Missing the Digital Boat

Comic book publishers, this one’s for you. I’m not going to waste your time. I’m not going to talk about how $0.99 is the ideal price point for digital comics, or about how exclusivity with one digital vendor is a very bad idea.  I can sum up my biggest gripe with digital in one word:

Capitalize.

You’re not doing it. When the Human Torch was killed in “Fantastic Four” #587 last January, I wanted to catch up on Jonathan Hickman’s run on the title.  But not only could I not get anywhere close to being prepared to read #587, I couldn’t find a single issue written by Hickman. I tweeted about it at the time, and can’t remember exactly what the most recent issues available were (either the Dwayne McDuffie “Initiative” issues or some of Mark Millar’s run), but Hickman had been on the book for seventeen issues and not a single one was available when you killed off one of the oldest characters in the Marvel U — not to mention used the mainstream media to push the story. If a non-comics reader doesn’t know where a direct market shop is or wants to buy the issue immediately after hearing the news on his iPad, you need to make it available to him.  Or, at the very least, let him read the first issue of the current run so he can start to get his feet wet.

A few months after this Marvel started releasing titles day-and-date digitally, solving many problems.  But, the issue of the capitalizing also comes into play when we’re talking about a publisher’s backlist.

Case in point: This June, DC Entertainment and WB are releasing the “Superman Vs. The Elite” animated feature. It’s based on writer Joe Kelly’s stellar “Action Comics” #775 story. The press on the title has begun, but… while “Action Comics” #775 is collected in “The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told, Vol. 1,” the series the issue spawned — “Justice League Elite” — is out of print, having released its first volume in 2005 and a second in 2007. Maybe it didn’t sell at the time and there’s no reason to keep it in print, but the costs of digital are much, much lower and there’s no excuse for not making it available in a digital format.

A quick search on comiXology revealed the only mention of the Elite is in “JLA” #112 by Kurt Busiek and Ron Garney. I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with the issue, but if you’re looking for the original source or the characters written by Kelly, you’re out of luck. And no, “Action Comics” #775 is not available digitally either.

DC/WB has spent, on the low end, at least a few million dollars creating an animated feature based on its comic book IP, yet there are no plans (via DC Comics solicitations through June) to bring the “Elite” books back to print. I sincerely hope that by June 12, when the movie is slated to be released, there will be digital options available for those intrigued by the animated interpretations of the Elite.

This is basic stuff. There will be an increased demand for this material when the movie comes out. Don’t take money out of your own pockets by not having something available to the readers who want it. I can guarantee you somewhere on the Internet this book has already been scanned and released via torrent. Instead of forcing your consumers to go there, give them the option to buy it in a legit manner.

Capitalize. When opportunities present themselves, don’t let them slip away.

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