Monday, September 5, 2011
Movies and comics are so intertwined these days that comic book news is like movie news. So last Tuesday some comic book stores were open at midnight for the debut of DC's New 52, a massive re-launch of the DC Comics universe.
Midnight releases are usually reserved for the latest "Harry Potter" movie, not for comic books. But the buzz over DC Comics' reboot of its entire super hero universe brought dozens out last Tuesday to Comickaze on Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
"'The DC New 52' is different. I'd like to see where they are going because the characters are not the characters that I know," says Comickaze owner Robert Scott, "I know there's Batman and there's Green Lantern and Superman, but they are not written the way that I remember reading them and the way that I grew up with them. But they've made several changes over the years so that's not a total surprise. They have a lot riding on it. Their whole entire universe. They didn't just change a couple heroes here and there, so if it doesn't work I still have Marvel, IDW, and Dark Horse and lots of other things that I can put out there for people to read. But for DC, this is it. So I'm kind of excited because I think knowing that they are really going to bring their A-plus game."
Scott saw a lot of new faces in his store, some who had never read a comic, others who had stopped reading but both got caught up in the excitement of being on the ground floor of this new DC Universe. The last time DC rebooted was 25 years ago with "Crisis on Infinite Earths," and that made a comics fan out of a then teenaged Tony Kim. Kim, a self-described comic book nerd and author of the blog crazy4comiccon.com, chose to download his copy of "Justice League Number 1."
"I'm a big fan of digital comics and so for about a year now I've been reading comics on my iPad," says Kim, "So instead of standing in line and being up at midnight, when I woke up I just hit download and there's my copy. It was highly anticipated and I was really excited about it. I think what is yet to be seen is will it launch new readers into 25 years of comics fandom."
As for the comic itself, Kim had a mixed reaction: "I thought that the book worked successfully in some places and didn't in others. I think the book was not really designed for me as a veteran fan but really was designed to try and entice new readers. But for myself I'm looking forward to where the story goes. I'm looking forward to how they tie in the lore of all these great characters. The real question will be in a year from now will I still be wanting to read it."
Comickaze's Robert Scott says it's definitely generating buzz and bringing new faces into his store: "We've had a lot of people coming back to make sure that we were going to have enough copies because, as some people probably know, the first issue of 'Justice League' completely sold out even before they actually shipped to us. So once we sold out there weren't any more available for us to re-order from the publisher. So people are wanting to make sure that they don't get caught missing out on any of the other issues."
Like Kim, Scott feels the reboot is not really aimed at people already reading the comics.
"It's different," Scott says, "I'd like to see where they are going because the characters are not the characters that I know. I know there's Batman and there's Green Lantern and Superman but they are not written the way that I remember reading them and the way that I grew up with them. But they've made several changes over the years so that's not a total surprise. They're definitely trying to reach out to people who aren't reading comic books or have stopped reading comic books. If there's already a group of people reading the comic books it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to keep pandering to that same group. They want to find out why people stopped reading or never started reading and try to reach out to them and see if they can get them excited about the characters. So we've got something that may ring a little more true with the younger readers."
The next issue of the New 52 hits shelves on Wednesday and will also be available online. There has been a steady push toward online availability for comics but this past Comic-Con there was a real online presence from all the major comics publishers. Booths for DC, Marvel, Viz, and more had banks of computers where you could subscribe to their online comics or check out their online apps. Most are just scanning the printed media in but some artists are trying to make use of the new format to offer a different kind of comic experience with some 2-D animation.
Kim thinks the comics industry is facing the same crisis as the music and film industry have been dealing with.
"The comic book industry in also in a little bit of a crisis and even though the properties of superheroes have never been more popular but the medium by which they are distributing comic books is struggling. So maybe this digital format will help. Fans need to buy comics online or they need to buy them in print -- if they don't do that these great amazing stories are not going to be told. These stories are little bitty creations that launch billions of dollars worth of product through Hollywood and what not so I think fans have a great opportunity to make a huge difference in pop culture if they invest -- download it but don't download it illegally -- download it, go buy a physical copy in order to help facilitate this great and incredible and creative industry."
Scott doesn't yet know how the push to digital downloads will affect brick and mortar stores like his.
"Anecdotally, digital comics have been around for years, just not legally," Scott says, "So if people were really more interested in having digital versions of comics -- unless they were ethically prevented from downloading content -- they were available. Whether or not any of that's eaten into our sales it's really hard to tell so I'm not sure if now -- being legitimately available for download -- is going to affect us either. I'm hoping that if it makes the work easier and more accessible that it will increase awareness and appreciation for the work and at that point people are going to want to seek out more and hopefully they will look for it in print."
Some comics dealer complain that the movie studios should be doing more to promote the comics that fuel the film franchises. A movie like "Captain America" or "The Dark Knight" reaches millions so why not tag those films with a simple, "Visit your local comic book store and pick up the latest copy of..." But movies and comics are not always under the same business entity so that can cause problems with cross promoting.
Kim worries what the next generation of comics fans will lose if brick and mortar stores go away.
"As a teen I couldn't even imagine a life without the brick and mortar comic book shops," Kim recalls, "I think it really helped cultivate the nerd in me. It's the community that's created within these stores. I think everyone has a deep longing to connect with other people that have similar passions and interests and want to discuss their passions and interests with others and so these comic book shops are great opportunities to meet others and to connect and to have discussion groups. The other loss I think would be the cross generational connection is that you have with these older readers that are 40, 50, 60 year old readers who are meeting and interacting with these 12-13 year old young readers and passing on their experience and knowledge of comics. So I think that opportunity to connect cross generationally will be lost as well as just the physical inspiration of seeing the comic books and the toys and all the art work. So I love digital download and I love the ability to order content online but we sure would miss the comic book store experience if it went away."
But Kim thinks digital is the way of the future and cannot be ignored: "We have to figure out a way to merge this digital generation and the comic book readers together in order to make this industry really blossom. The bottom line is the comic book industry has to grow they have to do whatever is necessary in order for them to grow and I think the digital medium is a solid effort to make that happen."
DC hears that and is making a point in their press releases to state: "DC Entertainment becomes the first major comic book publisher to release their entire line of ongoing titles same day digital."
At Comic-Con, the spokespeople for the major publishers all insisted that there will always be a place for the printed comic. But these were all people who grew up with comics and comic book stores, and had collections sometimes in the thousands of comics. The real test will be when a younger generation that might have been introduced to comics in their online format will still have that love for bags, boards, and the printed comic book.
You can check out Tony Kim at the various blogs he writes for: crazy4comiccon.com, BabbleOn5.com, and AlmostNerdy.com. You can also hear Batton Lash of "Supernatural Law" talk about online comics on Midday Edition from this morning.
Comickaze store owner and a comics fan talk about the DC New 52.