I’ve been reading a lot of things about the death of the traditional publishing industry (print), and what it means for comics. It’s undeniable now, specially after witnessing newspapers after newspapers take hits with plummeting sales and laid off employees. The book publishers have similar gloom and doom stories, and yes, even comics publishers.
I’ve read opinions that print is truly well on its way out, and comics will now and forever be digital. Either on the web, or on mobile phones, or the new fangled readers they have now like Androids and Amazon’s Kindle.
Efforts are being done to make the digital display look and feel like paper, and yeah, I can see this kind of thing becoming more popular as time goes on.
I do have some thoughts on the matter, substantiated by nothing but my own opinion. Feel free to agree or disagree.
In recent years I’ve taken stabs at doing comics online. I’ve recently begun doing a weekly strip where I transfer my old print character Johnny Balbona onto the web. You can find it here.
But I don’t believe that print comics will ever be replaced completely by digital comics. There will always be print comics, and people will continue to buy them.
There is no other reason for this than people wanting to own their comics. They want to own it, and they want to keep it. They want it to tuck it in their shelves, forget about it, and come back to read it when they’re sick or when they’re doing their business in the crapper.
But who wants to own newspapers? Nobody wants to own and keep them, unless you’re somehow featured there and you want to keep the clipping and frame it. From where I’m standing, newspapers may well be on their way out. They’re the ones in most danger of going out because their value is so transitory. I don’t really read newspapers anymore. I just read the news online. Once you read a bit of news, it’s old, and it’s quickly forgotten. Do you care about reading yesterday’s newspaper? You don’t. And all you get in the end is a growing stack of newspapers in the back, gathering bugs.
But don’t make the mistake of equating the death of newspapers with the death of print comics and books.
Books and comics you can read once, and then you want to read it again. And again. You want to keep it in the best part of your shelf, covered in acid free plastic. If the copy gets mangled from too much reading, you go Mile High Comics or Ebay and get a brand new old copy.
And to be honest, you really can’t own digital comics. Because those things are just electrons taking the form of your comics until the power goes out or the batteries run out. Its existence will always be dependent on some kind of power source. Once that power source is gone, your comics are gone. And in the back of your mind you know this. Its ethereal and temporary nature keeps you from having the sensation of really, and truly owning it.
Books and comics may also be temporary, but at the very least they grow old with you. There’s nothing like seeing a very old copy of my Red Rackham’s Treasure, yellowed and cracked with age, and seeing my slimy fingerprints with the peanut butter smudges I made as a kid. They become part of your life in a way a forever young digital file can never be.
I can no longer tell you how many times I’ve been approached about the availability of WASTED and when I say it’s out of print and it can be read FOR FREE online, they say they prefer to read the print version. Same is true for ELMER. They say they’d rather wait that I reprint it.
It’s about owning it. And having it as a true and concrete part of your life. This is something that we really can’t discount as we blunder so arrogantly into the digital world and saying that this is now and forever the only way it will be.