Digital comics, for all their convenience, come at a price. While it may be true that keeping up with comics is easier than ever now that you can digitally subscribe to be titles, but it is also true that it makes it harder to keep up with COMICS because it does not encourage you to take advantage of what is arguably the most important aspect of comics — to maintain a relationship with them. It sounds silly, even as I write it, but going to the store, hanging out and spending time with physical comics, eyes to paper, customer to customer, is a huge and fundamental aspect of comics.
— Mike Romo, writing about returning to the comic-shop habit
Romo makes some interesting points in this essay, but this I think is the key one, and it’s something that’s not necessarily obvious. I spend a lot of time looking at ComicList and Previews, so I always know what’s coming out this week, but that’s just pictures in my head. Going into a comics shop and seeing them all arrayed in a display is a totally different experience, and as I don’t do it that often, it always has an impact. Context and presentation do make a difference. Sometimes I notice completely different comics in Previews and in ComicList, simply because they are presented differently. And this doesn’t even get into the fact that the staff at a good comics store can recommend comics you have never heard of.
He mentions comics that he has overlooked because they aren’t easy to find in digital apps, but that is a problem that is fading away as the marketplace gets streamlined: Just this week, comiXology and Marvel announced that the Marvel-branded app will sync with comiXology, meaning that Dark Horse is now the only publisher that requires you to go to their special app to buy digital comics. Still, a display at a comics shop may highlight a different set of titles than the “featured” screens on an app.
At the same time, digital comics have enhanced discoverability for people who don’t have a comics store nearby. So there’s that.
There was one comment in the article that really gave me pause, though: At the first (unnamed) comics shop Romo visited,
I was talking to the girl behind the counter and I found out that she rarely gets paid for working there — she basically gets paid in comics. Now, I know this is the case with many stores and that’s totally fine, but it just made me feel…sad? Bad? I know it’s not my job to keep this place in business, but, like, yikes, you hear something like that and you just gotta wonder, you know?
Actually, that’s terrible, and it’s probably also illegal. People who work should be paid, and if you can’t pay your employees, you need to re-examine your business model.
(Image from the Meltdown Comics blog.)