No RIAA For The Comic Book Industry

from the and-that's-a-good-thing dept

Lee writes "The digitization and subsequent illegal distribution of copyrighted media isn’t just affecting movies and music. The creators of comic books seem to be going through the same business model shift as the recording and motion picture industries. As with all such changes, some people are more willing to accept it than others. Steven Grant at has an interesting article about how the comic book world is dealing with life in the 21st century. He makes some good points and clearly understands that things are not going to change unless there’s some innovation in the comic book business model." He basically points out that file sharing isn’t going away, and the industry needs to learn to accept it, use it for promotions, but ask people to keep buying the comic books they want. Considering that, for many, comic books are for collecting, this doesn’t seem too far fetched. Though, at the same time, the industry may want to look at other changes to their business model as well, such as bundling other things into the mix as well (e.g., if you buy the actual comic you get entered into a sweepstakes to have your name used as a character in a future comic). There are plenty of ways to make buying the actual comic books more valuable than just downloading them — and then if you use the downloads just as promotions, you can encourage more people to buy by exposing more people to the comic itself.

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Comments on “No RIAA For The Comic Book Industry”

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John says:

Marvel seems to be moving forward

I give a lot of points to Marvel for testing the waters… They have put digital comics up for years at their web site and now sell (via 3rd party) complete collections of several titles in pdf format… (I wish they used CBZ or CBR, but thats another topic) It wouild be interesting to see the sells numbers…

ConceptJunkie (profile) says:

Re: Marvel seems to be moving forward

I picked up the Spider-man collection on CD-ROM, a few years ago which reprinted about 35 years worth of Spider-Man. The price was reasonable. The quality of the scans is good. I would buy more of these if they made them, and it costs less than many of the individual issues I’m missing from my collection (from #101 up to about the early 90’s with some holes).

Of course, it’s not going to stop piracy, but media companies have got to learn to at least offer to sell what people are downloading. This should be obvious. And it’s not just the material, it’s the value. Pirated software/music/television isn’t just free, it’s often of higher quality, more conveniently packaged and easier to obtain. That’s the part the companies refuse to acknowledge.

As far as TV shows, it’s funny how much they don’t get it. They sell lower-quality, lower-resolution shows saddled with frustration-inducing DRM, whereas the “free” product is better in every way. Legal or not, it’s a free market, and you need to compete whether you want to or not. No law can function based solely on enforcement. That nightmarishly stupid national speed limit was a perfect example. 30 years later most people view speed limits with nothing but contempt because they too often aren’t based on safety, but on revenue.

A good chunk of the whole comic book industry operates on the scarceness of old material, which is fine if you are a speculator or obsessive. But the average fan just wants to experience the stories and artwork, and by offering reasonably-priced digital reprints they are giving people what they want. It’s no replacement for a physical book in your hands, but the people torrenting stuff aren’t looking for that.

The first rule of combatting piracy is to actually sell what people are pirating. It blows my mind how many companies seem to totally miss this point, especially in the digital age where the costs of quality and quantity of media are almost irrelvant.

MikeT (user link) says:

They need to change their format

I’ve collected comics off and on now for about 13-14 years. I don’t have enough room or money to buy single comics for $3-$4 per issue, then spend the money to buy the supplies to package them, then find space to store them. Graphic novels work a lot better. They just look a lot nicer, which is important when you’re a young adult, and you’d rather have a nice library, than a pile of cardboard boxes sitting around in a corner.

Anonymous Coward says:

A fan/collector may not be able to afford early Superman comics but would still be interested in reading them.

If the company isn’t selling reprints of the comics then it would be a huge stretch for anyone to claim that they are losing any money. A reseller might claim that it hurts business, but they are selling the collectible not the story.

Another example of selling seats (collectible) not movies (stories)?

Paul says:

Huge difference

A comic book is more akin to a regular book than it is to a movie or music. The benefit to a physical book is that you can look at it or share it anywhere without the aid of an electronic device. Aside from that it has been shown in studies (and just common knowledge) that people would rather read a book on paper than on their computer screen. The same holds true for comic books I would imagine.

If someone is pirating comic books then they probably would not buy it in the first place. I haven’t purchased or read a comic book in quite a while but they can’t be that expensive still, a couple bucks?

Ray (user link) says:

One idea

I’ve read more than a few comics in CBR format and generally I find it to be a poor substitute for printed comics… but with a slate or tablet I feel it could be superior.

I’d really like to see comic book publishers create a service whereby you could subscribe to all of a publisher’s titles in digital form for a low monthly fee — $20 sounds about right for big publishers, $5 or $10 for smaller ones. I would not so much be in favor of a la carte pricing for individual titles but maybe that could be an option.

The key to success for this service would be support from the publishers. I would not want to go to each publisher’s site to sign up for their version of the service in the same way that I don’t want to have to go to one comic shop to buy DC Comics and another to buy Marvel.

Anonymous Coward says:

Haven’t RTFA, but downloads could certainly make comics more relevant. Marvel’s Civil War series, for example, dealt reasonably well with many of today’s civil rights vs. security controversies, but at $300+ for the whole thing, its audience was largely limited to avid collectors. I haven’t bought comics since the late 80s, but I picked up the first few, then read the rest by torrent. They got maybe $15 out of me. I’d’ve paid $5/month for a year or more to get “legal” readable copies as they came out.

Sanguine Dream says:

Online subscriptions can help big time...

I live in the boondocks about 2 hours from the nearest comic book store. So I went online looking for sites that offer online subscriptions. I was mainly looking for a way to purchase the monthly Anita Blake (based on the novels by Laurel K. Hamilton) series but low and behold after emailing Marvel they told me that it wasn’t available to buy online and have it shipped.

So I tried to find somewhere else to buy them. I come across the site for Image comics and read some of their onine stuff and read a description about Dynamo 5 and decided to get it too. And while still looking I decided I wanted to get my hands on the recently started Buffy the Vampire: Season Eight comic.

Well after about 4 days of searching I found Things from Another World. They offered subcriptions to all three books I was looking for. And since it’s all in one place I pay one monthly subscription price and its a done deal.

The moral of this long winded rant is that if these publishing houses would offer their books (digital or paper) for purchase online for people that live nowhere near a comic shop then they could get more long distant subscribers.

Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

Why I stopped buying comic books

1) Titles that I had been a fan of for years such as the X-Men started a multitude of off-shoots of similar titles (Astonishing X-Men, Ultimate X-Men, X-Men Unlimited, X-Men First Class, and so on) all designed to encourage me to buy even more comic books each month.

2) The prices continued to climb so high that it simply wasn’t economically feasible to continue to read my favorite titles any more. I started reading the X-Men back in 1980 when a single comic was around $0.40. A modern day X-Men comic will set you back $3.00 – and since you have to buy 4 or 5 titles each month now instead of just one to get the whole X-Men story, you’re looking at $12-15 just to keep up with one group each month.

3) To make matters worse, the powers that be feel it’s necessary to create a massive cross-over where practically every title published mish-mashes their stories together so that if you want to know what happened you end up buying not just a few more comics, but dozens or hundreds more. The latest Marvel cross-over “Civil War” is up over 160 connected issues so far, and at $3 an issue you’re looking at spending $500+ and reading titles you don’t normally buy because your favorite heroes are appearing there *and* if anything special is going to happen (i.e., Spiderman gets a new costume, a member of the Fantastic Four leaves the team, etc.) it won’t happen in the title you expect it to (i.e., Spiderman or Fantastic Four), no… it will take place in some obscure comic like Thunderbolts, or some other title that you have no interest in reading, but since you really want to know what happened to your favorite hero, well there goes another $3 into their greedy pockets…

4) Unless you’re willing to pay double the cover price to include the cost of “acid free” storage bags, and pre-cut backer boards, and specialized storage boxes and an environmentally controlled storage facility, there isn’t any point in trying to collect comics for their value – they simply aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

Tashi says:

Re: Why I stopped buying comic books

I agree with this 100% When I was a kid I’d keep my lunch money for the entire week. Then after cartoons on Sat. I’d take the bus downtown and buy issues of Spiderman, Justice League, Justice Society and a few others for .35 apiece. More for the thicker or special editions. And sometimes I’d still have enough money left over to buy a matinee movie ticket to a PG movie and sneak into the R one.

I still visit the comicons when they happen but as for actually buying and collecting? I have other hobbies now, (like videogames) and like you said, it’s not economically feasible. Some things I had to let go.

Entertainment in general is changing for the 21st century. Everyone is going to have to do some adjusting, including businesses and consumers, because our paychecks don’t increase like the cost of living does.

astarre says:

Re: Why I stopped buying comic books

I second all of that and raise you:

5) I got tired, as a serious collector, of trying to find/buy/cajole/steal the X-Men #157 Foil Cover, the X-Men #157 Holographic Cover, The X-Men #157 Blue Retail Cover, The X-Men #157 Red Wholesale Cover, and the X-Men #157 Super-Special-Only-One-Per-Store-That-You-Can’t-Have-For-Less-Than-$200-Because-A-Richer-Customer-Can-Pay-Me-More-For-It Edition. Multiply that by 25 titles a month and you see the problems. Of cousre I don’t know if they still pull that BS. Besides…those things were starting to get expensive when I finally got fed up. I guess they’re worse now?

Oh and I was still heart-broken when my brother took our entire collection of X-Men (90-181) to school to show off to his friends and they all got stolen from his locker. F***er.

Oh…and BTW…isn’t there a law that says contests/sweepstakes have to be “no purchase necessary”?

Anonymous Coward says:

I hear ya

3) To make matters worse, the powers that be feel it’s necessary to create a massive cross-over where practically every title published mish-mashes their stories together so that if you want to know what happened you end up buying not just a few more comics, but dozens or hundreds more. The latest Marvel cross-over “Civil War” is up over 160 connected issues so far, and at $3 an issue you’re looking at spending $500+ and reading titles you don’t normally buy because your favorite heroes are appearing there *and* if anything special is going to happen (i.e., Spiderman gets a new costume, a member of the Fantastic Four leaves the team, etc.) it won’t happen in the title you expect it to (i.e., Spiderman or Fantastic Four), no… it will take place in some obscure comic like Thunderbolts, or some other title that you have no interest in reading, but since you really want to know what happened to your favorite hero, well there goes another $3 into their greedy pockets…

This is why I gave on comics during the mid 90s. While nowhere near as costly as Civil War the Onslaught event from the mid 90s was a really big crossover and cost quite a bit. I have all but maybe 3-4 of those books. And that is saying a lot since they covered nearly ever major Marvel book. And I was 14-15 yr old at the time so it’s not like I had disposable income to spare. After I finished I just quite buying new stuff and commited to filling gaps in my collection. I’ve only in the last month or so starting buying new comics again.

Cshark says:

They keep making excuses...

Wow, where to start with this one. Okay, how about with Lars Ulrich. Anyone else remember the huge CD burning parties in San Francisco when the whole Napster thing blew? How about Lars admitting himself that he is now the most hated man in rock and roll, and that coming out against Napster was the worst thing he could have done for his career?

In the world of comics, and this case in particular, there is one major difference. Lars Ulrich, love him or hate him… has talent. She-Hulk is a stupid title. It always has been. There are two types of people that end up working on the title. The first being young stars that Marvel wants to try out… and the other being the people they’re trying to force out the door. Calling anything in comics “creative” is kind of a funny notion, but I kind of get where he’s coming from. I’m sure factory workers also believe themselves to be “creative.”

I miss the old days in comics. That pre-internet era. You never heard Archie Goodwin complain that Spider-Woman wasn’t selling because people were downloading it. You never heard Steve Bescemi complaining about the lackluster sales of Spectacular Spider-man in the early 90’s because of downloading. Or how about Mike Manley crying over the monumental waste of resources that was Darkhawk? No, obviously while these titles suffered from dire mediocrity, the fact that they weren’t selling was just that.

That’s just the thing about it. RIAA logic makes people who are doing a poor job feel better. Granted, if you follow it music piracy would consume three times the global economy according to Lawrence Lessig, but what does he know?

I for one didn’t even think to look to bit torrent for those must have issues of She-Hulk, you know, the one title none of can live without. And now that I can have them for free, I might as well go and download all the poor quality scans I can find.

If they’re worried about sales, here are a few things that would help boost them.

1. Go back to printing on Newsprint. It’s cheaper, no one really likes glossy paper anyway. I hate glossy paper, I always have. Even a high grade news print like the stuff Marvel produced in the 90’s would do the trick. Digital printing techniques have come a long way, and I’m sure they could produce fewer print errors, which was the whole reason they switched in the first place. Anyway, if you drive the cost per unit down, sales will go up. There’s no logical reason comics need to cost more than $2 per issue. None at all.

2. Stop requiring minimum volume amounts from people who want to sell comics. The minimum last I checked was in the $400 to $500 a month minimum range. All this does is limit the audience of comics to people that frequent comics shops. Some of us won’t be caught dead in a comic book shop. What would people think? If you want to increase sales, bring them back to gas stations and news stands where NORMAL people will read them.

3. And this goes for Marvel, DC, and Image, please for the love of god, stop masturbating with your story lines. Yes, I know it’s fun, but nobody want to read comic book artist or editor splooge. If you have a story line that can be told in two issues, fine. Tell it in two issues. There is no reason everyone in your universe needs to get into an epic struggle every month. If you need to do an epic struggle, why not put out a mini series so you know what to look for? Spreading a story line out over 30 titles in a month is stupid, and frustrating from a reader oriented perspective.

4. Sort of related to the last one, but it got too long. To increase sales… here’s a thought… produce a product people want to read. Art work is nice. But with few exceptions, it’s never been able to drive a story when there is no story there. Case and point, anything by LeFeld.

If the comic book industry in the US is going to survive any of this, they need to get with the program. We’re living in a day and age where if you put out a second rate product, everyone on the Internet knows about it three weeks before it hits shelves. Wouldn’t that be enough in and of itself to drive quality, and in turn increase sales?

The continued stupidity of people amazes me.

John (profile) says:

One upsmanship, gimmicks, and the golden egg

Part of the problem in the comic-book world is the constant game of one-upsmanship:
If DC can do “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and include all their characters, then Marvel has to do “Onslaught” with all of their charcters… and DC has to do “Infinite Crisis” and Marvel has to do “Civil War”.

What started out as a fun way to see your favorite characters together has become a 30-50 book super-story, which (like the previous posters said) require you to buy 50 books in one month… and at $3.00 per book, that gets real expensive real fast!

In the mid-90’s, publishers experimented with all kinds of gimmicks, such as variant covers, gold-foil, holograms, etc. Back then, every other issue was a “special collector’s edition”. While a hologram certainly adds more value to a book since you can’t download it, it also drives the price of the book up to $5 or $6. And, of course, some special event occurs in that book so you *must* buy it.

There’s also the “golden egg” syndrome. Basically, if one X-Men book is selling, then 10 “X-books” must sell just as well. Back in the 1980’s, there was just Uncanny X-Men, but now there’s X-Men, Classic X-Men, Ultimate X-Men, Classic Ultimate X-Men, Ultimately Classical X-Men, Classically Ultimate Uncanny X-Men Classic, and so on. (Okay, I made up those last few titles, but you know what I mean.)
DC does the same thing with their heroes: for years, Superman only appeared in Action Comics and Superman. How many Superman titles are there now?

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