh? Shove it up your ass.”

    It was a reasonable well-written, though grouchy, commentary, until these last two sentences. Apparently, the “Tough Guy Snark” meter registered “Low”, so the author had to add a “punchy” ending. Does that fall under the category of Saying What Is On One’s Mind? If so, let’s all stop saying what’s on our minds … please …

  8. Matt D says

    The giant freaking elephant in the room when it comes to digital comics are the retailers.

  9. Blorgle says

    But… but… John Rogers has a blog! He plays RPGs! He’s one of us! He could never produce something less than worthy of mass and massively-remunerative readership!

  10. Andy says

    Yeah but do any of you actually read digital comics now? The trend to do everything all digital might not be the best idea ever for a big publisher. I’m not really interested in digital and I can only imagine it would completely eliminate walk-up sales and impulse buys from people who aren’t reading a lot of comics.

    I don’t know that digital regular books are very popular, so why would we expect comics to be?

  11. Ron says

    I’ll gladly read digital comics once a decent hand-held reader becomes available.

    C’mon Sony, how hard can it be to make one of these?

  12. Matt D says

    The whole point in digital comics, past cutting out distribution costs and what not, is to reach out to the tech savvy 13-30 year olds who wouldn’t by a comic now.

    If you’re already reading comics or interested enough to be reading this, you’re probably not the target audience.

  13. The Beat says

    People, we are beating the same dead horse, over and over again.

    Let’s bring some fresh ideas to the table.

  14. rodney Wall says

    The future of comics, books, magazines, newspapers, etc. is Electronic paper.
    The technology is expensive at the moment, but that won’t last forever.
    A friend of mine has already modded his reader for comics.
    If comics were available legally to purchase in this format, he would be doing it.

  15. rich says

    Print comics won’t die … but they’ll become the secondary method of selling comics. I think without a physical printed comic available somewhere, it’ll be easier to just forget them all together. Sometimes creating the product creates the awareness … and the demand …

  16. rich says

    “Would you rather sell 50K units a month at $3.99 a pop or 1,000,000 units a month at 99 cents? ”

    But … are there 1,000,000 people who want to read these things? Are there 500,000 buyers? 50K multiplied by 99 cents is … not much.

  17. says

    I think part of the problem is lack of access to comics. A lot of people don’t have computers. A lot of people who do have computers surf the internet but don’t know comics are available to them online. A lot of people don’t have comic book shops in their town or city. The days of taking a road trip across country with the kiddies and finding spinner racks of comics in motel gift shops, restaurant lobbies, Thrifty’s, Circle K, and the like are gone. Comics need more exposure, through advertising, word of mouth, convenience outlets, comic fans taking friends and family on a “field trip” to the local comic book shop. This isn’t the answer, of course, but it could be part of the solution.

  18. says

    IIRC, Marvel had over 3 million people downloading Spider-Man comics around the time the movie came out in 2002. Granted, that was free, but it also wasn’t advertised much.

  19. says

    “Digital delivery…comics monetizing themselves…the end of the pamphlet…a new business model…haven’t these been the threads running through almost everything we’ve posted here over the past week or so?”

    Um, this has been said for YEARS now.

  20. Matt Fuerst says


    I have read some rave reviews of people using the PSP to read both books and web comics. I have touched one once or twice and the screen on it is excellent, though I have not used it for reading either personally.

    Try it out and let us know what you think!

  21. Likefunbutnot says

    Digital comics distribution is *GREAT*, and the pirates are showing us the way.

    Before I go any further I would like to say that I spend in excess of $200 a month on new comics. I buy what I read, to the point that there are a dozen small press titles that my shop orders just for me.

    But the way I read my comics is on a computer screen. I can carry months worth of DCP (pirated) comics releases on a flash drive, or whole print runs of my favorite series on my laptop.

    I fucking hate the paper books. Really. I do. I fill up boxes of comics and they just take up space. I don’t want to sort through them. I don’t care how much they might be worth, but I also can’t bring myself to get rid of them or sell them for fractions of pennies on the purchase price.

    My laptop is my constant companion, and for that matter I have a desktop PC with a large screen right next to my bed. I can read the books I want to read anyplace I happen to be. I don’t need an internet connection and for the most part, the art on a computer screen is actually bigger than in the printed book.

    Comic book publishers need to figure out how to monetize the work the comic book pirates are doing. I love my local comic shop but I would drop it in a heartbeat if I had a way to directly pay for the digital copies I actually WANT.

  22. Ron says

    But … are there 1,000,000 people who want to read these things? Are there 500,000 buyers? 50K multiplied by 99 cents is … not much.

    I bet there are that many buyers out there. Even half that number is considerable. But we’ll never know when they’re only available from one or two shops only found in some cities.

    And really, what would be the cost if it fails?

    I’m checking out Marvel Digital downloads tonight.

    Email me if anyone’s interested in talking more about this:

    carrost at gmail dot com

  23. Neil says

    I think what digital comics will open up is the fans ability to read more comics. If comics can be offered cheaper online, peopel will buy more of them. I think the cost of the printed comic has pushed people to be pickier about what they purchase. This has been one of the big drivers for the growth in trade sales, the wait for the trade crowd.

    If you were to buy the top ten comics today it would cost you about $40 (without your LCS discount). If you could buy a comic for $1 online how many more people would be reading Blue Beetle or Ms. Marvel?

    I don’t think it is an either/or question. There are still CD sales, if much fewer in the past. Just like CD’s , there will still be people who want their floppies or trade paperbacks. Most fans would likely still want their hardcopy of X-Men, Avengers or Batman, but if they might be much more inclined to read a Blue Beetle, Booster Gold or Next Wave if the $3-$4 they would have spent on one of those titles can now be used for three of them.

  24. says

    not to be a sour puss, but i always kinda feel that the concern for the comics biznezz is always a bit misplaced. Whether it’s digital or paper, comics just aren’t read too much. Most of the money seems to be made from the licensing of their characters in movies and merchandise, and comics are taking more and more of a backseat. I don’t have recent measurements, but from what i could find out, regular non-comic books are being published more now than ever, and they haven’t had to make a major shift to digital press. Any digital reader for comics would fail, because 1. most casual readers wouldn’t shell out for an exclusive reader, only the hardcore customers, and what is most needed is to get new customers, not pander to a shrinking customer base and 2. what is there to read that you couldn’t steal, and if you’re stealing it already, you wouldn’t go and buy a personal reader.

    I might be a negative nancy, but maybe it’s not a problem of paper or pixel, but something we’d rather much not admit, a problem of content. There’s only so much juice you can squeeze out of the pulp-fiction market, which to be honest, the BIG 2 are, and only so much a fan boy will pay for. To me, i read and watch all kinds of superheroes stories, and when i watch a movie and find that its a better investment to buy the dvd of iron man than to buy the latest civil secret world war crisis crap, its really a problem of content. No new readers, losing readers they already have, and creators who allow the bar to be set so low, that trying to bring the silver age back in a quest for a better (economic) time is the best idea they can come up with.

    paper/pixel, it won’t matter, when kids don’t realize that their action figure, their blankets, their beach towels, their lamp, their shampoo, their videogames, and their movies, don’t want to read the comics that their beloved heroes really live in.

    We deserve what we get.

  25. The Beat says

    Lea, sure but now these ideas are coming from everybody everywhere. Even a few years ago, a John Rogers would have been happy to just get a new book at Marvel or DC and be content with a page rate and the occasional free lunch from his editor.

    It as if the record company execs woke up one day and all said, “We must make ALL our music downloadable.”

    The current evolution is surely as definitive as the last one, from newsstand to specialty store, was 30 years ago.

    And just like that change, we may not get the exact effects that we’re looking for.

  26. Bob Fingerman says

    As a youngish dinosaur in the biz, I have to admit I hate reading comics online. I hate reading anything online, frankly, but news doesn’t lose anything that way. It’s text. It’s just not pleasant to read off a monitor. But comics should be fun and reading comics online isn’t. The art doesn’t look as good (it tends to err on the side of the garish), the lettering is muddier. I don’t know. I suppose it is the wave of the future, but not a wave I enjoy.

  27. says

    I think the revolutionary thing for comic book companies would be to recruit webcomic people who have been doing this stuff successfully on their own for years. Put Kris Straub on Iron Man, Scott Kurtz on a Batman run (heeh), and see what Gabe and Tycho would do with the Xmen. ;) Pay them lots of money to do this as well.

    Put any of them on a Blue Beetle webcomic and have them run it like a traditional daily webcomic and let them do their thing– money from ad revenue as you build the audience online, and then collect to trade. Sell merchandise direct to the fanbase. Screw the elephant in the room, they’ll need to adapt too or go the way of many music store chains.

  28. says

    I think what is the most interesting thing about these comments is how so many posters seem to now accept digital as the way to go.

    -jim Shelley
    From an iPod touch

  29. Charles Knight says

    “But the way I read my comics is on a computer screen. I can carry months worth of DCP (pirated) comics releases on a flash drive, or whole print runs of my favorite series on my laptop.”

    Me too – I currently pay the paper editions because people need to edit and to make it “honest” but it’s plain odd to me to read a paper comic – my monitor is the natural place to read DC/Marvel.

  30. says

    I’m with Bob Fingerman with this. DJ has a good point but for the most part the audience isn’t aware of the product or where to look. The advertising and marketing isn’t there to guide the reader because it’s not there, nor will it be pointed out by any sort of Newsarama-type site because they’re mostly interested in stories that feed into the vicious circle of income/advertising provided by the big 2.
    I’m still waiting for answers. I have the War of the Independents, Bye BiPolar and The Scab in waiting as I’m trying to figure out how to produce them. At this point I’m considering digitally posting them on my site then printing them in trade, available through either/or my site and conventions. Again, how to you get around Diamond?
    Thanks for the topic Heidi and hope you had a great birthday!

  31. The Beat says

    Dave and Bob, you are entitled to your preferences. Just as people who don’t like indies or superheroes or manga are entitled to their preferences.

    It’s really a four headed hydra now.

  32. Kate Fitzsimons says

    Hell, if *DC* had the kind of digital distribution site Marvel has, they’d have my $60 a year in a heartbeat! Sadly, I don’t read $60 worth of new Marvel comics a year, so it isn’t really a worthwhile investment for me at the moment. Hey, when everyone stops being Skrulls, (excepting Teddy and Xavin, but of course) I might take another look at that. But I digress

    The other thing that pirated comics have going for them, aside from being digital and existing – and that the now discontinuing Marvel dvd archive disks had – is that you can keep your digital comics. The Marvel site currently doesn’t have that. I admit it, I like to reread. Paying money for something that will evaporate once I stop renting the rights, or when they discontinue the site, is less attractive than something I can stash away on my harddrive or on a disk for future reading whenever I like.

    I don’t know. But speaking as someone under 30, I really love paper, but I’d be happy to read floppies in digital format if it meant I could still get my favorite titles that are currently being discontinued and I could pick them up later in a trade or something for rereading purposes.

  33. Rob says

    So an Iron Man with Identical Looking and acting characters, a Batman with storylines that end any time a reader says anything negative about it and an X-men with curse words instead of any actual plot?

    Sounds great, DJ.

  34. says

    I’ll admit my neolithic addiction to the floppie and there are many preferred indifference’s to collecting that may contribute to this looming, still unanswered problem.

  35. Tyson D. says

    “It’s really a four headed hydra now.”

    And you could probably add some more heads on the beast too. And divide and refine the heads already referred to.

    There seems to be a degree of convergence happening as much within comics as across other media as well so it seems the heads of hydra are frequently taking bits and pieces from each other.

    For some reason, I feel a need to play some God of War…

    I don’t see print going away anytime soon for several reasons. Everybody hypes digital as a replacement for everything else when it appears more to be supplemental like an extra tool in a toolbox that has uses that other tools don’t have but also limitations that the existing tools are better able to cover.

    Or maybe we’ll all be wearing DigitalTron3000 Helmets for all of our entertainment, communication, and life-sustaining needs within 5 years.

    Also the global economy is in the toilet with US automakers talking bankruptcy.
    I think you can only say that you’re recession-proof to a point before you have to acknowledge that impact at some point.

    I’d hate to see floppies go entirely because the format allows you to do self-contained stories within a certain page count that can be just as good and satisfying as any extended storyarc. I guess anthology collections can do short stories too but I still think the pamphlet has strengths that people shouldn’t dismiss quite so easily.

  36. Tyson D. says

    “Ron, it’s called a Laptop or an iphone. Look it up.”

    My god, laptops and mobile phones! Of course!

    If there was a wide consensus that both delivered excellent reading experiences for comics and books, and comics are defined as traditional pages rather than strip formats, this discussion would be pretty moot.

    The latter is an especially terrible example. Not everybody wants to read comics on an iPhone or cellphone. Some people, but it would be a small niche. This was covered over at Wired and someone even brought up how Steve Jobs isn’t aggressively hyping ereaders because it just isn’t a priority as far as numbers go.

    And if your laptop is powered by Sony recall fire hazard batteries, you’re probably going to be wondering why the Human Torch seems so damn real as you peruse some classic FF.

    Sure Kindle sales spike when Oprah hypes it but it’s not perfect and arguably overpriced. Maybe get Oprah starting a comics club. If that doesn’t bring people into stores, I don’t know what else to say except I hope Oprah would be disappointed and punish her army for not obeying her commands.

  37. bananahead says

    Have comic books ever been at the forefront of any technical innovation? Aren’t they late to every single party they’ve ever been included in?

  38. Tyson D. says

    Can anybody confirm that Gears of War #1 moved 450, 000 copies with 10% in the DM as claimed by Rich Johnston?

    I’d seriously love to know how they made up the other 90% if that’s accurate. Are they including them in collector versions of the games?

  39. Michael says

    The flaw in the logic of the push towards digital publishing, and I say this from experience, is the assumption that the “tech-savvy 13-to-30 year olds” (thank you, Matt D) buying all the iPods and Blackberries and Nintendo DSes and all the other digital tchochkes out there are interested in reading. At all.

    Want to increase publishing sales, across all formats? Promote literacy, and a love of literature, across the entire culture. Until then, you’re just pissing into the wind.

  40. likefunbutnot says

    Bob Fingerman: “It’s text. It’s just not pleasant to read off a monitor. But comics should be fun and reading comics online isn’t. The art doesn’t look as good (it tends to err on the side of the garish), the lettering is muddier. I don’t know.”

    Bob, you’re doing it wrong. Now, I don’t know how your computer is set up, but I strongly suspect that your screen isn’t set up to use its proper resolution and/or you’re looking at the rather poor efforts at digital reproduction that have been made by the big two, rather than the often superior efforts of the pirates.

    The file format that the pirates use (.CBR or .CBZ, basically a bunch of jpeg files in a zip file) and reader software are also substantially easier to read and navigate than the various technologies that the official digital efforts have come up with.

    The scanners have basically been working longer from poorer sources, but they really do know how to get good results from their work.

    I really don’t understand the attachment to paper. I’ve got dozens of long boxes that I haven’t done anything with since I filled them. Some of them are 20 years old. I don’t actually want to think about how much of my rent is due to my comic storage needs.

    On the other side, I have computer files. They’re organized nicely in folders. Even if they weren’t, I can search and find any one that I want in seconds. All of them might fit on a disk drive that weighs about a pound and is slightly larger than two packs of cigarettes. I can read them on a computer screen up to the size of my TV, meaning that I often notice details I might not have seen in the printed copies (particularly rewarding for something like Top 10). The only thing I’m giving up, in my mind, is the collector mentality. Oh well.

  41. Tom Spurgeon says

    I only like comics when they’re read to me over the radio by Fiorello LaGuardia.

  42. Matt D says

    I think in the end of the day, it’s going to have to be content/genre and quality and format that change for comics to become mainstream again. All three.

    But really, don’t we all know that already by now? It’s just frustrating waiting for reality to catch up, I guess.

  43. Wraith says

    I said it before, and I’ll say it again. The future of comics MIGHT lie in one of the three possible following solutions.

    1. Combining a group of related comic series (4 to 6 different series) and publishing them in a line of over sized line of monthly anthology magazines. Unlike other past anthology comic book magazines, these magazines WILL NOT have rotating series and/or characters, but will feature the same series and/or characters every month. Each series would also be a full comic story (22 to 32 pages). These magazines would also have lot’s of adds in order to cut down on the price. These magazines will not only be sold in comic shops but would also be targeted at venues outside of the comic book shops.

    2. Putting individual issues out each month on DVD with ANIMATED cinema scenes. Basically, I’m talking about a format similar to the Crossgen DVD’s from a few years ago, except these DVD’s would (a) contain single issues (b) have fully animated CGI or cell animation cinema scenes (which was something that Crossgen was planning on adding to their DVD’s but went bankrupt before they had a chance to do it) (c) contain sound effects and background music and (d) would have options for either voice over or just word balloons/caption boxes.

    3. Abandon the whole comic book format all together and start putting out fully animated (CGI or traditional cell animation) monthly mini episodes (about 12-15 minutes long) on DVD. There would and should also be adds at the beginning of each episode to help cut down on the cost of this animated DVD’s. These DVD’s could be sold in both comic shops and other mass market venues outside comic shops. This is nothing but evolution. Comics replaced the pulp magazines, and eventually monthly animated DVD series MIGHT replace comics.

  44. Tom Spurgeon says

    1. Comics with much smaller paper, but white, nothing on them, rolled with tobacco. Twenty panels to a page, but called a pack.
    2. Comics carved into the backs of emperor penguins.
    3. Comics exactly the way they are now, but only based on characters with names taken from T. Rex song lyrics.
    4. Comics that only exist as conjectural objects and storylines described by Grant Morrison in his interviews.
    5. Comics based on hit films like Batman.

  45. Matt says

    “But until you can pick them up in Wal-Mart, or the Grocery store, or the convenience store by your house, or the drug store next to your middle school, you’ll continue to see sales steadily drop as no new kids pick up the habit. The only way to rectify this is to switch back to periodicals in order to get the floppies back into accessible locations.”

    Please no more of these newstand type arguments. Print is decreasing everywhere. Why would they want to waste a bunch of money trying to increase printings so that they can get on magazine racks in stores?Magazine racks in stores just keep people occupied. Thats all comics would be in any of those places. Thats an awful idea and would surely sink Marvel and DC into deep trouble.

  46. Solo500 says


    Exactly! I would go for .cbr’s and then buy the collections in dead tree format. They don’t have to stop making the pamphlets, just get the damn online thing happening already.

    This is a case where the Radiohead model is relevant, b/c the fans _are_ rabid. Paying the insane amounts for pamphlets with ads as they do now is proof to me that the pie can be grown. $3.00 for a 32 page comic? That’s insane.

    Also, the love and dedication of the comics scanners means that most of the Silver Age has already been archived! If DC hosted it, they could find out how many fans want to read this stuff on laptops.

  47. Bob Fingerman says

    likefunbutnot, thanks for the concern, but my monitor is calibrated weekly and set to the highest resolution. I do art on it daily, so it’s not the monitor. I just don’t like reading comics online. It’s preference, not hardware. I like paper. I admitted to be a relic.

  48. says

    “The file format that the pirates use (.CBR or .CBZ, basically a bunch of jpeg files in a zip file) and reader software are also substantially easier to read and navigate than the various technologies that the official digital efforts have come up with.”

    Couldn’t agree more, and that’s a problem. I appreciate that Marvel allows free reads of some of their digital offerings, but looking at them just discourages me from shelling out the money for a digital comics subscription. I want to have that option, and I’m in the target audience. I just think their interface is lousy.

    I would want the digital version to supplement my single issues and TPBs though, rather than replace them.

  49. Fred says

    “Bob, you’re doing it wrong.”

    I’ve done it right, and I still prefer print.

    “The future of comics MIGHT lie in one of the three possible following solutions”

    I dislike all of your possibilities. The future of comics lies in variety and accessibility.

    Spurgeon is funny.

    “Promote literacy, and a love of literature…Until then, you’re just pissing into the wind.”

    I agree. Ranting on message boards is basically digital “pissing into the wind.” Everyone who cares about comics should be giving comics to people and telling them to have an open mind. I’ve done it. Who’s next?

  50. Tyson D. says

    Technology doesn’t simply mean the latest gadget. It simply refers to a means to solve various problems and the “high-tech” solution isn’t automatically the best and most practical.

    For example, you could spend lots of money, time and resources trying to come up with an advanced pen that writes in the extreme conditions of space for NASA.

    Or you could just use a pencil.

  51. AndyD says

    Apart from the reading experience comics (or books) on paper have one advantage which will never ever go away. They are dependable. I never lost a comic thanks due a PC crash or just another malfunctioning CD or whatever. And in the next powerfailure I can at least read in the candlelight.

  52. Alan Coil says

    I won’t pay for online digital comics. If they start charging for them, I’ll quit reading them.

  53. says

    Like Lea seems to be, I’m pretty much flabberghasted whenever i come across yet another discussion of The Future Of Comics: Online or Paper?

    Nothing anybody says matters, nothing anybody thinks of can save the old ways. The ways people derive their entertainment have always changed and are changing again, and nobody knows how it will end, and it isn’t possible to forsee a correct formula.

    Music, movies, tv, print, all of it is just bits now and bits are impossible to police. It is all free already, and all of the top heavy industries as currently constituted to profit from them are in various stages of collapse. Nothing will stop that. They are all doomed. Comics, as we know it, is further along the doom decline, as it got a massive head start.

    But the thing about art is, frankly, people will make it regardless of whether they get paid. It isn’t going away. The tools that add polish to it are always getting cheaper. There will be a brief transition where the slick, big budget items like an out-of-the-blue Matrix movie or a Whedon/Cassaday X-Men comic won’t be feasible – but pretty soon large numbers of unfunded artists will be able to produce things of that caliber, and they will.

    Some will put it out there for free. Some will charge and be pirated. Some who get pirated will make enough money off their 1000 true fans anyway. Some will be spotted by larger entities who will see an opportunity to make some cash out of some other distribution scheme, and deals will be made, and money will be made or lost.

    Everything will change and nothing will.

    It’s such a waste of air to speculate. The only things that seem obvious to me are:

    1) Own your inventions (this is why people like Scott Kurtz or Gabe & Tycho are unlikely to be hired to do Batman or X-Men… why would they bother? The huge effort would pull them off of work on their own, incredibly lucrative, wholly independent IP. I can’t imagine either Marvel or DC have the ability to pay either of them anywhere near enough to do that.)

    2) Don’t worry about pirates (it’s going to happen whether you try to prevent it or not. If your plan for a living can be destroyed by piracy, it’s already dead.)

    3) Care about your work (people can smell authenticity, and it seems to be only authenticity that encourages true-fans and financial return. Authenticity isn’t an assurance, plenty of heartfelt work fails, but no cold hackwork can succeed in this new environment.)

    Beyond that, medium, physical or conceptual, doesn’t matter in the least. Paper, digital, who cares? It just doesn’t matter. Maybe you’ll find an audience, maybe you won’t. There’s no road map. There’s no answer. You just have to take your chances.

    And it’s always better to gamble with your own property. That way, if despite absurdly terrible odds, you win, you get to keep the whole pot yourself. Nothing sucks more than to win big against all odds and have to hand it all over to someone else.

  54. says

    @Not That Bill Cunningham– Interesting post.

    Some thoughts I’ll to add:

    The physical world is going to be able to be pirated just as easy soon (2d and 3d printers). So what then?

    And to have 1,000 true fans, you’re going to need an actual following of 1,000,000.

    There will be artists who do things for free, that’s true, but I don’t think that’s where we want to let things degenerate to if as a society we can help it.

    I have indy creator friends (one of which is linked to in my name) working on dealing with these same issues. From watching what they deal with, and another friend producing indy games, one thing is for sure the whole concept of IP is going to have to be based on a different model than property. What that new model is, I have no idea.

    I don’t know what the answers are, but I think it’s going to have to be some sort of new social contract that we all abide by.

    It’s great to see conversations like this where people are seriously grappling with these concepts. Most of the above have been great replies to read.

  55. says

    The rule of thumb for converting online free readers to paying customers has historically been about 1%, so more like 100K readers for 1K hard fans, though you’ll have a little variation on it.

    Print vs. Digital does matter, because that’s diversifying how you make your money. Plenty of documentation that your hard core audience will want that print collection, so it’s _still_ a way you can make money, even if you’re digital first. You just need to adjust your business set-up around which medium you hit first. You really do need to be in both though.

    If network television has finally come to grips with the need of having their content online in a reasonable amount of time, how far behind the curve does that leave comics?

  56. says


    I don’t think that 3d printing is going to herald a phase change as dramatic as has happened in media with the physical world, at least not anytime soon, as that is a much, much more complex problem.

    I take your point though – if everything is easily pirateable, what then?

    My answer is, I don’t know. But I don’t ever see any useful wisdom coming out of endless online discussion of digital vs. print comics. Will digital save the industry? No, it won’t. The industry as constituted is doomed.

    The truth is, there needs to be a whole new media industry built according to the new reality of unpoliceable digital availability. I doubt it will be organized around objects like comic books or graphic novels. I imagine the artform of comics will be used in storytelling in the new industry, but I doubt there will be whole massive corporations devoted to producing that one art form in any physical way.

    Also, you said: “There will be artists who do things for free, that’s true, but I don’t think that’s where we want to let things degenerate to if as a society we can help it.”

    Personally, I don’t see that as a degeneration and I don’t see why we as a society should care. Are our cultural needs more well served by the slick output of massive companies, or by the beautiful, weird things our friends make out of passion?

    Before the internet, you could say that it would result in an impoverishment, as most people in the world would have no way of being exposed to the variety of beautiful weirdness, but now that problem has been solved.

    So, very few people will be able to make a living doing exclusively comics (or other art/entertainment)… so what? Very few do so now. No industry is owed immortality (not even Wall Street or Detroit, but that’s another can of worms).

    You are right the “property” model is failing and won’t work in the future for creative work.

    If I had to throw in my opinion on how things should be done, it would be something like this:

    1) All creative output is available free online
    2) The creator has an exclusive lifetime license to control any profits from any physical manifestation of their work. So, for comics, any bound collections printed as special edition keepsakes generate profit for the creator, or whoever the creator foolishly rents his/her license to.
    3) Upon the deaths of all the original creators, the creative output automatically and irreversibly enters the public domain.

    I can see several problems with what I’ve just suggested, but I think in it’s general outline it more closely follows the reality of unpoliceable digital availability, and however all of this shakes out, it will probably be something like that.

  57. Fred says

    1) I disagree

    2) “Creator gets money” is always a good thing.

    3) I disagree. As long as there are living relatives of the creators, I believe the rights should go to them.

    The digital realm isn’t unpoliceable. It’s just more difficult to monitor.

    As usual, the answer is somewhere in the middle. However to reach the middle, the major players needs to move away from the extremes toward compromise.

  58. says

    So sad – in lieu of becoming a tv star by guest starring in the first episode of the new Batman show Batman: Brave & The Bold, the Blue Beetle gets his own book cancelled.

    Now I know how DC rewards failure.



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