On Wednesday, Archie Comics announced that beginning in April, digital versions of its comics will be available on the same day that print editions arrive on newsstands and in comic book shops. My immediate reaction to the news was surprise, because you almost never expect Archie to lead the way in any sort of revolution. But once you look at the aggressive new actions Archie Comics has taken over the past couple of years to reach readers and keep its name in the daily blogs, maybe it’s not so surprising after all.
I felt I needed additional input on this move, so I sent a barrage of questions to my very own Sexy Comics Monger. Because it was Wednesday and his busiest day of the week, he was naturally thrilled to get a new email from me every 1.5 seconds throughout the day. Here are some highlights from our exchange:
FBOTU: Hey Sexy Comics Monger! What do you have to say about this Archie announcement.
SCM: What announcement? Is he gay now, too?
FBOTU: No! But he is coming out. Digitally. On the same day as the print version.
SCM: Oh yeah, that. It not only caught me off guard, but also made me more than a little sad. Pastimes (SCM’s store. -Chance) has been in business since 1980, and we’ve seen many trends come and go, so Archie releasing its product digitally on the same day as delivery to comics shops shouldn’t be that big a deal.
FBOTU: And what makes you sad?
SCM: The sadness is the fact that since the new editor took over, Archie comics have been racked on the new release rack, instead of the kids’ section, and sales were steadily increasing. Now we’ll no longer carry Archie comics on our new release rack.
FBOTU: But what if I don’t have access to the digital releases? Where will I get my Kevin Keller?
SCM: Oh for god’s sake…We will be glad to special order anything anyone wants, but you won’t find NEW Archie Comics here until they rethink their marketing strategy. While I wish no one ill will, I hope this ends up being a disaster for them.
FBOTU: That’s not “ill will” at all.
SCM: I also sincerely hope the major publishers don’t follow this short-sighted path. We are all about to learn a lesson, regardless. So that’s really how I feel: kinda angry, but mostly sad. Archies really were increasing in sales, and noticeably.
FBOTU: Archie seems to be going from publicity stunt to publicity stunt (the “what if” marriage stories, Kevin Keller, the death of Mrs. Grundy and now this). Do you think the day-and-digital announcement is just a way to keep themselves in the headlines?
SCM: Probably. It could be just another publicity stunt, but it’s effectively made me not stock them at a time when they were rising in popularity.
FBOTU: I wouldn’t be surprised if in a week or so they release a statement saying that due to overwhelming fan response, they’ll delay the digital release of new titles, etc.
SCM: That would be awesome, but it would still be hard for me to stock their product, knowing they could care less about my business model.
FBOTU: Remind me never to cross you.
SCM: Too late.
FBOTU: Since DC has been releasing Generation Lost and the new WoW title day-and-digital, have you noticed any impact? Have customers said, “I don’t need that title anymore. I’m getting it digitally.”
SCM: No. What has happened is that I won’t order extra copies for the shelf. Re-orders have stopped, essentially.
FBOTU: That reminds me. Can you remove those titles from my pull list?
FBOTU: Finally, do collectors think this trend will make printed copies harder to find and more collectible? Or do they think collecting is going to span a certain, specific era in comics and that’s it?
SCM: Collecting will never stop, even if sales get outrageously low, there will always be people who want the real book. What computer platform will you have in two years? Will your downloaded comics transfer? What happens if your power goes off? Comic collectors will be more unique than ever.
FBOTU: Oh good. That’s what we need. To become a minority within a minority.
SCM: Well, you’d be a minority within a minority within a minority.
FBOTU: Just what I’ve always wanted. One more question. Do you think it’s weird that Wendy is chatting with dead Marvin in Batgirl?
SCM: They were mauled by Wonderdog. Cut ‘em some slack.
My thanks to Sexy Comics Monger for offering his insights into this evolving story. We’ll be keeping an eye on digital comics here at FBOTU, including upcoming reviews of digital releases and the digital comics apps available online.