By now, if you are a comics fan, you’ve heard that not only is DC Comics going to be re-launching all of their series with new number one issues come August/September, but they will also be releasing all of these new issues digitally on the same date that the printed versions arrive in comic book stores [read Entire DC Comics Line To Be Renumbered and Get Day-and-Date Digital Release].
This is a big deal as they are the first major company to do this for their entire line of superhero books (no mention is made of whether DC’s Vertigo line will also be released in the same way). With the rise of the iPad and other tablet PC’s, digital comics have come to be seen as the future of comics. They are seen as a way to get people who don’t normally go into comic book stores to try out the world of comics publishing. Whether this is actually happening is hard to tell. Exact numbers for how many copies of books have been sold digitally are split up between any number of companies, and it’s impossible to get everyone to combine their numbers. All we can really tell is that people are not going into stores in numbers that they used to.
Now we have to wonder, will day-and-date release (as it is commonly known as) and new number one issues get new readers into comics in general. In all honesty, I don’t believe it will, at least when it comes to the digital release part of the equation. The incentive to move to day-and-date release is more important to current readers, who are looking to read books digitally the same day as their store-buying brethren. Readers who are not as into comics as much the hardcore among us do not care what day the books are released. If they read a book a week, or two, or more after it has come out, do they honestly care? The quality is what they are looking for. One of the great things about digital distribution is that companies are no longer restrained by shipping or holidays or when stores are open. If DC wants to release their books on Monday, and Marvel wants to release theirs on Friday, what’s to stop them? The only incentive for day-and-date release is to current readers who are looking to change over to solely buying their books digitally.
As for the number one issues, this is a questionable move. Number one issues historically do well, and I’m sure once the numbers are in, DC will have a great September in terms of sales and market share. DC has not beaten Marvel in terms of market share since 2002, and I’m willing to bet that September will see them in the lead for the first time since then. However, October will be a different issue. Just as number one issues historically sell in great numbers, second issues historically sell half as many copies as number one issues, and third issues sell half again as many. Number one issues work great in the short term, but unless the quality is there, people will not stick around. The other question is, will old readers come back for the new beginning, or will they take this chance to drop off those very series?
It’s also important to note that number one issues have been done in the past, and it has not made a difference in the long term state of the comics industry. To say that new readers have been put off because Action Comics just passed issue 900 is missing the point. I was explaining DC’s plan to my brother, who does not read comics currently, but is not opposed to reading them. Basically, he is part of the ideal target audience that all comic companies are trying to reach. When I explained the plan to him his reaction was, “That’s stupid.” Is that the reaction that DC is looking for? I have the feeling that my brother’s reaction will be the common response to this. New readers do not care about the numbering one iota. They care about good stories, same as everyone. Renumbering is only important to current readers.
I keep seeing people saying that Marvel needs to respond to this and I’m wondering, why? Certainly, they will have to respond to the day-and-date release of content, and I’m guessing that it won’t be too long before Marvel follows suit (they’ve already done this with some titles, read ‘Death of Spider-Man’ To Get Day and Date Release For The iPad and iPhone!). I have seen many creators today saying that day-and-date release was coming, and that’s certainly true. It just so happens that DC gets to have the honor of being the first company to fully commit to this aspect of digital distribution. But are they going to have to renumber? I highly doubt it. I mean, they do that every other month anyway, so why would they change what they are doing. They have been the leader in market share since ’02. All they need to do is ride out this storm, and adjust their digital release schedule.
So, what does this mean for the comics? Are you going to buy all of these first issues when they come out? More importantly, does anyone who is not reading comics currently care, and will they buy these first issues when they come out? I have seen many people saying that DC had to do something, and this is certainly something. I don’t want DC to fail in this. More new readers in comics is good for the industry, and good for me personally because I love comics and I want them to stick around for a long time. More importantly, I hope that we get some good stories out of this. Am I hopeful that this will happen? Not necessarily, but I am a jaded comic fan and I have seen this kind of thing before. The most important thing is the story, and if DC focuses on that, then yes, they will get the new readers they are looking for.