Comics (both single issues and trades) are available in two different methods of delivery (sorry purists, I’m not counting weekly/daily newspaper strips): Physical or Digital. Physical was número uno for years and then digital bounced in about 10 years ago.
I came back into reading comics in the summer of 2011 when DC’s The New 52 was launched and I was really high on reading everything on my iPad. This was the future! Fuck paper books! I went through my library, kept only a few books and then ended up donating the rest. I doubled-down on the e-pub versions of books that I had physical copies of. And when it came to comics, I thought digital copies were the bees knees, as it were. I loved them and thought there was no turning back.
Well…if you’ve been reading this blog, you will know that I am all about the physical issues so…I was wrong in 2011. Big time.
After about a year of reading issues on my iPad, I had a conversation with my friend Sammy who had been chastising me since August 2011 about my decision to buy comics online. Sammy thought it was great that I had come back into reading comics but then also thought that I was being short sighted, ridiculous and plain ‘ol stupid for reading my comics on a tablet. Sammy is nerd for all things pop culture. His DNA is built upon the four-coloured world of comics from the 80’s through to today. He’s a purist, plain and simple. And while we disagree about a lot of things (such as the DCEU movies and the often-needed requirement of wearing pants), he wasn’t wrong about digital comics.
Sammy made a lot of good points about why digital comics were to be shunned and not accepted: the formatting of the comics is all wrong, including the zooming of panels; they should be viewed as one page, not bit-by bit; the responsibility to support our local comic shops and finally – the feel of a comic in your hand is more rewarding that the glass screen of a tablet.
Of course, I had disagreed with all of Sammy’s points. I essentially told him he was an old man living in an old world and his refusal to move with the times was mind numbing. But fuck, he was right the entire time and I was 1000% wrong. Well, maybe 900%.
After about a year and change of buying comics online, I walked into a local comic shop and was browsing, checking out what they had and talking with the guys who owned the place. And in my conversations, I decided to pick up volume 1 of the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo Batman comic in the trade paperback format (I wrote about my enjoyment of trades a couple weeks ago, if you want to check it out).
It was in that moment that I then started to buy the physical copies of my comics and, essentially, got back into collecting. I finished out the Batman (New 52) run starting with issue 32. Side note: I’ve often thought about finding the first 31 issues and completing the run just because I’m a completionist but I also know it’ll cost me a fortune. But I digress…
From that moment on, I began purchasing and collecting the physical copies of my comics. I had a couple of long boxes in my basement with my comics that I had collected as a kid and now I’ve added an additional long box (or two). When DC rebooted their universe…sorry, course corrected it….with Rebirth, I expanded my collecting to more titles. I have also expanded to other comics (non superhero) and imprints such as Image and those decisions were made based solely on the atmosphere that you get in your local comic shop.
See, you can browse the racks and overhear or talk to the other comic nerds about what they’re reading. You don’t get this when you’re scrolling through your ComiXology app on your tablet/phone.
I’m not shitting on digital comics. Not at all. In fact, the other day I wrote about a sale that ComiXology/Amazon was having (and still do!) and that I had picked up a couple of collections to read off my tablet. The titles/story lines that I chose were ones where I was interested in reading them but was unsure if I wanted to drop the $30 for the physical trade. If it turns out that, after reading the digital copy, I love the story, I will go out and pick up the trade from my local comic shop.
And its here where I think there can be a healthy relationship with physical and digital comics. Personally, I think that physical comics are the best medium in which to read comics. I also, though, concede that it can be costly and some cannot afford to purchase the issues/trades but can still download and read them digitally through their local library. I get that and have no issues (zing!) with that…although most libraries do have physical copies of some great titles on their shelves.
When you go to your local comic-con, the vendors don’t have digital codes for sale. They have physical issues. And as I stated above, this method of commerce is where you can expand your reading library based on the conversations with fellow nerds and comic lovers.
At the end of the day, whether you’re reading comics your purchased from your local store or online, the fact that great stories are being read and looked at is the key for publishers to continue to put out great content. I just prefer the feel of the paper as I flip from page to page, rather than swiping on a screen.
When I said that my bud Sammy was nerd for all things pop culture, I meant it. He has a passion for music and is the program director for Girth Radio where he hosts a show/podcast called My Summer Lair. He also co-hosts a weekly podcast called Back Issue Bloodbath where they talk comics (new and old), creators and other comic-related topics.
Finally, if you’re on Twitter, follow Sammy. His opinions and conversations will either infuriate you or make you laugh out loud. May or may not be best read while going to the bathroom, I leave that to you.