I’ve already spoken at some length about what I see as the flaws of the recent push into digital made by DC, Marvel, Image and other major comics companies. Like the music industry, they tried for a long time to treat digital products exactly like their hard-copy counterparts, a strategy that failed miserably. People WANT digital – easy to find, cheap to buy digital – but comics companies have been reluctant to fully make that shift.
Now, I’m not here to talk about the pros and cons of digital comics. I love my local comic shop, and when I moved to Atlanta, before I found a place to live, before I found a grocery store, I made sure to find a good comic shop – go Oxford Comics! – but there needs to be a balance between digital and print, between new and old. And, according to this report on The Beat and this post on The Source blog, DC may have just made a very, very smart push towards finding that balance.
It’s been argued by smarter folks than me that young readers are the future of the industry. Right now, we’re dropping old readers faster than we’re gaining new ones – that’s why all titles across the board are in a slow, steady decline, sales-wise, and have been for years. To counter, comics are raising prices or cutting back on content, are pushing for aggressive branding or crossover event publicity, and while these are all strategies that will work, they are also strategies that are inherently limited. You can price things out of the range of buyers. You can brand things so strongly they become hard to jump into. You can force people off books with incomplete crossover stories. The bring in money, but they don’t bring in readers, and that’s a dangerous strategy.
That’s what I love about the Hero Factory app. Lego and DC are both major names, and collaborating should be great for increasing attention to both, but more than that, the app offers a free copy of debut issues for major all-ages or kids DC titles like Tiny Titans or The Batman Adventures, and price other issues at a reasonable 0.99$ – what I’ve been arguing should probably be the price point for all digital comics all along.
Hopefully, this will make a few new, lifelong fans. And hopefully, those fans will one day find themselves wandering into a comic shop, with access to those hundreds of trades and back issues from dozens of publishers. And, like me when I was a teenager, they’ll never want to leave.