Mark Millar has staked a place out for himself as both a franchise comics creator, able to sell books on his name alone, and someone who isn’t afraid to hold a renegade opinion — and he is prepared to defend his answer with his own logic, which may or may not conform to what is generally considered common sense. Thus this long piece in which he says day and date digital is not a good thing for comics, suggesting that a theatrical to DVD type model makes more sense — print being the theatrical release, digital being the DVD. Digital readers “aren’t as hardcore as the first group, but they’re a great place to recoup any money lost in the initial phase. Digital comics are like TV rights to me in that they’re the tertiary phase of all this. These are for the most casual, mainstream readers or viewers and much cheaper than the primary or secondary waves. They’re a great way of pulling people in for the next product coming out in theatres or in comic stores, but absolutely not the bedrock of your business.”
Part of his hesitance is because retailers really don’t like digital, and he’d rather partner with them for print. However, there is SOME room for digital:
“I think digital could be a useful tool, but I’m increasingly concerned for friends in retail that they’re going to get shafted here,” the wrier explained. “I really think day and date release is a disastrous idea and makes no economic sense at all to comics as a business. It’s potentially ruinous for comic stores, and in the long term it’s not going to do publishers any favors either. I see the attraction on a very superficial level.”
…”This decision I took not to release ‘Kick-Ass 2’ or ‘Superior’ or ‘Nemesis’ or any of my upcoming books digitally every month isn’t based on nostalgia. Yeah, I’ve hung around comic stores since I was 13, but this isn’t just because it affects the bread and butter of a huge number of friends (though that’s a pretty damn good reason). I just think it’s bad for the industry as a whole and since the Kick-Ass books in particular sell very, very well I hope it draws attention to the problem and encourages other creators to do the same. Speaking purely in business terms why would we want to marginalise or eliminate our greatest asset for the past thirty or forty years?”
Millar’s digital reluctance is particularly noteworthy given that WANTED topped the digital charts last year, and CIVIL WAR is Marvel’s best selling digital comic. Presumably he’s gotten the sales figures and seen the royalties. He knows the digital dental floss pipeline isn’t sufficient to maintain his Chivas Regal lifestyle.
Problem is, digital might be a direct path to a Night Train lifestyle right now, but that won’t be the case when everyone gets a tablet. We’ve already noted that comics apps are the highest grossing apps on tablets — to the point that Amazon and B&N really want to get in on the action. Who knows if some of those casual readers might convert to strong regular customers.
We don’t actually disagree with any of Millar’s actions in holding back his digital releases. He’s got a strong enough fanbase in the DM to make that viable for him. And by continuing to stand with his retail partners, he’s hoping they stand by him.