Editorial: Are Digital Comics Great?

I started reading comics about 20 years ago in an age when the internet was in it’s infancy, Superman was dead, and Batman was broken. If you wanted to read comics you headed down to the neighborhood comic shop. Maybe you started a pull service so you wouldn’t miss out on the next new Valiant book. Flash forward to the present day, and digital comics are the new kid on the block threatening to shake up the neighborhood and destroy the traditional comic shop. True? Maybe.

I took a break from comics for a long while, and back in March of this year I decided to check out some digital comics. I was curious about the DC New 52 and The Walking Dead. Since then I have been hooked, and I don’t think I will go back to weekly print comics. (Trades and Hardcovers for a bookshelf are not totally out of the picture.) For me the benefits of the digital outweigh the benefits of digital.

Before I go on any further it should be known that I live in Tokyo. I’ll be coming back to this in a little bit.

There are those that argue that digital comics could hurt the brick and mortar stores. Honestly, I don’t really care about that, and before anyone starts yelling, “Well, that’s because you live in Tokyo! Do you even have local stores?!” Let me explain myself. If I were still back in my hometown in the US, I would still be 100% behind digital.

Back in 2002 until about 2004 I went to a local shop and started a pull service. I tried to pick up my books weekly when I could, but didn’t let it go past two weeks if I could help it. There were a few times I went out of town for extended periods of time, and I let my shop know that. The owner of my shop was a great guy and went out of his way to keep his customers happy. Maybe a little too far out of the way. He ended up having to close up shop, because he was sitting on too many pull orders that people didn’t pick up. It sucks, because I looked forward to going to the shop. A quick 5 minute stop in usually lasted an hour as I picked up a few books I didn’t know about and talked about them with other patrons and the owner.

If your store’s staff is a jerk like this guy, leave!

I tried switching shops, but the owners just sucked. They were condescending and left a bitter taste in your mouth after leaving the store. Talking to them about recommendations was like asking a simple question in the public channel of an MMO. Sometimes you’d rather just give it all up than deal with these asshats.

With digital comics I can still get my comics and totally avoid these crappy comic shops. I can get my sense of community from podcasts and message boards. If my buying of comics digitally put them out of business, then hopefully they learned the importance of good customer service.

That’s not to say all comic shops are shit. This is just my experience and the situation in my local area.

As I said before, I live in Tokyo where space is a commodity. Where the hell could I keep the constantly growing collection of comics? Storage aside, where can I even buy new comics in Tokyo? Well, I’ve seen them at some collectible toy shops, but the prices are often inflated and the issues are several weeks old by the time they make it here. Digital comics is a perfect solutions to both of the problems I face. Instant access and no worries about over crowding an already crowded apartment equals a no brainer.

With digital comics, I also don’t have to worry about fires or floods. Most of you probably don’t worry about that, but it is a possibility, and for myself it was a reality. I lost a bunch of my old comics, video games (Earthbound for SNES complete in the box!), et cetera in a flood a few years back. With the digital books, I press a few buttons and like magic my collection is restored before the wet, moldy carpet can dry.

One of the last arguments against digital books (and ebooks) is people like to hold the physical book in their hands… I hold the physical iPad in my hands. Oh, they mean they like to hold the actual book in their hands. Honestly, I don’t think it matters. If a story is good is shouldn’t matter if it’s an actual book or a digital one. If you are really into the story you won’t care. You’ll be too engrossed in the enjoyment of watching your favorite characters develop and evolve. I have never once finished a digital comic or ebook and thought to myself, “Wow… that was almost an amazing read, but something was missing. Ah! I never turned a page! This book was obviously not a page turner!”

The last point for myself is the price of books. I love that comics drop in price after they’ve been out for a while. We can easily snag a few back issues for cheap. Since the price is lowered, my 20 bucks can get me ten $1.99 digital comics opposed to six $2.99 comics from a shop. More bang for the buck! (Marvel’s digital pricing, however, leaves something to be desired.)

If you have a great shop and looooove holding books in your hands, then that is great. I like my digital comics. I can read them anywhere, anytime, and I don’t have to worry about alphabetizing them and removing plastic bags when I want to read a book. You may disagree with me, but remember, a good story is a good story regardless. Isn’t that what’s important?

Jeff Lemire drawing Batman? Digital Exclusive!