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WonderCon 2010: Jim Lee Talks Future of Digital Comics at DC
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New DC Comics Publisher Jim Lee discussed the future of the company’s efforts to bring comics to digital platforms in a panel at this year’s WonderCon event.

On behalf of the company, Lee said they viewed digital comics as a completely different product than the printed versions and as such, they want to play to each product’s strengths. He also offered explanation for why we haven’t seen more crossover to mobile devices in lieu of this week’s release of the iPad.

“I think at the end of the day, I have not seen anything on the digital side that is more compelling to me than a printed comic,” said Lee in response to a fan question at the panel. “I’ll use Blackest Night as an example. You open that up and — I don’t want to spoil anything — but there’s a spread inside that’s just amazing. You cannot replicate it on a device with a smaller screen.”

Ultimately, he said it’s why DC hasn’t jumped head first onto the digital bandwagon the way other companies have, such as competitor Marvel Entertainment, which released their own iPhone/iPad application to coincide with Saturday’s debut of Apple’s iPad tablet device.

“There’s no real business model for it, in that, it’s not a big part of anyone’s business right now, regardless of if you’re on the iPad tomorrow or not,” Lee said, adding that even when digital does start to carve out a portion of the industry it won’t cannibalize the printed comics because of all the differences it will end up having.

These differences include advantages like having an entire comic collection in your pocket, Instant access to purchase comics and being about to seek out new comics and new tools that will allow creators to tell stories.

“We have to come up with some really compelling content that plays to the advantage of digital distribution. Once we have something like that, that’s when you’ll really see things start to shift,” Lee said.

However, that doesn’t mean DC isn’t exploring this space seriously — they just want to avoid doing digital comics as just a simple scanned PDF file with artwork on it, according to Lee.

Lee said they are currently talking to several software companies about making that jump to digital and they plan to launch digital comic content on the iPad and other devices “in a meaningful way” this year.

Drive To Become The Top Super-Hero Company

Earlier in the panel, which also featured Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and Co-Publisher Dan Didio, there was much discussion of their push to become the number one Super-Hero Company in the world on all levels (sales, audience, and influence) — so I would assume the same could be said for DC’s digital comics strategy. They’ve obviously spoken to great detail about the issue.

“You’re looking at three of the most competitive people in comics sitting side by side right now. It’s great to have this level of support and energy,” Dido said.

6 Comments »

  1. The iPad doesn’t come with that Comic-Book smell, so it doesn’t get my vote :p

    Comment by Dr Blitzgeek — April 6, 2010 @ 4:58 am

  2. @Dr Blitzgeek The smell of stacks of dead paper encased in long boxes is like the aroma of morning coffee to me.

    Comment by Tom Cheredar — April 6, 2010 @ 5:11 am

  3. I don’t think printed comics will be replaced by digital versions anytime soon. There might be more of an adoption of the digital format when the companies start allowing new issues to be purchased and price them appropriately (considering you can’t share them and they have no resale or collector value.

    I think price is really key since most comics can be downloaded online for free (illegally of course). They need to almost look to iTunes as an example since that has been successful even though the content same content can be obtained illegally.

    Comment by Demonstrable — April 6, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

  4. I can understand that you don’t want to jump into a technology too early, but if you don’t test the waters a little then you’ll be caught with your pants down when the time comes to move. The Marvel app really seems like the perfect digital comic reader as far as I can tell (still too expensive though – at least on older stuff). We may have a nostalgia for paper, but the kids of today aren’t going to.

    Comment by Chris — April 7, 2010 @ 11:45 pm

  5. I own an iPhone that does everything and more than what the iPad can, I am a huge comics fan and yes I love leaving the Batcave once a month to visit my local Comic Store BUT comics take up space and I’ve had to put a serious pause on my collection because of this.

    I have no need for an iPad, BUT the very second DC launch something along the lines of the Marvel Comic app (or better) I will purchase one in a heart beat purely for comics, no more need to worry about space and storing my hard copy versions, of course I will still visit my local comic stores for SPECIAL issues etc but life moves on its a we all have to adapt or get left behind.

    Printed comics will never be fully replaced but the future in knocking at everyones front door and as a mid 30s vet comic collector my door is wide open to digital comics, I’m just waiting on the postman/DC.

    Comment by Bruce Wayne — May 9, 2010 @ 10:37 am

  6. […] While these two new formats are interesting, they aren’t exactly the first of their kind. DC’s biggest “rival” Marvel Entertainment debuted a similar interactive format called Infinite Comics last year, and hot digital comics startup Madefire opened its motion books creation tool to the public earlier this year. DC has simply developed a history of hesitation when it comes to digital comic book innovation — a move that has proved extremely successful since the company first entered the business of selling digital comics alongside the original iPad back in 2010. […]

    Pingback by VentureBeat — June 6, 2013 @ 6:15 am

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