Tag: Digital Comics Month

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    Dark Horse Digital Debuts: Learn All About It!

    Dark Horse ComicsContinuing our coverage of the latest developments in digital comics, we’re happy to present an update on Dark Horse ComicsDigital.Darkhorse.com store, which launches today!

    We had the chance to sit down with the publisher and discuss their new venture, and what their future plans are for digital comics, and what they have in store for traditional retailers:

    TFAW.com: How long have you been producing digital comics?

    Dark Horse Comics: Dark Horse has always been a leader in the rise of digital comics. We’ve been offering digital comics on our website for years and began releasing standalone comics apps into iTunes in May of 2009.

    TFAW.com: How did you choose which comics would go digital first? What was your thought process behind your launch?

    DH: We are committed to insuring that our customers are happy with our digital product offering at launch. As a result, we’ve focused on curating a selection of our most popular new and old items. We look at a tremendous number of factors in determining the final mix: unit sales, fan requests, creator popularity, website traffic, brand longevity, frontlist offerings, and more.

    TFAW.com: How have digital comics been selling for you, compared to traditional comics?

    DH: To date, Dark Horse’s participation has been very limited in broader digital-comic offerings (such as comiXology). As a result, digital comics have made up a small fraction of our total sales, but we’ve tested the waters of standalone comics apps in the iTunes store, and the increasing demand for the format in the marketplace is exciting and undeniable.

    TFAW.com: Have you considered a digital-only option for comics that have lower sales? Do you think this is an opportunity to extend the lives of series that might otherwise be canceled due to financial realities?

    DH: Absolutely. This is a really exciting option for the consumer, the creator, and the publisher. As most readers might surmise, the production, storage, and distribution costs of digital comics are lower than their print counterparts. Lower costs mean more opportunity to experiment, take risks, and increase frequency. We envision a future where more comics are available “on the shelf” to more people, anytime they want to read them.

    Dark Horse ComicsTFAW.com: With the lower overhead costs (presumably) with digital comics, do you feel the freedom to take more risks when it comes to greenlighting projects? Could this provide more opportunities for untested talent?

    DH: Undoubtedly. While Dark Horse is committed to curating a high-quality collection of comics for our fans, the reduced costs of producing digital can definitely factor in when deciding to greenlight specific projects.

    TFAW.com: Who is buying your digital comics? Is it your usual audience, or do you think you’re reaching a more nontraditional demographic?

    DH: We believe there is significant potential in the existing print-comics market and we intend to show them why digital comics are awesome and worth their time. To expand the business—and for us all to increase the size of the industry pie—we need to court new customers. Digital.DarkHorse.com is the first stage in our plan to reach out to casual fans of superhero movies, platform gaming, and gadgets, as well as lapsed readers.

    TFAW.com: Currently, customers are still buying standalone issues. Are you planning to offer digital “graphic novels”?

    DH: Yes. Digital.DarkHorse.com will offer excellent prices, easy access, and simple storage of collections of comics, original graphic novels, and more.

    TFAW.com: Do you currently offer day-and-date comics? Will you offer more of those in the future?

    DH: We understand that day-and-date comics are an issue of serious concern to our partners in the direct market. As a result, we will not be offering digital day-and-date comics at launch. We do see an opportunity to do day-and-date right in the near future though. Watch for more news on the Dark Horse blog.

    TFAW.com: If you offer day-and-date comics, what sort of an impact have you seen on traditional sales?

    DH: Several publishers have experimented with day-and-date comics so far. Most of them report minimal impact to print sales. Some have stated that digital comics are having a positive impact on the sale of print comics. Until there is more transparent data available in the marketplace, it’s simply speculation.

    Dark Horse ComicsTFAW.com: What are the advantages of creating your own store versus partnering with a third party like comiXology?

    DH: Dark Horse sees many significant advantages to running our own store. Two examples: 1) We have the capacity to quickly adjust our technology based on consumer feedback. This gives us a competitive edge. 2) We can control the look and feel of the experience. We’re not interested in being clones of iTunes or comiXology. Dark Horse has its own aesthetic, and we believe our fans appreciate that and want to have the experience carried over to their own reading experiences.

    TFAW.com: Digital comics have broken a lot of the traditional barriers of the direct market—they’re easy to purchase and less expensive than the paper versions. Do you think this will help publishers develop a wider audience?

    DH: Absolutely! There are millions of potential fans out there waiting for a low-cost, easy point of entry to experience digital comics. This assumption has been critical to the development and execution of our digital-comics strategy from day one.

    TFAW.com: Realistically, what do you think digital comics will mean for traditional retailers in the upcoming years?

    DH: Sales trends on digital comics in the marketplace indicate a tremendous desire for the product. As such, we’ll pursue the opportunity with gusto. Traditional comics still account for the vast majority of our sales and revenue—accordingly, we’ll continue to devote a tremendous amount of assets to the creation, distribution, and marketing of print comics in the direct market and in bookstores. It’s our hope that digital comics will provide an easy and low-cost point of entry that will generate new readers and drive them into brick-and-mortar retailers of all kinds.

    TFAW.com: Do you have any retailer incentives or plans to include traditional retailers in your digital-comics program?

    DH: In October of 2010 Dark Horse announced a retailer component to our digital strategy. Now that the store and app are launching, watch for details to be revealed on the Dark Horse blog over the coming months.

    We want to thank Dark Horse Comics for the update! Interested in digital comics? Check out our Digital Comics Month interviews here at TFAW.com.

    READ MORE ABOUT DIGITAL COMICS

    VISIT DIGITAL.DARKHORSE.COM

    SEE ALL DARK HORSE COMICS, GRAPHIC NOVELS & MORE

    Have you been eagerly anticipating Dark Horse’s expanded library of digital comics? Which ones are you going to download first? Post your comments below!

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    Archie’s Jon Goldwater Talks Digital Comics & the Comics Code

    Vintage Archie from the 1960s.
    Vintage Archie from the 1960s.

    A funny thing happened over the last few years with Archie Comics, the venerable publisher of kid-friendly books like Archie, Betty & Veronica, and Sonic the Hedgehog: it’s moved to the leading edge of technology, and its story arcs and announcements are on the tips of everyone’s tongues.

    Digital comics? The Archie Comics app has been downloaded more than 1.8 million times. Big stories? The Archie weddings created a perfect storm of publicity and led to the Life With Archie: The Married Life magazine, which is now distributed in places where no comics have gone before. Social issues? Archie has handled interracial romance with Archie’s relationship with Valerie, homosexuality with new character Kevin Keller, and even brought more diversity to the halls of Riverdale High with Alex Simmons’ “New Kids off the Wall” storyline.

    While Digital Comics Month is technically over, we will continue to report on new developments, and we jumped at the chance to interview CEO Jon Goldwater. Below, he talks about why Archie Comics has been so active on the digital comics front, how he thinks digital comics will affect traditional retailers, and how the company will continue to push the boundaries of good ol’ Riverdale.

    TFAW.com: Archie was one of the first comic book publishers to fully embrace digital comics. Why is that?

    The Archie Comics app on the iPad.
    The Archie Comics app on the iPad.

    Jon Goldwater: I’ve been with Archie for almost two years, and previous to Archie, I was in the music business for more than 20 years. I was on the frontlines, not literally, but as part of the music business, of the battle between old technology and new technology that went on between the music business and Napster, and I saw the disaster that was created and how horribly that was handled by the powers-that-be at the record labels. And I vowed, coming into Archie, that we’d take every opportunity to embrace new technology–and digital may not be “new,” but to put it in a comic book format is rather new.

    In the music business, we were always falling behind, and when I came in here to Archie Comics, I was determined that Archie would be the leader in new technology, that we would never make that mistake again, and that the company would blaze new trails and see how vibrant new technology is–and, frankly, that it can be monetized. The ability to make serious money by embracing digital is a reality. It’s not just a pipe dream.

    TFAW.com: You’ve also announced that you’re going to go day-and-date with your entire catalog in April, which is a very bold move, so this seems to be part of your initiative.

    JG: Yes. I think there’s two separate customers. You have the customer who loves to download a book on his iPad or iPhone, or whatever mobile device he might have, and you have the customer who wants to get the comic in hand. Then you have the very rare customer who wants both, which is a beautiful thing. Certainly, for us, it’s about making the book as widely available as possible, as quickly as possible, to as many people as we can.

    TFAW.com: Do you expect other publishers to follow your lead?

    Life With Archie: The Married LifeJG: Absolutely. I think Marvel and DC and all the other comic book companies will follow our lead–as they’ve been doing, quite honestly, in everything we’ve been doing so far at Archie. We were the first company that had its own stand-alone app. Then Marvel and DC followed suit. I think they’re all going to follow us, after that. It’s either join in or be left behind, so I think they’ll join in.

    TFAW.com: The biggest concern for most publishers of going day-and-date is, of course, the worry that fewer customers will purchase print comics. Do you see that being the case?

    JG: I think there’s nothing like having the comic book in your hand. It’s a real art form. Everything we do at Archie is geared towards giving the best possible story, the best possible art–everything is geared toward giving people the best possible product. And that product is a book! However, if you don’t have the option to run to your comic shop, or supermarket, or newsstand, or wherever they’re available, I’ll tell you something: if you can download the book on your device, it’s a very close second. So that’s really our thinking. We just want to give everyone the opportunity to have their Archie comics.

    TFAW.com: The Archie Comics app has now been downloaded more than 1.8 million times. Who is buying it? Is it your usual audience, or are you reaching a more nontraditional comics demographic?

    Archie on the iPhone.JG: I think it’s both. I think yes, of course, the Archie fans are downloading it, but I think having it available to this many people–and that’s the one beautiful thing about the digital universe that we now exist in, is the availability to massive amounts of people. And because we are available to that many people, someone who may not normally be an Archie fan may check out that app and think, “Let me check out that comic book.” So yes, I think we are drawing, in addition to our fans, the people who would not necessarily buy an Archie book at the newsstand or the comic book shop, but they’re home, and they want to check it out, and at the price point our digital comics are offered, I think it’s a fantastic value. So I think it’s both.

    TFAW.com: As you’ve mentioned, Archie comics are already distributed far more widely than most comics, with supermarkets and newsstands. Do you think this has contributed to the success of your digital comics, or affected it in any way?

    Married Life TPB Vol. 01 Will You Marry Me TPBJG: I do. I think it’s an awareness. The fact that you may be in your supermarket checkout line and see Archie there, waiting to be bought, whether you buy it or not, you see that Archie’s available. For us, it’s all about–and I know this seems like a tired word–branding. But that is the word of the day, and that is what this is: making our brand as visible and available as possible, not just with the supermarkets, but what we’re doing with the Life With Archie magazine, putting it in places like CVS and Walgreens, spots no comic books are in. But they’re quick to embrace magazines, and Archie’s there as well. It’s really making our brand as available and visible as possible.

    TFAW.com: What were some of the advantages of partnering with iVerse instead of creating your own store?

    JG: Well, first of all, those guys are fantastic at what they do, and we don’t have that capability internally to do that. I guess at some point we could bring that in-house, but I have to tell you, I am so happy with the job they do. They’re so smart over there in how they market and promote our app, and they’re doing a great job for us. You know the old expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”–that’s how I feel about our partnership with iVerse. They’re doing such a terrific job that I’m just going to allow them to keep moving forward with what they’re doing.

    TFAW.com: What do you think digital comics will mean for retailers in the upcoming years?

    Archie & Friends TPB Vol. 08 Archies & Josie And PussycatsJG: I think it’s two separate markets. I think the traditional retail market needs to keep fighting for visibility or awareness, and make sure things are presented in the easiest and most consumer-friendly way. I don’t think digital comics really impacts them in the way that a CD was impacted by a digital song being available. I believe in my heart and soul that the comic book is an art form. I don’t think that’s ever going to go away–it’s not just something that’s disposable. It’s something that’s important and something you value, and I think traditional retailers have that edge. If they present themselves in a way that they can really take advantage of that ability to promote what they have as something important, they’ll do just fine. I don’t think that will hurt them at all.

    TFAW.com: Does Archie plan to include any retailer incentives or include traditional retailers in its digital comics program?

    JG: It’s funny, we’re talking about that right now, so there’s an announcement coming very very soon. I think next week you’ll get some interesting news about that.

    TFAW.com: Archie has gotten a lot of press, not just from its digital announcements, but with events like the Archie weddings, and in adding diversity with the “New Kids off the Wall” story arc. How do you plan to build on this momentum?

    JG: We’re just going to keep growing and doing what we’re doing, and putting out the best possible stories. We’ve stretched the boundaries of what Riverdale was, and we’re reflecting what kids today are dealing with in their own schools. Kids today are dealing with a lot of stuff. As long as we maintain it within the integrity of what the Archie characters are, within the confines of Riverdale, there’s a lot of things and a lot of fun we can have with Archie and the gang. And at the same time, we sometimes give readers a little bit more to think about than we have in the past, but within the confines of what we would find in Riverdale.

    TFAW.com: I spoke with Alex Simmons a couple of months ago, and he was really excited about his plans for Ethel!

    Archie Kevin KellerJG: Yeah! You know Alex, man, he is a creative genius. He really is. And he actually is such an important writer, because he really digs deep, and at the same time, he still maintains that light touch. We have a very important book that he wrote that’s coming up soon, that’s probably the best book Alex ever wrote, and as soon as we’re ready to talk about that, I’m going to have him give you a shout, because he’s written a very important book with Archie Comics.

    TFAW.com: That sounds awesome! The other big announcement is that you’ve dropped the Comics Code. How long have you been considering that, and what made this timing ideal for you?

    JG: We’ve actually been thinking of doing it for quite awhile. Because we’re self-policing here at Archie. Our motto is, when a parent buys their child an Archie comic, they have certainty: they know what’s in it in terms of the parameters, the boundaries that we’re going to go to. So for us, the Comics Code Authority was a bit antiquated. We’ve established who we are, this is our 70th year in business, and there was really no point in it anymore. We’re very much into making sure that what we do is the right thing.

    TFAW.com: Is there anything else you’re particularly excited about and want to talk about?

    Well, we have the Kevin Keller stand-alone miniseries coming out in June–we’re very very excited about that. Dan Parent wrote some unbelievable stories, and the first issue of Kevin was brilliant. It’s such an important book for us that when I read that issue, I got emotional, and at the same time I laughed. That’s how great Dan Parent’s issue #1 of Kevin Keller is. So look for that in June. We have our Mega-Man comic coming out in April. We have a new partnership with Capcom. And then we have our Stan Lee comics! We have a deal with Stan, and Andy Hayward, and you’ll see the previews of that at Comic-Con in San Diego, and then the first issue will be out in September of this year.

    Archie Mega-ManTFAW.com: Are you doing superhero comics with Stan Lee?

    JG: Yeah!

    TFAW.com: Well, thank you so much for your time!

    JG: Thank you so much!

    You can check out our Archie Comics page here on our site! Plus, learn more about Archie and Stan Lee’s upcoming Secret Seven superhero comics over at Newsarama.

    SEE ARCHIE COMICS AND DIGESTS

    READ MORE ABOUT DIGITAL COMICS

    Have you downloaded the Archie Comics app? Has all the hubbub revived your interest in Archie? Post your comments below!

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    The “Man on the Street” Talks Digital Comics

    DC Digital ComicsDigital Comics Month is coming to a close, and besides all of the distributors, publishers, and creators we’ve talked to, we wanted to chat with someone like you: the digital comics consumer! Fortunately, I already knew a lapsed comic book fan who’s getting back into them in a big way via his new iPad: my brother, Ben Forsythe. He agreed to sit down and answer my questions (seeing as it would be near-impossible to avoid me: we’re also housemates). Read on for his “Man on the Street” viewpoint on the evolution of digital comics!

    TFAW.com: What’s your personal history with comics?

    Ben Forsythe: I started reading Archie when I was young. Then on a family vacation my lovely, intelligent sister and I got our hands on our first X-Men comic and we were hooked.

    TFAW.com: Where did you get your comics back then?

    BF: A place called Classic Cards and Comics in Tualatin. I visited that place frequently, usually with my sis. We would walk or ride our bikes there from our parents’ house.

    TFAW.com: When did you stop reading comics, and why?

    BF: I stopped buying comics when I got to high school. I was driving and hanging out with my friends a lot more. That was also when they really diluted the X-Men with multiple titles. It got confusing and I stopped following them. By then I was only really reading whatever sis had around the house. When she went to college comics became an annual thing for me. Sis would give me a book for Christmas every few years and I really enjoyed that. I look forward to that every year.

    TFAW.com: When you bought your iPad, were you thinking about buying digital comics with it?

    BF: No, but it did dawn on me shortly after I bought it. I definitely went looking for the app, I didn’t see it advertised or anything.

    Marvel Digital ComicsTFAW.com: How many comics have you bought since then?

    BF: Dozens. It’s really hard not to purchase one after the other if it’s a good story. All you have to do is click a button.

    TFAW.com: What comics have you purchased?

    BF: Lots of one-offs and miniseries. Marvel 1612, Old Man Logan, War Machine, Astonishing X-Men, Avengers.

    TFAW.com: Which apps have you bought?

    BF: DC and Marvel [the comiXology apps]. Anxiously awaiting a Dark Horse app!

    TFAW.com: What do you like about buying digital comics?

    BF: It’s so easy. And the instant gratification that comes with being able to read a whole series in a day. No way would I buy 15 straight books in a store.

    TFAW.com: Is there anything you dislike about buying digital comics?

    BF: It’s too easy! I once spent $40 in one “session.”

    TFAW.com: How often do you go to a brick-and-mortar comic shop? Why?

    BF: Still only with my sis! Pretty rare. I think I’ve been to two different TFAW’s a total of four times in the two years I’ve been back in Portland.

    TFAW.com: Has reading digital comics made you want to buy trades or other printed compilations?

    BF: Not at all. I really dislike “comic clutter.”

    TFAW.com: What do you think the next step should be, as far as digital comics go?

    BF: More content. The single most frustrating thing in the age of internet consumerism for me is when a company offers limited downloadable content in an attempt to get customers to mail-order or come into their store. Quickest way to lose me as a customer.

    Thanks again, Beej! In exchange, I promise to bring home all of my Star Wars comics in a timely manner. And thank you, readers! Make sure to check out all of our Digital Comics Month interviews, and stay tuned for future updates.

    READ MORE ABOUT DIGITAL COMICS MONTH

    So what do you think? Has your experience with digital comics been similar to Ben’s? One thing I found interesting: he wasn’t aware of comiXology or any other provider–he just wanted his comics. Post your feedback below!

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    We Talk With the Creators Behind In Maps & Legends

    In Maps & Legends #4Digital Comics Month simply wouldn’t be complete without hearing from some of the creators! Fortunately, we were able to talk with Mike Jasper and Niki Smith, the writer-artist team behind In Maps & Legends, a digital comic that began as a webcomic for DC Comics’ Zuda imprint. Here, they talk about the challenges and rewards of creating digital-only comics. Plus, we’re got an exclusive peek at the cover for issue #4 (see left), out February 2!

    TFAW.com: Tell us about In Maps & Legends. Where did the idea come from, and how has it evolved?

    Mike Jasper: The original idea came from my love of maps of all kinds, and that way in which every map seems to encapsulate its own world, giving enticing peeks at places we’ve never been, including secret places known only to a few. Then I had the image of a young woman in her spare apartment, carving a map into the wall. The story took off from there. Interestingly, In Maps & Legends started off as a prose novel, but I got mired about 100 pages in, and switching it to a graphic novel was the best thing that could’ve happened. The scope has gotten bigger, and Niki’s creating multiple worlds with her art that have been a blast to explore.

    TFAW.com: How many issues do you currently have available? What do you project to have at the same time next year?

    MJ: We published three issues in 2010, and we’ll finish our first story arc this year with seven more, giving us 10 issues total by the end of 2011. After that, the magic 8-ball is a bit hazy. We’ll see where the digital roadmap takes us . . .

    Niki Smith: I’d love to be wrapping up the tenth and final issue this time next year, if not before then!

    In Maps & Legends #4TFAW.com: Why did you decide to go digital-only with In Maps & Legends, instead of self-publishing it?

    MJ: In Maps & Legends originally started its life as a webcomic, after winning the November 2009 Zuda contest hosted by DC Comics. But when DC closed the Zuda imprint this past summer, we decided we wanted to continue the story we’d just launched, so we did some research and leaped into the digital waters. We didn’t think we’d get any sort of audience if we continued on as a webcomic, and we saw lots of great stuff happening with digital downloads of individual issues. As luck would have it, I’d been breaking my script up into 20-page chapters, so my written structure worked perfectly for individual, downloadable comics.

    NS: I would say we are self-publishing! We’re just not putting out a paper product. I was excited about all of the possibilities opening up with digital comics, and wanted to see how we would fare. E-readers and tablets are becoming more and more common, and it just seemed like the right time to go for it.

    TFAW.com: Have you ever published a traditional comic before? What’s your personal history with comics?

    MJ: Nope–I’ve been a comics reader off and on for most of my life, and for a while there, back in my early twenties, I was pretty hardcore about collecting and bagging-and-boarding. Then I took a break, got married, had kids, etc. I’ve been slowing picking up collections of my favorite stuff from the past two decades, mainly non-superhero stuff like what Vertigo puts out, and I’m always looking for more webcomic serials to follow nowadays.

    NS: I’ve been in a number of comic anthologies here and in Europe, and am working on a few graphic novels I hope will find publishers. I started reading comics and manga in junior high, went off to art school, and in my second year I decided to make a mini-comic and try things out . . . I haven’t looked back.

    In Maps & Legends #3TFAW.com: Can you describe some key differences between creating a digital-only comic and a traditional comic?

    MJ: My guess is that since we’re self-publishing In Maps & Legends now, the big difference is all the publishing and PR work we have to do as creators, instead of just writing and illustrating it and submitting it to various publishers and letting them deal with all that (and having them take their cut of the money as well).

    TFAW.com: What are the biggest challenges in creating digital comics?

    MJ: Formatting! We do it all ourselves, and our comic comes out in PDF, MOBI, ePub, and some other proprietary formats from our distributors. The challenge of all the file prep work is followed quickly by the challenge of tracking all the various uploads and making sure we’ve got all the right metadata and issue synopses straight for each distributor. We’re adding a few more distributors for issue four that I’m really excited about, too–we’re always on the lookout for new technology and new distributors to get our comic in front of more eyeballs.

    NS: Formatting is definitely a huge hurdle. There are so many devices and distributors right now because the format is still so young, and right now there’s no standard image size or type. Each e-reader wants things set up a different way, as does each comic site. It’s a lot to keep track of when you’re going at it alone.

    TFAW.com: From a creator’s point of view, how do you think digital comics have changed the industry thus far? How do you see other creators responding?

    MJ: I think the rise in popularity of cheap, high-quality, and easy-to-use e-readers like the Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, and more–along with the hit almost everyone’s pocketbook has taken since the economic downturn that began in 2008–has led more and more people to try out digital comics. Why pay almost $4 for a comic on paper when you could get a comic for a buck (or free) and add it to your shiny new reader? In a way digital comics have leveled the playing field–we’ve got our little indie comic for sale right next to Batman comics and Spidey and Hellboy. I do believe that if you put out a quality comic on a regular schedule, people will come around. I hope other creators try their hands at digital and add their comics to the marketplace, so they can join the conversation. It’s an exciting time.

    In Maps & Legends on a KindleNS: More than anything, I think digital comics have brought back a sense of excitement. The huge amount of tablet/e-reader owners means the number of potential readers is constantly growing. People buy these devices to put content on them; they’re always looking for apps to install or something to read, and more than anything, they’re comfortable paying for digital content (something internet-based webcomics have always struggled with). And it’s also brought back a sense of excitement to creators–it’s incredibly hard to self-publish a monthly title and get it out through Diamond; with their minimum orders and limitations, it’s hard (and expensive) to print and get yourself out there. But digital comic marketplaces allow creators to make their comics available in apps right alongside DC and Marvel.

    TFAW.com: How have your digital comics been selling for you, compared to traditional independent comics?

    MJ: As this is my first foray into comics, I don’t have anything to compare it to other than my experience with my own novels (non-comic) and the e-books I’ve been selling of my own fiction. And the Maps sales have easily eclipsed all the non-comics work I’ve done before and am doing now, both in print and digital.

    NS: Same. I’ve never attempted to publish a traditional independent comic myself (and I don’t think I ever would–I don’t see it as financially feasible, but cheers to anyone who tries!). But sales have been good so far, and steadily growing. And unlike a traditional, comic shop-released title–we never go out of print. Some of our best-selling periods have been in between new issues (issues come out every six weeks, with issue #4 out the first week of February).

    In Maps & Legends #2TFAW.com: Who is buying your digital comics? Is it the typical comics audience, or do you think you’re reaching a more nontraditional demographic?

    MJ: It’s hard to tell who’s buying our comic–in a way, that’s a drawback of digital instead of doing a webcomic, because you get to interact more with your audience with a webcomic, with comments and forums and such. One interesting story: I got a tweet from a band from the UK called The Indelicates a few months back that said how much they enjoyed our comic. I tweeted my thanks, started following them on Twitter, and of course, downloaded some of their music. Great stuff, and we’ve shared a few tweets since then. So great how the digital world makes the real world a tiny bit smaller.

    NS: With digital comics, your target audience of readers isn’t limited anymore. Traditional monthly comics are sold to a select group of people–those who frequent comic shops (and few even have access to one in their area). Digital comics can be read by anyone with a computer, a smart phone, an e-reader . . . We’re reaching a great amount of readers with the Kindle and Nook, who, presumably, bought those devices to read novels on, and who may have no idea about comics. But they’re clearly interested in trying them out when the work is available and easy to find! And that’s great.

    TFAW.com: How did you your partnership with Graphic.ly come about?

    MJ: It was pretty straightforward–we emailed them after Zuda closed down and told them who we were and sent them some of issue #1. They knew who we were, which helped immensely, and chatting with Micah Baldwin (their CEO) gave us lots of ideas and got us started down the road of non-exclusivity. We got up and running with them at the same time we started working with comiXology, DriveThruComics, and MyDigitalComics. Micah encouraged us to not limit ourselves to just one distributor, and we’ve pretty much run with that idea.

    In Maps & Legends #1TFAW.com: In Maps & Legends is now available through other digital comics distributors. Did you ever consider building your own app instead of going through a third party?

    MJ: Nope–never even entered my mind! I don’t have the technical skills. As it is, I feel like we’re spending a lot of time on formatting and converting the comics, when I’d much rather be writing new issues!

    NS: 1) We would have had to hire someone to build it, and 2) Going with our own app, rather than comiXology or Graphic.ly, means we would have lost all of those readers browsing through the app and stumbling upon us. Our own app would mean we would have to be specifically sought out–and in the thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of apps out there, there’s not much chance of being found. I think readers are also more willing to take a risk on an unfamiliar title vetted by a respected app than on one just floating out there alone.

    TFAW.com: Digital comics have broken a lot of the traditional barriers of the direct market–they’re easy to purchase and less expensive than the paper versions. Do you think this will help creators–especially new ones–develop a wider audience?

    MJ: I hope so. My big hope is that digital comics will pull in a lot of new readers curious about comics, as well as lapsed comics readers who don’t want to clutter up their living spaces with tons of paper comics, especially the floppies. I think making them available on the same digital readers as “regular” books (non-comics), there’ll be a great deal of overlap with readers. There will always be a place for print comics as well as print books, but now we have a new medium, and that’ll bring in more poeple–more readers–in the end. I see it as a win-win situation.

    NS: For sure. I think it will also open comics up to new audiences–I hear Archie is selling really well, and it would be great to see more youth-oriented titles (and girl-friendly ones!) out there. These can be tough to sell traditionally, but digitally . . . I think they’ve got a great chance.

    In Maps & Legends #2TFAW.com: What do you think of the piracy issue that comes along with digital distribution?

    MJ: I try not to think about piracy, actually. Mostly, I don’t worry about it. Right now, I’d be kind of honored to be pirated, just to get the added exposure. If piracy started to seriously cut into our sales, I might worry more. But hey, each of our issues only cost ninety-nine cents, so it’s not like we’re gouging our readers. I feel like many of the other digital comics folks you’ve talked to this month, in that if we make our comic available in a quality format, hi-res, and cheap, people won’t feel compelled to pirate it.

    NS: From what I’ve seen, a good number of people defend their piracy by expressing their frustration with not being able to find the work for a good price in their format of choice. We’ve done everything we can to counteract that frustration–we’re in PDF, CBZ, on the Web, apps, x, y, z. All for a dollar an issue. Anyone pirating In Maps & Legends wouldn’t pay anyways.

    TFAW.com: Are you planning to publish a physical copy of In Maps & Legends, like a graphic novel?

    MJ: We’re looking into some print avenues, and we’ve been talking to some print publishers. That’s something I really would like to see–issues #1 through #10 in a nice trade version. Or hardcover, if they want to go there–I won’t get in their way. I really like the idea of digital first, then print.

    NS: It’s a possibility, but we’re just wrapping up issue #4, so we’ve got a ways to go before we get there.

    TFAW.com: Do you have any plans to involve traditional retailers? For example, creating prints or other merchandise?

    MJ: Right now we’re pretty busy with creating the digital issues and doing promotion for each issue. No big plans for merchandise yet, but hey, I’m open to it! I’d love to see some quality maps for the settings to hang on my wall, as opposed to the scratchings I’ve come up with on my own. Or a Bartamus action figure . . . ?

    TFAW.com: What do you think digital comics will mean for traditional retailers in the upcoming years?

    MJ: I think digital comics will represent almost a form of advertising for retailers selling the paper versions. Because the digital versions are cheap, and should remain cheap (I personally don’t think a 22-page digital comic should sell for much more than a dollar. I’d have to seriously consider buying a digital issue that’s $2). Hook ’em with the digital issues, bring ’em to the retailers for the paper versions later.

    NS: I think comiXology’s work with comic shops (their pull lists and links to shops in the buyer’s area) seems like a great concept. I was never much for visiting traditional comic shops, though, so I’m not really the one to ask. I think the buy-and-bag fans will continue to do so, and the casual readers will probably shift to digital as e-readers and tablets become more accessible.

    In Maps & Legends

    TFAW.com: Is there anything else about this experience you’d like to share?

    MS: I really hope people go check out the various comics distributors out there–don’t just limit yourself to just one, at least not at first–and see what’s out there. Buy some digital comics (ours are only 99 cents, hint hint!) and see what reading experience works best for you. You’re only out a few bucks, but you’re getting in early on a huge change in how people read, how creators share their stories, and how publishers get those stories to you. Go digital–I double-dog dare ya.

    NS: Like Mike said, if you’re going digital, embrace a number of distributors rather than going exclusive. comiXology reaches a very different audience from Nook, and you have everything to gain from increasing the ways people can stumble onto you! And hey, check out In Maps & Legends while you’re at it.

    Our thanks to Mike and Niki for answering our questions! Make sure to check out the rest of our Digital Comics Month interviews to read all about the publishers and distributors involved in this industry-shaking evolution!

    READ MORE ABOUT DIGITAL COMICS MONTH

    Have you read In Maps & Legends? What do you think? Post your comments below!

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  • , ,

    BOOM! Studios’ Chip Mosher Talks About Comics in the Digital Age

    IDW In just five years, BOOM! Studios has garnered multiple Eisner and Harvey Award nominations and published some of the industry’s most exciting titles, like Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, 20th Century Fox’s 28 Days Later and Die Hard, The Henson Company’s Farscape, and the original Mark Waid series Irredeemable.

    They’re also a pioneering force in digital publication of comic books. As part of Digital Comics Month at TFAW.com, we had the opportunity to talk with Chip Mosher, Marketing Director at BOOM! Studios, on the state of comics in the digital age.

    TFAW.com: How many titles/issues do you currently have available? What do you project to have at the same time next year?

    IDW's iPad AppChip Mosher: This past May we launched our iPad app and our presence on four digital comics vendors: comiXology, Graphic.ly, iVerse, and Panelfly. At that time, we committed our entire back catalog of BOOM! Studios single issues as being available digitally. Right now, that is over 300 single issues. Next year, it will be nearing 400 issues. We have since added MyDigitalComics to our vendor list.

    TFAW.com: How did you choose which comics would go digital first? What was the thought process behind your launch?

    CM: Thought? Heck, we just wanted to get as much of our back catalog up as humanly possible! (Laughs) We really left it to the individual vendors as to what they wanted to do first. We’re pretty near to having all of our BOOM! Studios back catalog up with most all the vendors, so it is really just coordinating releases of upcoming titles.

    TFAW.com: What are the biggest challenges in publishing digital comics?

    CM: Honestly? Well, our last editorial pass is when we go to trade. So when we did the whole back catalog, we couldn’t just go to the single issues files and export them, we basically had to re-build the single issues from the trades. If we took out a “to be continued” on the trade, we had to put that back in, etc. It was a pain in the butt. But our design department and my assistant Ivan Salazar really put their backs into it, so we got this project done in a couple of months. Processing all of that was by far the biggest challenge.

    TFAW.com: Who is buying your digital comics? Is it your usual audience, or do you think you’re reaching a more nontraditional demographic?

    CM: Oddly enough, 40 percent of our sales are international. That makes sense, right, because single-issue distribution is very, very weak in foreign markets. I know we are reaching some consumers who have never bought a comic before, but I think as an industry we need to do better on this end. Also, we are really reaching the lapsed Wednesday shopper. The dad who just doesn’t have time to go to the store every Wednesday. It’s great to have our entire back catalog up for consumers who may not have our comics near them physically, or who might not have purchased our comics for a variety of reasons before.

    TFAW.com: Do you currently offer day and date comics? Will you offer more of those in the future?

    CM: Back in January 2008, we offered our North Wind comic book series with MySpace Comics as the first day-and-date release for the comic book industry. BOOM!’s pretty proud to be on the forefront there. Right now, I am not really seeing the data that doing day-and-date is the right thing for us across the board. It really depends on the project. With North Wind, the comic was listed on the log-in page for all of MySpace, and definitely reached non-comic readers. The writer, David DiGillio had a ton of fans online from his TV show that had just aired. It made perfect sense for that project.

    TFAW.com: Digital comics have broken a lot of the traditional barriers of the direct market–they’re easy to purchase and less expensive than the paper versions. Do you think this will help publishers develop a wider audience?

    CM: As I’ve said before, I think people take it as a fait accompli that since buying digital comics does not involve having to make a trek down to your local comic shop, that they will instantly expand the audience. I am certainly not sold on that scenario–you have to do the work. We, as an industry, have a ton of outreach to do with comics–both in digital and print–to truly expand the marketplace in a significant way. Of course, that’s not to say that BOOM! isn’t excited about the opportunities with digital, we totally are. BOOM! has some things up our sleeves. Hang tight!

    We want to thank Chip Mosher for taking the time to chat with us about digital comics and BOOM!’s initiatives. You can check out all of our BOOM! Studios’ comics and graphic novels here at TFAW.com. Make sure to come back Friday when we’ll talk with In Maps & Legends creators Mike Jasper and Niki Smith about their digital-only comic.

    READ MORE ABOUT DIGITAL COMICS MONTH

    Have you purchased any digital comics by BOOM! Studios? What’s your favorite BOOM! digital comic? Post your comments below!

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    Digital Comics Pioneer comiXology Discusses Its Past and Future

    comiXology Digital ComicsThis week, Digital Comics Month starts off with an interview with comiXology CEO David Steinberger. Founded in 2007 as an online comic book resource that allowed users to create “Pull Lists” of comics, comiXology has since expanded, offering Retailer Tools to traditional brick-and-mortar comic shops that allow their customers to pre-order comics via their websites.

    In 2009, comiXology launched its Comics by comiXology app, which allows users to purchase and view digital comics through a variety of platforms. Today, comiXology has partnered with several comic book publishers, including Marvel and DC Comics. Also, shortly after we interviewed Steinberger, comiXology and pop-culture news source ICv2 announced a strategic partnership that will focus on expanding comiXology’s relationship with comics retailers and further building on their Retailer Tools. Read on for our interview:

    TFAW.com: How long have you been distributing digital comics? When, and how, was your company founded?

    David Steinberger: We have been distributing digital comics since June 2009 when we launched our Comics by comiXology iPhone app.

    comiXology started in 2007 as an online community for comic book fans, allowing readers to identify upcoming releases and develop Pull Lists (individual pre-orders) from local brick-and-mortar comic shops. comiXology.com displays weekly listings of new titles that can be viewed by issue: displaying cover art, credits, description, price, page count, and other information. In addition to developing Pull Lists, registered users can rate and comment on comic books. The site also includes weekly columns, blogs, news and podcasts.

    TFAW.com: What drew you to digital comics?

    DS: We are first and foremost avid comic readers and saw that a lot of media formats were making the transition to digital when the iPhone came out. The iPhone was the tipping point for us when we saw the potential of the platform. Reading comics on your computer has its pros and cons, but having them portable through a mobile device was the linchpin to making digital comics viable.

    TFAW.com: What did you think when you first heard about the possibility of reading comics in a digital format?

    DS: When I first heard of it, the only way to do it was through illegal scans of cbr and cbz files that didn’t benefit the publishers or creators. I found the experience really lacking as it just isn’t a great way to read a comic, in my opinion.

    TFAW.com: Who is buying your digital comics? Is it your usual audience, or do you think you’re reaching a more nontraditional demographic?

    DS: We get some of the traditional audience, but firmly believe we’re reaching a much wider range of consumers with our content. We’re reaching a much wider audience than your standard Wednesday comic shoppers. The last time we polled our customers, less than 20% were regular comic book buyers before they used our app.

    TFAW.com: Do you currently offer day and date comics? Will you offer more of those in the future?

    DS: We do offer some day and date comics, with The Walking Dead being our most popular. We leave that part of the decision making to the publishers, though. That said, it certainly looks like day-and-date comics will continue to become more plentiful this year.

    TFAW.com: Currently, customers are still buying standalone issues. Are you planning to offer digital “graphic novels”?

    DS: We offer some collected editions, like The Walking Dead, Atomic Robo, and others. They are very well received and we expect to sell more and more collected like that.

    TFAW.com: How have iPhone-sized versus iPad-sized digital comics fared?

    DS: The iPad audience, just in sheer numbers, is much smaller than iPhone/iPad devices. However, it’s closer to what a traditional experience of reading a comic book is like, so people tend to read and buy more on the iPad.

    We are seeing creators embrace the “digital first” mentality, like David Gallaher and Steve Ellis’s Box 13 and Alex De Campi’s Valentine, which are specifically created for a digital device.

    TFAW.com: Right now, many publishers are going through several distributors at once. Will that continue, or do you plan to require exclusivity?

    DS: We won’t ever require exclusivity, but some publishers find it easier to go with the distributor that will make them the most money across a wide range of devices, because it’s simpler and better for the consumer. DC, for instance, saw the value in working with us and PSP only.

    TFAW.com: How does iTunes figure in your service?

    DS: iTunes powers our in-app purchases on iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad). They aren’t connected to comics.comixology.com or our Android app. In fact, you can buy comics on the Web or on our Android app, and that purchase will appear on your iOS devices.

    TFAW.com: What are the advantages of your service, compared to other digital comics distributors?

    DS: First, our Guided View™ has been recognized as the best reading experience for small devices. Second, we have the largest library of comics–we’ll pass 6,000 comics shortly, and are the only multi-OS platform with DC Comics. Third, we have the best and most consistent app experience across multiple platforms with iOS, the Web and Android.

    TFAW.com: How do you feel publishers have responded to the digital comics format? Have there been any changes in the way they produce comics that you’ve seen?

    DS: Publishers have responded positively, as it’s a great channel to reach new readers and make some incremental revenue. Most major publishers have not adjusted how they produce comics, although I have heard tales of lettering sizes getting a little bigger to have them more readable on the iPad, but haven’t actually seen that other than digital-first comics.

    TFAW.com: What have been some of the major challenges of bringing comics into the digital age?

    DS: The single biggest challenge has been making comics a great experience on small devices. Then, for older comics, you have the whole source-file issues . . . scanning, cleaning up, fixing mistakes in lettering . . . this all takes a long time, if you can find a source file or document at all! Second to that is prepping the comics for mobile distribution. That also takes time.

    TFAW.com: What do you think of the piracy issue that comes along with digital distribution?

    DS: Piracy of comics was in full bloom long before legitimate digital distribution of comics appeared. The way this question is written implies that digital distribution increases piracy. I think it’s exactly the opposite. A well-stocked and -crafted store with a great reading experience at a reasonable price will reduce piracy, not increase it.

    The fact is, the people who scan and post the Wednesday comics every week are going to continue to do that. You can battle it through legal challenges, and the publishers have done that, and you can battle it by making the material widely available for a better experience. We’re supportive of both methods, but think having material widely available is the best tool to combat piracy.

    TFAW.com: What are your plans for future development?

    DS: We don’t really reveal our future development plans. We’re always looking for ways to improve the experience. We focus on great reading experiences, a great discovery process and other features like social integration. We are, of course, also considering other platforms we feel will be important in the future.

    TFAW.com: If one of your digital comics readers wanted to get the hard copy after they read the digital comic, how do you help them find out where to get a copy?

    DS: We have a print retailer finder built right into our apps. They can just look up their local shop.

    TFAW.com: What do you think digital comics will mean for traditional retailers in the upcoming years?

    DS: Digital, first and foremost, is a great way to give people who don’t read comics a taste of what we love. That’s a gateway to becoming a regular Wednesday shopper, and the retailers will have to capitalize on that. Traditional retailers should continue to focus on what makes a great store, and how to get people to know about their store. Our online tools for retailers, for instance, have been proven over and over again to increase comic book purchases at traditional stores.

    TFAW.com: Do you think digital comics spell the end of floppies?

    DS: I doubt it. This question came up with the great surge in trade paperbacks in the first decade of the century, too, but that didn’t spell the end of them. Part of the reason floppies work is that it fits well [within] the production capabilities of the creators. It takes time to craft 22 pages, and being able to give fans something every month makes sense.

    TFAW.com: Do you honestly think digital stores and the traditional direct market can both continue to thrive?

    DS: Yes, there’s no doubt in my mind that the comic market as a whole can thrive, both digitally and physically. Otherwise we wouldn’t continue to develop new tools for retailers!

    TFAW.com: Do you have any retailer incentives or plans to include traditional retailers in your digital comics program?

    DS: Yes, we have a lot of announcements to make about this important part of our business that will benefit retailers both in print and digitally.

    Our thanks to David for his insightful and thorough answers! Next up for Digital Comics Month: our interview with Boom! Studios will go live on Wednesday, January 26.

    READ MORE ABOUT DIGITAL COMICS MONTH

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    Zenescope Weighs in on the Digital Comics Landscape

    Zenescope Digital ComicsDigital Comics Month continues with an interview Zenescope Entertainment’s Editor-in-Chief and writer, Ralph Tedesco! Read on as he discusses the present and future digital plans of the publisher behind Grimm Fairy Tales, Charmed, and The Waking!

    TFAW.com: How many titles/issues do you currently have available? What do you project to have at the same time next year?

    Ralph Tedesco: We normally have about four to five titles that hit each month, but in 2011 we’re going to be at about eight or nine regular issues per month.

    TFAW.com: How did you choose which comics would go digital first? What was your thought process behind your launch?

    RT: We just started to roll out a good amount of our back issues on a monthly basis. We started small and still have a lot of stuff to unveil digitally.

    Zenescope Charmed ComicsTFAW.com: What are the biggest challenges in publishing digital comics?

    RT: The key is to still promote printed comics and not roll out with digital too soon after publishing an issue. You want to make sure retailers can sell their issues in stores. Digital is a nice medium and is going to expand over the next several years, but this is still a print-first industry.

    TFAW.com: How have digital comics been selling for you, compared to traditional comics?

    RT: It’s definitely an extremely small percentage of sales right now, with potential for growth over the next several years.

    TFAW.com: Have you considered a digital-only option for comics that have lower sales? Do you think this is an opportunity to extend the lives of series that might otherwise be canceled due to financial realities?

    RT: Not as of yet. Printing can be costly, but artwork and general production of our books still costs money. Either way, as a publisher, I need to hit a certain number of sales or I’m going to lose money. At this point in the digital arena, if hard copies of a title aren’t selling, it’s safe to say that that same title won’t be selling digitally, either.

    TFAW.com: Currently, customers are still buying standalone issues. Are you planning to offer digital “graphic novels”?

    RT: We will eventually, I’m just not sure when.

    TFAW.com: Digital comics have broken a lot of the traditional barriers of the direct market–they’re easy to purchase and less expensive than the paper versions. Do you think this will help publishers develop a wider audience?

    Zenescope Comics and Graphic NovelsRT: I hope so. It’s something we know will definitely appeal to more mainstream audiences who wouldn’t usually think to hit a local retailer. If they are able to download the comic, the hope is they realize what a great medium this is and start following both digital and traditional comics.

    TFAW.com: What do you think of the piracy issue that comes along with digital distribution?

    RT: Not a lot you can do about it. Piracy is a part of entertainment now. You hope that most people are honest and pay for what they read or watch or listen to, otherwise they’re just helping to ruin the industry they’re stealing from.

    TFAW.com: What do you think digital comics will mean for traditional retailers in the upcoming years?

    RT: I think for a long while it won’t be a problem at all, but I do think retailers will begin to think ahead of the curve and start offering ways to evolve their businesses to cater toward a more digital audience. However, comics will always be a collector’s industry, and I hope that fans will continue to buy non-digital comics forever.

    TFAW.com: Do you have any retailer incentives or plans to include traditional retailers in your digital comics program?

    RT: Not yet, but that’s a great idea.

    Our thanks to Ralph for participating in Digital Comics Month! Make sure to check out Zenescope’s latest comics and graphic novels, including Grimm Fairy Tales: Myths and Legends, here at TFAW.com!

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    IDW’s Jeff Webber Discusses the Future of Digital Comics

    IDW's iPad AppIDW Digital Comics Month marches on! IDW Publishing, founded in 1999, is currently the fifth-largest comic book publisher in the nation.

    Today, this publisher is home to some of the most exciting licensed comics in the world, including Angel, Doctor Who, G.I. Joe, Star Trek, and Transformers, as well as acclaimed creator-driven titles like Fallen Angel and Locke & Key.

    We spoke with Jeff Webber, Director of ePublishing at IDW on the state of comics in the digital age:

    TFAW.com: How many titles/issues do you currently have available? What do you project to have at the same time next year?

    Jeff Webber: We have over 650 books in distribution across multiple partners and platforms. Today we distribute to Apple iOS, Sony PSP, Nokia, Blackberry, and Kindle, with more platforms coming in 2011.

    TFAW.com: How did you choose which comics would go digital first? What was the thought process behind your launch?

    Transformers on the iPadJW: Star Trek and Transformers were our first major digital lines, tied to the 2009 movies. Our major digital push is around our bigger licenses. We’ve always wanted to expose our comics line to as broad an audience as possible, so it’s natural to use digital to reach fans of the brands who are non-typical comics readers and grow the market.

    TFAW.com: What are the biggest challenges in publishing digital comics?

    JW: Technology is always a moving target. We have to make sure that the time and effort involved result in a format that has a reasonable life span. Also, marketing is a challenge. It’s often difficult for people to discover digital comics amidst the wide range of apps and books available.

    TFAW.com: How have digital comics been selling for you, compared to traditional comics?

    JW: Digital sales are still just a drop in the bucket of our monthly sales. Digital is still a very young medium.

    TFAW.com: Have you considered a digital-only option for comics that have lower sales? Do you think this is an opportunity to extend the lives of series that might otherwise be canceled due to financial realities?

    JW: We do have plans for original digital-only comics. These will be digital projects from the ground up because they will take advantage of digital formats and distribution, therefore really unrelated to print sales. We have some interesting ideas that you will see in 2011 that will not only be strong digital stories, but will drive print sales due to exposing a huge audience to the brands and comics in general.

    TFAW.com: Do you have any plans to soft-launch any titles in digital and publish those titles that do well?

    JW: It’s not in our immediate plans at this time.

    TFAW.com: Who is buying your digital comics? Is it your usual audience, or do you think you’re reaching a more nontraditional demographic?

    IDW Comics on the PSPJW: We truly feel the bulk of our digital purchases are made by people that are not regularly going to comic shops on Wednesdays. Our best sellers are mostly tied to other media–movies, TV and games. Our EA Comics line does very well with the game tie-in. And our Konami Silent Hill line is extremely popular on PSP. An example is that one of the senior directors from Apple was at our booth during San Diego Comic-Con. She wasn’t a comics fan but went nuts when she saw True Blood. She downloaded the app right there and went home reading the print book on the plane! I’m positive she’s never stepped foot in a comic shop before, but ended up enjoying both the digital and print formats.

    The other major digital audience is outside of the US–over 40% of our digital sales are international.

    TFAW.com: Currently, customers are still buying standalone issues. Are you planning to offer digital “graphic novels”?

    IDW's Tribes Comic

    JW: We just started an iPad-only Digital Graphic Novel line. We are offering books from our catalog that include big brands such as the Star Trek Movie Adaptation; books that we’d like to promote more such as Tribes: The Dog Years; critically recognized books like Parker series; and some books that will be digital only, the first being After the Fire.
    IDW's Tribes Comic

    TFAW.com: Do you currently offer day and date comics? Will you offer more of those in the future?

    JW: Only on rare cases, usually if there is a dictate from the licensor. Most of our books are released digitally four weeks or more after print.

    TFAW.com: What sort of an impact have you seen on traditional sales?

    JW: We’ve really seen no impact–another reason we believe digital and print customers are not the same people. We believe most of our digital customers are not necessarily aware of what “day and date” really even means. Some of our best sellers are books that have been out for years in print and digital customers are just discovering them.

    TFAW.com: How did you choose to partner with iVerse? What are the advantages of working with a third party, instead of creating your own store?

    JW: We have built our own single issue and graphic novel apps and work with our technology partner iVerse for our storefront apps. IDW’s expertise is in creating great stories, and we prefer working with a partner because their expertise is in the technology.

    TFAW.com: Digital comics have broken a lot of the traditional barriers of the direct market–they’re easy to purchase and less expensive than the paper versions. Do you think this will help publishers develop a wider audience?

    JW: Yes, definitely.

    TFAW.com: What do you think of the piracy issue that comes along with digital distribution?

    JW: The good thing about apps and distribution through most of the major hand held and online outlets is that these come with control over file formats and are not easily pirated. We do not distribute PDFs to some of the more generic storefronts.

    TFAW.com: If one of your digital comics readers wanted to get the hard copy after they read the digital comic, how do you help them find out where to get a copy?

    JW: We include a comic shop locator in all our storefront apps, and link back to our online site also.

    TFAW.com: What do you think digital comics will mean for traditional retailers in the upcoming years?

    JW: We really feel that digital is about increasing exposure!

    TFAW.com: Do you have any retailer incentives or plans to include traditional retailers in your digital comics program?

    JW: We have some very interesting plans around this topic for 2011, but I can’t share them yet!

    We want to thank Jeff Webber for taking the time to answer all of our questions! You can check out all of our IDW comics and graphic novels here at TFAW.com. Make sure to keep coming back throughout January–we’ll be interviewing other influential publishers and distributors to let you know what they’re offering, and what the future might hold for us all. Next up: Ralph Tedesco of Zenescope talks about whether they’re considering digital-only comics on 1/21.

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    Michael Murphey of iVerse Offers His Take on the Digital Comics Landscape

    iVerse MediaiVerse Media started out in 2008 when founder Michael Murphey got the idea to publish his original comics digitally, and has grown by leaps and bounds since then. Today, iVerse offers its “Comics +” app, which features comics from Marvel Comics, IDW Publishing, Archie Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Ape Entertainment, and other independent publishers, as well as industry news.

    We sat down with Murphey as part of our Digital Comics Month initiative to get the inside scoop on iVerse’s present and future plans!

    TFAW.com: How long have you been distributing digital comics? When, and how, was your company founded?

    Michael Murphey: iVerse was founded in July 2008. Our first comics were released on the iPhone in November of that year. The company really started as just a combination of my love for comics and the iPhone. At the time I was a full-time blogger and podcaster. I had a pretty decent-sized daily audience on my podcast in particular, and thought doing some comics on the iPhone would be fun. At first, I was just planning on doing some original comics, but after posting a video of our first comics app, I started hearing from publishers that afternoon wanting to know what the business model was and how they could participate.

    From there things just started moving like crazy, and a few months later my developing partner and I had to bring in some help to keep up with demand. Before we knew it we were working with some of the best publishers in the business, and had half a dozen people working for iVerse. That number has doubled over the last year, and things have just been going amazingly well.

    For a life-long comics geek like me it’s a dream come true, in many respects.

    TFAW.com: What drew you to digital comics?

    MM: I have been fascinated with digital comics since I read Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud in 2000 or so. I remember poring over that book and thinking how amazing this digital future could be. Scott has always been someone that I’ve admired, and I hope we see some of his more interesting concepts, like the infinite canvas, utilized in digital comics soon. There is so much that could be done there.

    TFAW.com: What did you think when you first heard about the possibility of reading comics in a digital format?

    MM: I’m sure “Star Trek” is the first thing that popped into my head. I was immediately fascinated with the possibilities of what that could be and how it could work.

    TFAW.com: Who is buying your digital comics? Is it the usual comics audience, or do you think you’re reaching a more nontraditional demographic?

    MM: I think that depends largely on the app. Right now the people making regular purchases in Comics + are definitely the traditional comic audience for the most part. In the case of Archie and Pocket God, though, it’s clear that we’re reaching a new readers. Pocket God in particular is a completely new demographic because it’s largely fans of the iPhone game. Many of those readers are trying comics for the very first time. Thankfully, Ape Entertainment produced a fantastic book that is on par with anything on the shelves today. So I think, in that case, they’re getting a great entry into the comics world, and we’ve seen plenty of feedback to know that we’re sparking interest in the next generation with that app.

    With brands like Archie and Transformers and the like, I think we’re reaching out beyond the traditional audience as well. Archie has multi-generational appeal and is an absolute powerhouse digitally. IDW’s franchises reach well beyond traditional comics fans into “mainstream” areas like TV and film, and we’ve seen evidence that many of those people are completely new to comics. We received tons of emails when Star Trek: Countdown came out that people were trying comics for the first time with that book. It was really exciting.

    TFAW.com: Do you currently offer day and date comics? Will you offer more of those in the future?

    MM: We do, and we will offer more as the publishers want to do that, but I think day and date is an issue with specific appeal to the traditional comic book audience, and the best way to do that, and support it, is to do it in a way that benefits everyone in the industry. Casual digital readers aren’t clamoring for day and date releases. Digital is very much the newsstand of the 21st century, and I think it should be treated that way.

    TFAW.com: Currently, customers are still buying standalone issues. Are you planning to offer digital “graphic novels”?

    MM: We do offer some digital graphic novel collections. We’ll continue to do that where it’s appropriate, but on some older devices (as an original iPhone is now so old Apple doesn’t even support it anymore) larger files can be a problem, so we want to make sure we’re keeping maximum compatibility, while we consider customer demand. So if the demand gets higher, and as more and more of those older devices get phased out, we’ll do even more of that.

    TFAW.com: How have iPhone-sized versus iPad-sized digital comics fared?

    MM: Both have done exceptionally well for us. I think the iPad feels more natural to a traditional comic reader, but with our iPhone formatting there isn’t a lot of camera movement or sliding around, and users, especially young readers, seem to enjoy reading on the iPhone as much as they would anywhere else.

    TFAW.com: How do you feel publishers have responded to the digital comics format? Have there been any changes in the way they produce comics that you’ve seen?

    MM: No, not yet. I think most publishers look at it as a secondary endeavor right now, and rightfully so. Very few publishers are doing as well as someone like Archie is in this space right now. Plus, they do have print to consider, no matter what they’re doing. Most publishers, even if they create for digital first, are going to want eventually print the material, and as long as that is the case, I believe it will be presented in the traditional way.

    Now when creators can start making enough money off of digital-only comics to think about them in more abstract ways, we may see some really interesting products show up.

    TFAW.com: What have been some of the major challenges of bringing comics into the digital age?

    MM: The ever-changing technology has been a constant challenge, and will continue to be throughout the digital age and beyond.

    TFAW.com: What do you think of the piracy issue that comes along with digital distribution?

    MM: Piracy hasn’t been a very big issue for us over the last few years. We have some pretty strong protection in place, and while nothing is ever 100% pirate proof, I believe very strongly that there is an audience out there right now that is pirating because they can’t get the material how they want it, and when they want it. When they can, they will stop. There are others, of course, who will download everything they can illegally just to do it. Those people aren’t customers. If they weren’t going to actually buy [insert name of awesome comic here] then they were never a customer to begin with.

    I can understand the concerns about it, and it is certainly something everyone has to stay on top of, but at the end of the day–as an example–the most torrented movie of last year was Avatar . . . and that movie made a few bucks.

    TFAW.com: What are your plans for future development?

    MM: The answer to that is a novel by itself, but one of our primary focuses for 2011 is cross-platform options, as well as doing some innovative things with our current apps that we’re not seeing anywhere else right now. I’d love to go into it more right now, but the time isn’t quite right just yet.

    TFAW.com: If one of your digital comics readers wanted to get the hard copy after they read the digital comic, how do you help them find out where to get a copy?

    MM: The Diamond Comic Shop Locator Application is fully integrated into every one of our comic store applications and is also available as its own standalone app from iVerse. We have plans to do much more than that in 2011, though. You’ll be hearing more about that in the very near future.

    TFAW.com: What do you think digital comics will mean for traditional retailers in the upcoming years?

    MM: I honestly believe they will mean opportunity more than anything else.

    TFAW.com: Do you think digital comics spell the end of floppies?

    MM: I do think there is a future where not all floppies are printed, but I don’t think the “end” is near for floppies as a format right now. I can easily see there being some lower-selling titles that appeal to a smaller audience existing digitally at first, then as a trade, but I fully expect to go into a comic book shop and purchase a print copy of Action Comics #1000 when that day comes.

    TFAW.com: Do you honestly think digital stores and the traditional direct market can both continue to thrive?

    MM: Oh yes. If I didn’t, I never would have started this company. This is one of those subjects I could debate for hours. The newsstand and the direct market managed to co-exist together for a long time, and digital and print aren’t that much different. There are many new opportunities in the digital age to bring value into the community of the comic book store . . . but there has to be some motivating factors for retailers to get excited, and for customers to want to participate–we think we have solutions to those problems, and we’ll be getting more into that early this year.

    TFAW.com: Do you have any retailer incentives or plans to include traditional retailers in your digital comics program?

    MM: Yes. 🙂

    We want to thank Michael Murphey for the excellent interview! Make sure to come back Wednesday, January 19 for our Digital Comics Month interview with IDW Publishing.

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    Have you downloaded the iVerse app? What’s your experience been like? Post your comments below!

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  • ,

    Paul Ens of Red 5 Comics Tells Us About Their Digital Comics Plans

    Red 5 ComicsIndependent comic book publisher Red 5 Comics, founded in 2007, burst onto the scene with a slate of creator- and publisher-owned titles, including Atomic Robo, Abyss, Neozoic, and ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction. Since then, the publisher has won the Gem Award for Best New Publisher and been nominated for multiple Eisner and Shuster Awards.

    They have also been very active on the digital front, partnering with iVerse and ComiXology, among other providers. We recently had the chance to interview Red 5 founder Paul Ens as part of our Digital Comics Month, and he provided us with some in-depth and thought-provoking opinions about the present and future of the industry:

    TFAW.com: How many titles/issues do you currently have available? What do you project to have at the same time next year?

    Paul Ens: We have about 60 titles available now though our partners. This represents the entire Red 5 Comics back catalog from our short history. We expect to have all our new 2011 titles to be available digitally as well. Some will debut digitally.

    TFAW.com: How did you choose which comics would go digital first? What was your thought process behind your launch?

    Atomic Robo Comics and Graphic NovelsPE: We were one of iVerse’s original content partners, back in 2008 when the best option on the iPhone was individual apps for each issue of a comic. We started with our two best-sellers, Atomic Robo and Neozoic. Those enjoyed great success, so we kept moving down the list in order of print sales.

    We were also one of ComiXology’s original partners, and used a similar best-selling-first strategy there. From there, we’ve been rolling chronologically with our print releases.

    TFAW.com: How have digital comics been selling for you, compared to traditional comics?

    PE: The total gross revenue from digital comics has increased each month in the two years since we started, as has the total number of comics downloaded. In terms of total sales revenue, it’s still small but growing. Some of our titles have gone on to sell more digitally than in print.

    TFAW.com: Have you considered a digital-only option for comics that have lower sales? Do you think this is an opportunity to extend the lives of series that might otherwise be canceled due to financial realities?

    PE: Red 5 tends to release limited series rather than ongoing titles. We’ve been fortunate thus far to have our series maintain readership through to the end. It would certainly be something we would consider under the right circumstances, rather than leave readers hanging.

    TFAW.com: Do you have any plans to soft-launch any titles in digital and publish those titles that do well?

    PE: As a matter of fact, in December Red 5 announced a line of digital-first comics. The first title launched as digital-first was Bonnie Lass: The Legend, and more will follow.

    In our press release, I compared the comic industry to the film industry, likening monthly floppies to a theatrical release for early-adopters and opinion-makers, and trade paperbacks to home video release for its potentially largest market. But what movies have that comics don’t is a festival circuit, where new talent or specialty projects can gain build a buzz before going wide. In our opinion, the new digital-comic storefronts can fill that festival role.

    Red 5 Comics AbyssTFAW.com: Currently, customers are still buying standalone issues. Are you planning to offer digital “graphic novels”?

    PE: We’ve had digital “graphic novel” collections of some of our series at the ComiXology store for quite a while now. We’re all for it.

    TFAW.com: Do you currently offer day and date comics? Will you offer more of those in the future?

    PE: We haven’t yet. We’ll keep an eye on the trends as they progress, but we still like to give our print editions time in the sun.

    TFAW.com: How did you choose to partner with ComiXology and iVerse? What are the advantages of working with a third party, instead of creating your own store?

    PE: We chose iVerse and ComiXology because of excellent user interface and experience, and also because the people behind them are so knowledegable and passionate. Our material has begun appearing in Panelfly as well, and we will have announcements about other platforms in 2011.

    As I see it, the main advantages of companies creating their own stores are more money and more creative control. The publisher can avoid middleman percentages to Apple or the technology partner. Also, the publisher can avoid having works from other publishers vying for the reader’s attention. Unfortunately, these are advantages for the publisher and not for the reader.

    The advantages of using digital distribution partners are numerous. The most obvious is that they specialize in creating and constantly improving a great user experience. Red 5 readers benefit from those improvements. For example, our comics launched on the iPhone, and are now available on the iPad, the Web, PSP and Android devices . . . all with a single purchase.

    Similarly, if Red 5 made its own exclusive reader, then our readers would not have a choice if they prefer another approach. By being on multiple platforms, our readers can select the ecosystem they like best.

    Atomic Robo Comics and Graphic NovelsFinally, we think comic readers ultimately want their collection in one central place. They typically wouldn’t keep their Spider-Man [comics] in one room of the house, Superman in another room and Star Wars in another. Nor would they want to go to one store to buy Batman and a second store to buy Atomic Robo.

    Some of the single-publisher apps that cooperate within a larger technology infrastructure have some merit. From a long-term reader perspective, an isolated ecosystem for a single publisher doesn’t seem very user friendly.

    TFAW.com: Digital comics have broken a lot of the traditional barriers of the direct market–they’re easy to purchase and less expensive than the paper versions. Do you think this will help publishers develop a wider audience?

    PE: Absolutely. If the comics are going to become a broader mainstream form of entertainment again, then digital is going to be one of the important factors in getting them there. But it will have nothing to do with publisher-side economics.

    It’s because when the upcoming generation has a few minutes to be entertained, they pull out a screen or one kind or another. On that screen they can get music, video, games, books and communication with friends. If comics are conveniently alongside those forms of entertainment, they will be viewed as equally valid entertainment. If not, then comics aren’t even considered.

    TFAW.com: What do you think of the piracy issue that comes along with digital distribution?

    PE: I’m not familiar with an argument that digital distribution of comics might lead to an increase in digital comic piracy. We’ve been distributing digitally for two years now, and still all of the pirated copies of our material come from scans of the print books. It’s hard to copy-protect a printed comic.

    If we take lessons from the music and movie industries, we see that if there is a demand for digital versions of a product, then piracy will gladly fill the supply. We also see that a portion the public will gladly pay something for a legitimate and convenient copy when it is offered at a low enough price. We also see that a certain percentage will never pay any price above zero, and that we were never going to sell a book to them anyhow.

    ZMD Zombies of Mass DestructionThe best way to combat piracy is to supply our product in the format the consumers want to see it. Otherwise, their choices are to steal or ignore.

    TFAW.com: If one of your digital comics readers wanted to get the hard copy after they read the digital comic, how do you help them find out where to get a copy?

    PE: Our technology partners have built-in links to find retailers close to their geographic location, and also to e-tailers where a shop is not in proximity. They have been very committed to making that work naturally and seamlessly.

    TFAW.com: What do you think digital comics will mean for traditional retailers in the upcoming years?

    PE: Forgive me while I imperfectly borrow lingo from my economics classes.

    While a digital comic is a good substitute for a print comic (like margarine for butter), it is not a perfect substitute (like one brand of corn for another). The experience of reading a print comic is not the same as a digital one. Factors like the feel, smell, sight and sound of the physical comic will remain important for some. These difference are so great, many will never embrace digital versions.

    Additionally, comics have always had an inherent collectible element to them that comes in to play only in the physical realm.

    Ideally, digital and print comics will achieve an equilibrium as some kind of complementary good, where increases in sales of the one drive increases in sales of the other. Print vs. digital will be a transparent format choice. Readers will talk about the actual content, which will drive purchases in whatever format each consumer prefers.

    I think that traditional retailers will adapt to these changes. They will continue to be the best place to pick up comics in the print format . . . a format that isn’t going anywhere.

    Red 5 AbyssTFAW.com: Do you have any retailer incentives or plans to include traditional retailers in your digital comics program?

    PE: Our partners have big plans in this area in 2011, but they will have to be the ones to reveal them. We’re excited about them and will definitely be working within these new opportunities.

    One nut that I hope gets cracked soon would be something like the idea of “digital copies” of movies that come with Blu-Ray discs. A print copy of a comic would come with a one-of-a-kind code or something that lets the purchaser have access to a digital copy as well. I know I personally would love a best-of-both-worlds [option] that marries the collectibility and quality of print with the on-the-go convenience of digital. I’d even pay a little extra for it.

    Our thanks to Paul Ens for taking the time to answer our questions! Make sure to check out all of our Red 5 Comics titles here at TFAW.com. Plus, come back Monday, January 17 for our interview with Michael Murphey from iVerse Media!

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    What do you think of Ens’ comparison of the comics industry to the film industry? Post your comments and opinions below!

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  • ,

    Graphic.ly’s Ron Richards Discusses the Future of Digital Comics

    Graphic.lyThe buzz around digital comics has continued to build in recent years, as they’ve moved from browser-only platforms to apps on smartphones like the iPhone. The debut of the iPad, Apple’s tablet computer, in April 2010 brought this buzz to a crescendo: the iPad’s screen is almost the same size as a comic book, making it arguably the best vehicle to date on which to view digital comics.

    Publishers have responded with varying levels of speed, and several distributors have also come to the forefront, including Graphic.ly, a community-based digital comics platform that offers more than 1,000 comics for download to a desktop or mobile device. As part of Digital Comics Month, we spoke with Ron Richards, Vice President of External Relations at Graphic.ly:

    TFAW.com: How long have you been distributing digital comics? When, and how, was your company founded?

    Ron Richards: Graphic.ly was founded in January 2010 and we’ve been distributing digital comics for the past year. Our company was founded after spinning out of the TechStars program in Boulder, Colorado.

    TFAW.com: What drew you to digital comics?

    RR: Our love of comics and technology drew us to the world of digital comics, by seeing what was coming on the horizon as devices and other technology would support the reality of digital comics, Graphic.ly was created to help usher in the digital age.

    TFAW.com: What did you think when you first heard about the possibility of reading comics in a digital format?

    RR: As far as Graphic.ly is concerned, we’ve been talking about reading comic in a digital format for as long as we can remember, at least the early 2000s when we started seeing those archive CD-Rom sets of old Marvel comics begin to be released.

    TFAW.com: Who is buying your digital comics? Is it your usual audience, or do you think you’re reaching a more nontraditional demographic?

    RR: Our audience is an interesting mix of the usual comics audience (albeit a bit more tech savvy) and the non-traditional comic audience who is tech savvy and curious about online comics. Our goal is to cater to both audiences equally, with the real growth coming from the non-typical comic readers.

    TFAW.com: Do you currently offer day and date comics? Will you offer more of those in the future?

    RR: We do offer day and date comics by some of our publishers. We’d love to offer more of them in the future, but ultimately it’s up to our publisher’s release schedules.

    TFAW.com: Do you provide digital “graphic novels,” or just standalone issues?

    RR: The catalog in Graphic.ly provides both standalone issues as well as collected editions and graphic novels.

    TFAW.com: How have iPhone-sized versus iPad-sized digital comics fared?

    RR: We haven’t really seen many iPhone-specific sized digital comics, rather the comics we sell are the standard comic size, then made available to read on whatever device the reader is on.

    TFAW.com: Right now, many publishers are going through several distributors at once. Will that continue, or do you plan to require exclusivity?

    RR: We have no plans to require exclusivity for our publishers.

    TFAW.com: How does iTunes figure in your service (if at all)?

    RR: iTunes figures in our service purely in that we have an iPhone and iPad app available. But we also have our desktop app, a Windows 7 phone app and an Android app on the way, so we’re not dependent on iTunes.

    TFAW.com: What are the advantages of your service, compared to other digital comics distributors?

    RR: There are several advantages of the Graphic.ly platform. First is that we are the most socially connected platform out there, with the ability for users to connect as friends and comment on and interact within the comics themselves. Additionally, with our desktop application and our mobile applications, you can choose where and when you want to read the comics in your collection. They’re yours to use as you see fit!

    TFAW.com: How do you feel publishers have responded to the digital comics format? Have there been any changes in the way they produce comics that you’ve seen?

    RR: It’s been interesting to see the publishers’ reaction to digital comics, with last year definitely being a watermark in the future of digital comics. Most of the independent publishers are ready to embrace and use digital comics, while the bigger publishers, while getting involved, are still figuring it out. I haven’t seen any dramatic changes in how they produce comics thanks to digital, rather more of experimentation around pricing and distribution.

    TFAW.com: What have been some of the major challenges of bringing comics into the digital age?

    RR: Easily the biggest challenges have come in availability of the comics themselves. Getting back-libraries converted into digital format is a large undertaking and takes time. Further getting access to current inventory is challenging as publishers work to balance between retail and digital.

    TFAW.com: What do you think of the piracy issue that comes along with digital distribution?

    RR: Piracy is rampant with comics, but if we’ve learned anything from the music industry is that if you make the materials available digitally, at a fair price, piracy will minimize.

    TFAW.com: What are your plans for future development?

    RR: Our plans for future development involve continued development of our web platform as well as further refining our current offering of products.

    TFAW.com: If one of your digital comics readers wanted to get the hard copy after they read the digital comic, how do you help them find out where to get a copy?

    RR: We encourage our publishers to include information within the book (usually at the end) as to where they can buy the book offline.

    TFAW.com: What do you think digital comics will mean for traditional retailers in the upcoming years?

    RR: Hopefully digital comics becomes just another way for people to get comics, another retail avenue. We’d love to see retailers selling credits or some way for their customers to still shop at their store, and get their comics digitally. I think we’ll see the issue format move to digital, while the collected editions will continue to thrive, and that’s what will make up most retailers offerings.

    TFAW.com: Do you think digital comics spell the end of floppies?

    RR: Not necessarily. It may change the landscape or the economy of “floppies,” but ultimately the marketplace and customers will determine the fate of floppies. If they’re still being bought, the publishers will still print them.

    TFAW.com: Do you honestly think digital stores and the traditional direct market can both continue to thrive?

    RR: I honestly hope so.

    TFAW.com: Do you have any retailer incentives or plans to include traditional retailers in your digital comics program?

    RR: Not currently, but it’s been discussed and we’re very much open to working with retailers in some capacity.

    We want to thank Ron Richards for taking the time to answer all of our questions! Make sure to keep coming back throughout January–we’ll be interviewing other influential publishers and distributors to let you know what they’re offering, and what the future might hold for us all. Next up: Paul Ens of Red 5 Comics will answer our questions on Friday, January 14.

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    Have you purchased digital comics? What do think about the future of the comics industry? Post your comments below!

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  • ,

    TFAW Launches Digital Comics Month January 10!

    Digital Comics Month at TFAW
    This month, TFAW is delving into one of the biggest developments in the comics industry: digital comics. As one of the largest comic book retailers in the nation, we will be interviewing influential publishers and distributors of digital comics and sharing their news right here on our blog starting January 10.

    “The advent of digital comics is one of the most, if not the most, important industry developments of the 21st century,” said TFAW Senior Director of Retail Operations Andrew McIntire. “Not only is this a way for publishers and distributors to showcase their offerings to our thousands of customers, but it’s a way for us to explore different ways that we, as a retailer, can partner with them in this brave new world.”

    With publishers like Archie Comics nearing the 2 million mark in digital downloads, and Dark Horse Comics launching their own digital store later this month, it’s clear that digital distribution will hugely influence the future of comics.

    Curious to see what the future holds? Come back January 10, when we debut Digital Comics Month with an interview with Ron Richards, Vice President of External Relations at Graphic.ly. Have digital comics news to share this month? Contact Andrew McIntire at andrewm@tfaw.com.

    Are you excited about digital comics? Post your opinions below!

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