Support comic book stores

By Luke Wilusz

Marvel Comics is set to begin releasing digital copies of all of its major titles on the same day they are available in print, according to a Nov. 2 exclusive from Gawker tech blog Gizmodo. It’s definitely a smart move on Marvel’s part, especially considering the fact that DC Comics began doing the same thing with its “New 52” relaunch in September.

Bringing digital comics up to speed with their traditional print counterparts is sure to draw in lots of new readers who will appreciate the convenience of downloading new titles to their mobile devices anytime and anywhere, which will bring some much-needed revenue to the struggling industry. The fact that digital distribution essentially eliminates almost all of the printing and shipping costs involved in the industry right now means that Marvel and DC will also be saving a considerable amount of money while bringing in new revenue. Ideally, this increased revenue could be put back into comics to bring back the longer issues with more quality and story to them that many fans miss from years past.

However, as good as digital publishing can be for the major comic companies, there is a very real chance that it could draw business away from brick-and-mortar comic shops. Comic shops are an integral part of the hobby, and the thought that they might go the way of the video store is not one that I relish. The sense of community they provide and the comfort of having a place I can go to talk about my geeky obsessions every two weeks, is something I could never imagine replacing with an electronic marketplace. Even though publishers seem dedicated to this brave new world of digital comics, they should still do everything they can to support the thousands of comic shops across the country that have kept them alive for the past few decades.

Hopefully, both major publishers will standardize the practice of including a code for a free download of a digital copy within physical comics, which both Marvel and DC have been trying out in limited capacities so far. They should even go a step beyond that and find as many ways as they can to give people an incentive to continue patronizing comic book stores. If they can maintain their support for independent retailers while also moving forward with technology and expanding their readership, it will be a win-win for creators and fans alike, and the industry will flourish.