Updated on 16 October, 2021
Over the past couple years, I've noticed a noticeable lack of superhero comic books on the stands in most book stores. While it's understandable why superheroes are hot sellers in popular culture, especially in the comic book world, there seems to be an indifference to them among the general population. This has led to some comic books becoming a rare find on book shelves. Many retailers are beginning to carry only titles that are specifically geared towards readers who aren't interested in super heroics. With this trend, I decided to look into how digital comics are being marketed by comic book publishers.
First, let me explain what I mean by "pre-canned" material. There are many different ways that comic books are being published. Some are printed on paper that can be torn apart and used as a topical article, while others are being sold in hard copy as part of a bundle of other items. The most common way that comic books are sold is by collecting them in a box, which can either contain a solo comic or the entire series of issues for a given title.
As you can see, these types of comic books are not limited to the traditional comic store environment. Another exciting new aspect is digital distribution. Most traditionally published comics are being distributed through the comics shops in a form of trade show display, where retailers sell the comics as one-off items. Digital comic books, on the other hand, are being offered as bonus items with video games or other media.
When I looked into digital comics, I was surprised to discover just how differently they were being marketed. It seemed like they had finally reached the mainstream, but the packaging and marketing was still very different from when I was first exposed to comic books. I hadn't realized how much of a difference the packaging on a comic book made until I started to notice a change in the comics I was buying. Initially, I was a huge fan of all the vampire comic book covers that I saw. Now, I felt like it was cool to see a female character like New Moon's Ms. Miracle showing off her sexy vampire arms!
While I think there's plenty to like about the new direction for comic book publishing, I also think there's room for improvement. For example, I think it's great that we're now able to order subscriptions online. There are tons of places you can go to get a subscription, and it makes it easier for customers to browse through the comics they want, without having to leave their homes. This is especially important for small independent comic book publishers, who don't have the budget for an expensive storefront.
But how does this impact the comics business? In my opinion, it will have a minimal effect on the overall sales industry-wide. Most traditionally published comics are still sold by the direct market. Booksellers still make money by selling comics to the public, so if readers choose to subscribe to a magazine they read from cover to cover then it doesn't matter whether or not those comics are sold in stores.
I did notice, however, that some of the traditionally published superhero comics that I love, like New Avengers and Batman: The Dark Knight, have had more sales in the digital comics section than the traditional comics section. For example, Green Lantern: Earth's Mightiest Heroes sold quite well in digital, and then just as well in print. I didn't see any difference between the sales in print and digital for titles like Wolverine and the X-Men. So for those publishers, especially those who self publish, it seems like a good idea to offer digital comics for sale as well.
That leads me to the final point I'd like to make. In discussing the importance of digital comics to customers, I touched on the importance of digital customer service in the past, but I also mentioned the importance of creating great customer service today. In particular, I suggested that comic creators need to use video blogs or websites to respond to their fans' questions, and to promote future book events. Comics blogging has exploded with interesting, intelligent sites like Ask Noah, where long-time readers can post questions to the author and get an answer almost instantly. Creating a video blog for comics is another smart way to stay in touch with your comic book fans.