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Submitted on
February 3


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I read about a little girl finding her first Teen Titans comic in a shop a few days ago, and her excitement at holding that comic in her hands. Owning it. And it was a genuinely touching story – the next generation meets paper, print, and the characters they love from the TV. The story went on to talk about digital, and it being no substitute for the real thing. You can’t own the object in the digital world; You can’t treasure it – so the argument went. The response – and there’s always a response these days – was almost unanimously pro-print, though the author conceded room for both.

I spent the last couple of days mulling this over, because this is a mental barrier we are up against – a false meme. And I don’t believe it. It’s not what I’m seeing in practice.

The first point is that the girl found a comic of her favourite TV characters. She didn’t know, most likely, that they were characters in a comic first. She came into contact with the Teen Titans through another medium, and that led her to comics. I’ve said, repeatedly, that many of the people finding digital comics on apps or online are a new audience, and that this could lead them to print. It’s possible that a young girl could discover Teen Titans in a digital comic format first, and that could lead her to discovering print. Comics are not ubiquitous in the way they once were, and the internet is the new corner shop, the spinning rack of old, where I first discovered comics. I was 19 before I stepped into a comic shop in London – I had no idea they existed! I could have so easily missed them all together. Digital helps make sure another generation doesn’t miss them.

My second point is that kids don’t need to own physical things the way we did. My youngest son has a world he’s created in Minecraft. He logs in, and goes to a virtual space which he has full ownership of. Young people feel they collectively own the internet, and everything they put on there or build in their virtual spaces. Similarly, my music collection is vastly more progressed and varied since the advent of iTunes. I know more about music, I have broader tastes, and I am prepared to take more of a chance with a new artist. I also don’t have boxes of vinyl cluttering up a house already too small for five of us, and destined to keep growing, along with my comics and books collection. I long ago had to stop buying books and comics, and indeed had to cull them – which was pretty heartbreaking! But I now have a solution to that. And if I really want the print book – and sometimes I do, because I will ALWAYS and FOREVER love print – then I can splash out, buy it, and that makes it extra special.

We must remember – the means of transmission does not the story make! We loved the films we saw at the cinema long before we could own them on tape then DVD!

Finally – comics were a by-product of newspapers. They are themselves a young medium. They are words and they are pictures, but most importantly, they are stories. And great stories can be told in ANY medium.

These are exciting times. We should embrace them, and be open to them. Everything needs to change and evolve. It’s part of what makes life so very exciting!

– Liam Sharp

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Meylek Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
     "Finally – comics were a by-product of newspapers. They are themselves a young medium. They are words and they are pictures, but most importantly, they are stories. And great stories can be told in ANY medium." Words that speak to my heart.

     Comics have always been a personal favorite. I still need to go to a comic store; and I believe I saw one downtown if I remember correctly.
TonyDennison Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2014
Whenever I hear people talk about the tactile nature of print and how digital will never replace the unique charm and qualities of physical products, I see it as a mild self-deception.

Digital incarnations of books do not exist at the expense of print editions. The argument that digital will never replace print suggests an implicit threat and this is a false dynamic because we live in a Print-On-Demand world of books readily available in any format in which we care to consume them.

Of course, Print-On-Demand technology does not satisfy the debate for the traditional comics consumer. Because in truth, it is not the availability (or lack thereof) of printed editions of comics that's really what's at issue.; but the manufactured scarcity that comics with finite print runs delivers.

A large part of comics culture is the collectors market and the speculation over rare comics. There are many collectors who garner as much pleasure, if not more, from having a rare comic as much as many consumers draw from the pure enjoyment of a good story drawn well.

I admit having felt the pleasure of finding that rare book to fill out my own collection or purchasing a bargain bin comic only to later find that it was worth much more than the twenty five cents I paid for it.

All of these pursuit and idiosyncrasies are fine things, in and of themselves, but they are rooted in speculation and the pursuit of comics as artifacts.

Neither of those interests serves the growth and development of comics as a medium. The iPad is the new retailer and comics will be purchased for pennies on the dollar. Print editions of collections will be available through Print-On-Demand services with licensing agreements with creators.

Collectors will still speculate and commodify comic book material in a secondary industry, only it will be based on different criteria. Since most books will remain perpetually and indefinitely available in print-, Print-On-Demand services may begin an individual numbering system where each individual printed copy has a unique number (ex: issue no. 1 print: 0000001).

Whatever the case, there will be new paradigms and the whole Print versus Digital debate is just misplaced nostalgia at best.

 The future is a beautiful thing.
LiamSharp Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2014  Professional Artist
Absolutely wonderfully and succinctly put! Thank you for this. :-)
Cirprius Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Fantastic article! I never really thought of it like that, but it's very true. I like your viewpoint!
FerenzaaNet Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2014   General Artist

There is room for both digital and print, one way or another this will probably always be the case. Ultimately, it has to be about the story. Do you want to read it or not?

I’ve been involved in printing and publishing since 1982, and in today’s world the costs of physical paper and four-color (or more) impression make profits slim for a serial book. A hardcover collected edition or Catalogue Raisonne is another story, more like an objet d’art, with the high price and rarity to be expected. Then there is the storage, shipping and handling, possibilities of lost inventory due to moisture intrusion, rodents, mishandling during shipping, and heaven forbid, fire. Plus, there is the issue of production deadlines, distribution delays, etc.

On the other hand, digital publishing can be distributed instantaneously which can also mitigate delays in production. Digital publishing occupies no physical space other than the viewable gadget. Digital books can be read upside-down or in the dark. Those gadgets can “hold” 2000- plus books, until the memory is full or the internal batteries die. The Cloud will not last forever and someday all our ComiXology accounts- with lists of purchases- may be gone. 

In my world I have two examples (besides Madefire which is a third category all its own):


DC’s “Major Bummer” by John Arcudi and Doug Mankhe ran for 15 issues in the late 1990s and as far as I know still is not available in legitimate digital form. Dark Horse did a collection in 2011 in print. I found the issues one by one on Amazon or ebay. Now they are bagged and boarded but I do read them as well.


“Lanfeust de Troy” and the successor books “Lanfeust Odyssey” and “Lanfeust des Etoiles”  by Arleston and Tarquin, along with the whole range of other books covering the Lanfeustiverse, published by Soleil. This French-language series is expensive either digitally or in print, and each issue is 50 pages or so. You have to consider that the shipping for print versions from Europe can cost more than the purchase price, and the selection on Amazon is limited, and still expensive. If I really want to read this work, it has to be digital, for now.

Really the question is, how badly do you want to read the work?

Dstinct Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2014  Professional Artist
Issue comics going digital is the natural progression. Save for the augmented stuff like Madefire makes, individual issues will be read and disposed of like television episodes. If you really like the material, you can buy a physical collected edition, like the blu-ray copy of the seasons as they are released. You can get those signed. When I look at my bookshelf of issues, I've found I don't reread a lot of them. They just sit there taking up space. I'm much more likely to grab a TPB or GN out of their bookcase instead.

I've cut back on my physical comic purchases because it's getting to expensive, but moreso I'm running out of room. I'm also transitioning from comics to the CG industries, which means I'll be moving around a lot (although I'll still work on the odd project that interests me). The issues I want to keep I'll bring with me, but most other ones I'll have to get rid of because I can't take them with me.
miguelzuppo Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2014  Professional
great text.
LiamSharp Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2014  Professional Artist
Thanks. :-)
MiaMight Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I only started reading comics beginning last year and I'm, like, nearly 21 now. How did I get into it? When the dawn of really awesome superhero films starting to debut and I wanted to know more about there origins. My first comic I bought was purely for the artwork (ame-comi) and was digital. Since then, though, I somehow found the only comic store in my region and begun building my collection.

Soooo...ya. I agree with Liam is what I want to say. Basically.
MiaMight Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
*GASP* I used "there" wrong. I just grammar-nazied myself. 
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