Monday, January 7, 2013

Paper Vs. Digital Comics: The Age Gap

The adolescent zeitgeist: a scene from the new "Amethyst" cartoon
The new Amethyst that DC Nation just debuted on Cartoon Network is pretty different from both the original 1980s version and the current "New 52" one running in "Sword of Sorcery" -- and I really like it. It's full of energy and captures the zeitgeist of entertainment for adolescents at the moment.

I'd love to see more of this content from the DC publishing side. Their Ame-Comi Girls digital comics -- coming now to print -- really sort of nailed that demo as well. But the fact that Ame-Comi debuted digital and "Amethyst" is on DC Nation underlines another issue:

Can these sorts of YA (young adult) properties "work" as serialized monthly comics? Is that format the "right" one for this material?

Certainly, the sales of YA (and younger) graphic novels and GN/novel hybrids are good. And I get reports that younger people -- maybe not as young as the YA audience, but close -- are practically devouring monthly series like "Saga" and "The Walking Dead."

Currently the #1 comic/graphic novel on Amazon. Available on Kindle, of course.
But I think the future for YA comic book material is largely in Digital. Even little kids are handy with e-reading devices and iPads. These are the formats they are growing up using. If they are reading their picture-books on the iPad now, chances are they're going to be using similar devices for most of their reading material as they get older; and to think otherwise is to be seduced by the comforting allure of our own childhoods.

This is all to say: I don't really get that riled up when I see that the big comic publishers are not putting a lot of YA material in print (specifically: serialized monthlies). I don't think it is because they do not care about younger readers, or about younger female readers.

I think it's a matter of what technologies these readers will use in the future. And when they're not using their digital devices, maybe they're curling up to a nice, sumptuous graphic novel in print.

But monthly serialized pamphlet-editions? No.

I mean, honestly -- I've largely gone back to buying my comics monthly and on paper. But I've done this for 4 reasons:

1) It's how I did it when I was younger, and the ritual brings me comfort.

2) I brings me further comfort to know I physically "own" these things (which, to be totally honest, is based in neurotic insecurity which I think will be abated by increasing the physical possessions around me).

3) A trip to the comic shop gives me and the husband the excuse to go out and engage in an activity; at the same time, presumably helping reinvest in community businesses.

4) Some books -- mostly collected editions and self-pub indie stuff -- just read and look better in paper.

And that's it; only the last two reasons are really legitimate. The rest involve therapy sessions. There is no reason for me to (literally) hunt down all the chapters of the "Animal Man"/"Swamp Thing" Rotworld crossover when I can buy them all digitally.

That said, using apps and clouds to access my books leads back into that insecurity feeling I mentioned earlier; I wish there was a slightly more "owny" way to buy these things.

But what if the youngest generations never grow up feeling that need to accumulate paper?