November 22, 2009

Marvel Snapshot: Digital Comics


Hello everyone, and welcome back to Marvel Snapshot! This week I’ll be discussing the hot button topic of Digital Comics. This is something I personally feel very strongly about, so be ready for a big debate.

First question I always hear is, “Is digital the future?” Of course it is, I just hope I never live to see the day. Let me just say that I’m not some old fart that wants to go back to out-houses and oil lamps, but having to use a computer or smart-phone to read a comic sounds uber-lazy to me. This may sound corny, but making the weekly trek to the comic shop, or waiting patiently for the mail to arrive so I can rip open the box, gives me an enjoyment I could never get by “logging on.”


Have I tried Digital Comics, you ask? Absolutely. When Marvel first flirted with the idea, they basically had the service from their website free to use for certain books. Right now as I speak, you can go to and try it for free. It’s slow, tedious, and more like a chore than fun, if you ask me. Now I know that $4.99 a month (if you pay for a year up front, $9.99 if you go month to month) sounds great, and eventually they’ll have the entire archive on there, but I’ll take paper and ink any day of the week. Another problem is that they don’t have complete runs of most comics that are available anyway.

Digital comics just seem to be the natural progression, I’ll give you that; but it also reminds me of something else. Did anyone out there see the movie Wall-E? If you have, you know where this is going; if not, then I’ll tell you. This movie is set in the not so distant future, where the people of Earth have to leave the planet and live in space on a big “cruise ship” because they have become lazy and didn’t look to the future, and take care of what needed to be fixed now. It showed what could happen with an instant gratification society. Sound familiar? This is what I’m talking about with digital comics. Are they the end of the world? No, of course not; but to me it would just be one more thing to add to the pile that is growing ever larger, and will someday bite us all on the backside.

When will Marvel go all digital? Well, I’ve heard people’s opinions on this subject many times, and have heard answers ranging from 5-25 years from now this will be reality. I honestly think that  as long as the profits are there, Marvel and DC will keep printing away. It’s all about the almighty dollar in the end, so they’ll keep pumping them out if people keep on buying. Now that Disney has bought Marvel, I think this is going to keep printed comics alive even longer. I believe that Disney has so much more as far as money and resources, that they will push through some hard times if need be before they pull the trigger on going all digital. I also think that Marvel’s movies will get even better now from this marriage, and that will only fuel the sales of printed comics for years to come. I have seen most of Disney/Pixar’s movies for the last ten years, and I think they definitely would have done just as good a job or better on the Marvel films during this time. Especially the animated ones!

One good thing that will probably come out of digital comics is that it will drive the price of back issues up, and eventually to a point not seen in quite a long time; one where they actually hold or gain in value. Imagine that crazy concept. I would imagine they will start to lower print runs, and then begin to just print trades of everything from the past. I think trades are OK, but I definitely prefer single issues.

I know a lot of people might think that $5 a month is a great way to read Golden or Silver Age comics that they can’t afford to buy, but there is a remedy to your problem my friends. For Marvel it’s called “Marvel Essentials,”  for DC it’s called “Showcase.” These black and white Tpbs are a great way to read books from the past that are now more scarce and therefore very expensive to buy. Typically these collections are around $15 new, and can usually be found used on or at an even cheaper price. My first foray into these books was The Tomb of Dracula. I love 70s horror comics, but could never afford to buy the entire run of this title issue by issue. Marvel Essentials equals problem solved. I own the complete run of this title and I can actually read it anytime I want. No WiFi connection needed.

Ultimately, I know the day to go digital is coming, but I can’t help but not want it to happen. I cannot stress enough how much of a joy it is just to buy a comic and then read it, bag and board it, and then put it away for a rainy day and dig it out and get all excited over it again. Let me know what you think by posting a comment on this subject. I am very interested to hear what You have to say! Until next time, keep reading actual comic books!

Billy Dunleavy



  1. Eli

    IS it wrong of me to want both??? I LOVE holding a comic in my hand, and the whole experience that goes along with that. How many of us take along our laptop when we visit our thrones…??

    I also love digital comics. Yes, it’s very cool to be able to just make a few clicks and read that ancient issue of whatever title you’re longing for.

    So, I’d love to see Marvel digitize every issue. I also like the Marvel Essentials.

    Is it too much to ask for both?

  2. Kristin

    Sony is working on digital distribution of comics. They’ve already started selling manga in Japan on the PSP. If I’m not mistaken, you can currently read a selection of American comics with the PSP, as they test out the feature over here.

    Anyway, to be perfectly honest, I hate the idea of digital distribution in general. I’d rather have a product in my hands. Unless, MAYBE unless, it was SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper in price. But this BS where it’s exactly the same, or just a tiny bit less, is totally unacceptable. You’re not paying for the paper, the distribution, and brick and mortar “middle man,” etc. It should be WAY cheaper. Though regardless….. I’d still rather have a physical product. I hate the idea of owning something that doesn’t technically exist (outside of a mass of digital data).

  3. Kristin

    Oh sorry…. These unlimited monthly subscriptions are OK. I was mostly getting riled up because of the video game industry’s outrageous digital content prices.

  4. I like both as well.

    The Essentials are great, but MDC has the advantage in not only saving space and cost, but the comics are in color! That’s huge.

    You can still buy certain issues of the titles you want to collect, but as for the others that you just want to read, why not go digital?

  5. billy

    @Eli-nothing wrong with wanting both for me as long as it doesn’t stop printed comics.
    @Kris-the price is what’s gonna make a lot of people be converts…eventually.
    @Andy-I really thought that the black & white format would bother me but it doesn’t. I only buy books I want to keep forever. Cheer a little louder for the falcons next time too will ya.

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