Whilst doing the six week old’s 1am feed I came up with a couple more disadvantages of digital comics:
3. Digital comics do not engage other senses. We all know comics is a visual medium, but we tend to forget that comic books themselves engage other senses as well. When reading a comic I also feel the texture of the paper – the roughness of old newsprint, the slickness of a glossy 90s comic or the silkiness of a high end paper stock used in an Absolute Edition. Not only that, I hear the rustle of the pages as I turn them, or crease back the page to make the comic easier to read with one hand (how else can one eat a sandwich and read a comic at the same time while at the beach ?). Best of all, comics – in particular old comics – have a distinct smell to them. Those old comics, printed as they are on newsprint with the cheapest inks have a musty, tangy smell due to the acids in the inks leaching into the paper (it is what gives old comics that wonderful yellowed colour too). Digital comics do not have any of these features, and ultimately turn reading a comic into watching something on a monitor. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean you miss out on the other sensations you can only get holding a physical comic.
4. A digital comic cannot be signed by its creator. I love having my comics signed by the creator(s) ! It makes a comic I already cherish even more special when on it there is a signature and perhaps even a personalised message from the writer and/or artist who worked to create it. In a way it makes me feel the work was created just for me, rather than simply be a product made for sale. Even more important, the signature is a reminder that I had the chance to meet and speak to a creator whose work I admire, in many cases to have the chance to tell them just how much their work speaks to me and to thank them for creating it. So, when I look at my copy of Kabuki:Circle of Death #1 signed by David Mack, I remember the great chat I had with him about using comics as a means to allay grief, the panel he did on the artistic process at Supanova and the fact he was a personable bloke who told a great anecdote. No matter how good a digital comic is, or how much I cherish it, I can never have the comic signed, and so miss out on all of the joy that goes along with that process.
Oh, and it is an incredible moment when you watch your child having a comic they have liked reading signed by the artist ! The pure joy radiating from my son’s face when he had his Super Friends comic signed by artist Stewart McKenny was palpable, as was the pride he felt when he took the comic to school for news and showed his friends the message Stewart had written for him.
5. Going to the comic shop is fun ! Part of what keeps us “Wednesday Warriors” going back to the comic shop each week is the collegiate atmosphere you find when a heap of passionate fans get together in one spot. I know comic shops have a bad rap, and most of this reputation is well-earned, but I have been lucky enough to find comic shops where the owners are not greedy capitalists just out to make a buck on the latest fad (pogs, anyone ?), the shop assistants are not surly and sarcastic, and the shop itself not a dingy, poorly-lit homage to a teenager’s bedroom. In fact, going to the comic shop and talking to the guys there has always been an important and enjoyable part of my routine. Sure, I can get digital comics quickly and easily, but that efficiency robs me of an experience I enjoy tremendously.
At this point I will point you all in the direction of Perth’s Comic Zone. This is the best comic shop I have ever been to, with friendly owners and staff (G’Day to Owen and Mike), a wide range of titles and a great atmosphere.
Just thought of another advantage of digital comics too:
Digital comics are ecologically sound and hippy-friendly ! Digital comics tend to be created on a computer, and are then uploaded to another computer (or server) where they can sit indefinitely awaiting a customer to buy and read them. That’s a pretty small carbon footprint there ! On the other hand, physical comics are generally drawn on bristol boards, the artwork shrunk and then printed on paper. The comics then must be transported to the distributor, warehoused, to finally be transported to the comic shop where they sit on a shelf until they are sold. If the comic is popular and more customers want to buy it, the whole printing/transporting process must be started again. That’s not so eco-friendly, especially when you look at all of the fuel being used to transport the comics. Don’t get me wrong, I would not want anyone who is part of this supply chain to lose their livelihood, but I cannot help but think it is better for the (Captain ?) planet for us to run with the first model of creating and distributing comics.
Perhaps the comics industry can use this eco-friendliness as a promotional tool, in the same way airlines do with their “carbon offset allowance”. While the latter is really just a token gesture, the comics industry has in a very real way reduced the impact it has on the environment by adopting the digital distribution model. And hey, there are plenty of animal or plant based characters which can be used in said promotion !
“Swamp Thing says: ‘You do not have to kill a tree to read a comic‘ “ !!