About Your Paper Renewal?

I wrote an editorial not a long while ago subtitled "The Death of the Great Prints" about the distinct possibility that within our lifetimes all comics publishing will be mainly digital in nature. Every single last publisher will have either taken a leap of faith into the digital ether or perished gasping in trying to sell a physical object to a market that's no longer there.


At least one publisher is making that great leap BACK into print. There were about 150 issues of the original print comic-book since the inaugural issue of "Dark Horse Presents" in 1986. The company made a dramatic change when Dark Horse partnered with website MySpace.com to create "MySpace Dark Horse Presents" and there were 36 issues of the MySpace version of the anthology. The last one hit the web in July 2o1o and now, starting in 2o11, "Dark Horse Presents" will be a print comic-book once again after 3 years online. Editor Scott Allie said: "When we launched "MDHP," MySpace was the world's leading website, at a time that you could actually have a clear-cut world's leading website, and we felt that we had the opportunity to do something exciting and new. MySpace was the perfect place to get tons of attention" and publisher Mike Richardson said: "We were excited about [it] because it took comics to a much larger audience". Comics will be available (still for free!) on Dark Horse's website here.

[via Newsarama and CBR/CBR]

Presumably, the company thinks that without one website reigning supreme they would do better to bring the successful anthology back to its paper roots. Simultaneously, some independent creators have begun to take back the printing press as a means of disseminating underground comics, which is, of course, how they did it back when underground comics were called comix.

About two months ago the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art (@MoCCAnyc) held a panel discussion about the comic-strip as a form and how it stands now in a world of newspapers closing down. The panel was called "The Future of the Traditional Comic Strip in the Era of Dying Newspapers". The solutions as presented were two-fold: become a webcomic or join together in a collective. Or both.

Yes, tremendously cleverly comicsmith Bill Roundy makes a comic called "The Amazing Adventures of Bill" that is posted as a webcomic (available at the previous link) and a newsprint comic-strip in a publication called "Coffee Talk", available in various Brooklyn locations. The newspaper comics-section without the newspaper. Brilliant, really.

"Dark Horse Presents" and "Coffee Talk" aren't the only comics enjoying the old musty smell of paper. Several examples of other comics utilizing newsprint were held up by "Coffee Talk" mastermind Tony Murphy at the MoCCA event: (1) a copy of New York City comic-shop Desert Island's local comic, a large-format newsprint comic called "Smoke Screen" and (2) a copy of Brendan Leach's comic: "Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City" (the subject of one of my recent interviews here on The Long and Shortbox Of It), with a cover mimicking an old-style newspaper front page. Printed on newsprint.

Now I had this editorial all planned out in my head up until this point:

Both comics companies and individual comicsmiths have made a move away from the digital realm and back to newsprint. Plain, simple, interesting. Right?

That was before these double announcements from the day before the recent New York Comic-Con (@NY_Comic_Con):

DC Comics (@DC_NATION) will in January 2011 reduce the baseline prices of their entire line of 22-page comic-books from $3.99 back to $2.99.

and an hour later:
Marvel (@Marvel) will lower SOME of the prices of their comic-books from $3.99. Called a "partial move away" from $3.99, Marvel has stated that they can afford this because of the money they're making from their iPad app's digital comics sales.

[via CBR- DC announcement/Marvel announcement] (I really recommend taking a peek at CBR's DC article as they actually breakdown exactly which DC comics will now be $2.99.)

I was in the room at the "DC Nation" panel at Comic-Con where a huge screen displayed a defiant Wonder Woman in the famous 'Rosie the Riveter pose' with the famous statement "We Can Do It!" replaced with something like: "HOLD THE PRICE LINE!" DC Comics SVP and Executive Editor Dan DiDio also made it clear that although this means the back-up stories DC added to the books last year when the prices were raised are disappearing, the characters and stories in them will not.

What does this mean?

Well, obviously, it means we all get to save a little money on our monthlies AND more importantly it means when I recommend a monthly comic to YOU the readers, or to a friend in person, there will be a bit less 'sticker-shock' when we all say: 'Damn, comics used to be 10 frickin' cents!' In fact: 10 cents, 12 cents, 15, 20, 30, 35, 40, 75, $1, $1.25, $1.99, $2.99... I believe this is the first time in the history of the American comics industry that the baseline price has gone DOWN.

But, in the long run? What does this mean for paper?

I'm not sure if it's a vote of confidence in the format or a signal of its demise. Since people have been clamoring for the prices to go back down and the Big Two are giving them what they want, it shows that the big companies care about what their paper customers want. Theoretically they can now give it to them because, according to Marvel SVP of Sales David Gabriel, "We found that in a week's time, the download of the day-and-date [digital iPad app] comics were a little bit less than what [New York City's] Midtown [Comics] orders. They're one of the top retailers in the country, so it gives you an idea of where we're at." So are they giving the comic shop-pers what they want as a temporary appeasement as they phase them out? Meanwhile the guys like Brendan Leach and Tony Murphy are printing on the cheapest paper they can find to keep their decidedly not-corporate costs down.

It seems that if anything can be said about the entire comics industry in America from Marvel Entertainment right down to free comics newsletters at this moment, it's that while there is an ongoing serious flirtation with the digital format, paper still has a major, although changing, place in the distribution of sequential art.

~ @JonGorga

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