Comics, like the rest of the publishing industry, have undergone a huge shift in the last decade. There was a time not so long ago when you had to march down to a specialty comic book store, make sure you had a “pull list” so you wouldn’t miss the latest foil-cover collectors edition of Hawk & Dove, and dedicate physical space to a growing set of boxes containing your favourite 4-coloured funnies.
The emergence of tablets has changed the game. You can now easily download conventional comics through Comixology, DC and Marvel apps, and other means. More than that, people are using the malleability of digital to create new forms of comics, from Batman ’66 where you can reproduce the “BIF! BAM! POW!” of the old show to guided reading and augmented reality.
I have no idea where all this is going, but if it’s anything like the rest of media, there are a few likely outcomes. For one, a lot more independent and self-published content will become available, just as happened with webcomics in the past and is happening the e-book space at present.
On the other end of the scale, bigger companies like Marvel, DC and others they partner with can continue with new ways to use tablets and other platforms. The Big Two also have the advantage of huge stables of beloved characters, which they can (and will) exploit in as many ways as they can. Can’t really blame them.
Of course, a slice of humanity will always want to read a comic on paper, to feel the pages run under their fingers and smell the ink. I can understand that, and I sometimes feel the same way, doubly so when it comes to books. But there’s something to be said for having an entire library in a tablet, and having an entire run of a comic series in a virtual folder.
I think it’s inevitable that this convenience will win out over nostalgia, just like it did with movies and music and books. We may lose the physical aspects of reading, whether its words, pictures, or some combination of both, but I don’t think we’ll ever lose the love for the medium, no matter what form it takes.