UPDATED: Comic Creators Respond to DC DIGITAL COMICS Plans

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With the announcement today that DC Comics has entered the digital comics marketplace, one of the more interesting aspects of the program — for the industry's talent, anyway — was that DC will have a royalty program for creators when one of their digital comics is purchased.

DC has often been praised as a creator-rights leader for its royalty program, with former publisher Paul Levitz even winning an Eisner Award for his humanitarian work on behalf of creators. So creators weren't shocked by the announcement, but were reacting positively nonetheless.

The internet has also been abuzz about the future of comics now that both major publishers are dedicated to digital comics.

So we went to the creators to ask:

- What is your overall reaction to the news of DC's digital program?

- Do you have knowledge about or a reaction to the plan to pay royalties on digital sales?

- When do you envision the digital model being the industry's dominant from of distribution? 2 years, 5 years, 10, or never?

What follows is the response, which we'll be updating throughout the day:

Neal Adams

Did radio disappear when television came on the scene? Did radio change?

Well, of course radio didn't disappear. It's more popular than ever. It's everywhere, and with a greater variety than ever before. Did it change? Well, of course it changed. The music stayed, the drama went to television. In the case of digital comic books, if we go by experience, comic books will change, in ways we can't easily predict, but they will increase and become even more popular, is the likely answer.

What are the pieces? Well, this will place comic books into the hands of grandma, Uncle Ben, and most importantly, into the hands of girls and women. So of course the product will change. People may be reading digital comics first, but if they like them, they will like hard copies. People seem to like to hold things and read them and turn the pages. Comic book stores will find ways to participate in the digital medium, but so will book stores and the internet, and all the bright, new, shiny venues that are waiting to come in. The end result will be, comic books will become more popular with more people, and comic book stores, being owned by intelligent people, will find ways to get onto more lines and sell more product.

But this is a whole new can of worms as far as royalties and participation are concerned. DC Comics has a very good track record in the areas of participation and royalties. They were the very first to do it. On the other hand, competition for talent would be greater. Who has the best royalty program? It may not be either DC or Marvel. Suddenly, alternate publishers may find the doorway to more creatives.

In fact, with digital comics, motion comics and possible CGI, media will begin to become what was once implied in the phrase, "Mixed media." It sort of looks like today is the very first day for "the new comic."

Ron Marz

Obviously it was not a questions of "if," in terms of DC's digital model, it was a question of when. The industry as a whole needed Marvel and DC to both have a serious digital presence in order to move forward into the future of comics. I think a lot of hardcore fans will always want print versions, but to me, digital is the way that casual readers and more importantly new readers are going to pursue comics. As a creator, the most pleasing aspect is that DC has figured out its royalty plan for digital distribution. Which is not surprising, really, since DC has always been meticulous about both domestic and foreign royalty payments. If your book sells a hundred copies in Croatia, a check for a few bucks shows up. It's a hallmark of the company.

Jeff Parker

I'm excited. I don't know jack about the royalties plan yet, but I was worried that DC wasn't pursuing digital distribution fast enough, so this is good to hear. It's the competition between the big two that's going to get us to a standard for digital comic sales sooner.

 I really do think it won't hurt retail stores, it will shift the bulk of their business to trades and graphic novels. There are a LOT of people living in places not serviced by a comics shop who aren't going to go through ordering books from an online retailer. The easier and faster you make getting issues for them, and with opportunities for free starters to read, the more readers you're going to reach.

Roger Stern

I think it's great that DC has developed a model that ensures royalties for creators.  Let's hope that becomes the industry standard. 

Chris Roberson

I'm delighted by the news that DC is moving into digital distribution, and overjoyed that they are investigating day-and-date releases. After reading comics on my iPad for the better part of a month, I am increasingly convinced that tablet devices like the iPad are the perfect way to read comics, and I look forward to a day when the comic publishers not only release digital versions of all of their new releases on the same day the hardcopies hit the stands, but also put their entire back catalogues online for digital purchase. I still like having tradepaperback and hardcover collections on the shelf, but I'm rapidly approaching the point where I'd personally prefer to read periodicals on the iPad instead of in "floppy" form.

To think about someone other than myself for a moment, I know from anecdotal reports how difficult it is for comic fans overseas to get new comics in anything like a timely fashion (to say nothing of comics fans in rural parts of the US), and having day-and-date digital releases will make matters that much simpler across the board.

As for the royalty piece, I only know what's been in the public press releases, but I'm looking forward to seeing what DC has in mind.

Don Kramer

I'm excited by it. It needed to happen. Currently we are losing sales much like the music industry due to pirated digital downloads.....but we make far less money than that industry. This at least provides a legitimate way of purchasing digital copies of the books.  

I'm ecstatic that DC is taking care of their talent and has extended there royalty program to the digital medium as well.

I wouldn't want to place a timetable on the digital mode taking over. I don't think it will completely take over for a looong time.  But it will become the dominate form sooner rather than later.  Just  by observing how my kids approach their entertainment,  most new readers will prefer the digital mode. Kinda sad really. Personally, I'd miss the feel and smell of a book in my hand.  On the other hand, digitally, the colors look great on the screen!

Arthur Baltazar

Wow! This is really cool. Its great to have another outlet to get your weekly comic fix! Great for fans without a comic shop near their house! Instant Awesomeness! Airport layovers just got easier! This is the wave of the future..and the future is now!  DING! (idea lightbulb) Now I have to buy an iPad.

Tony Daniel

I think offering digital comics has a lot of potential to expose comics to a broader audience.  Most non-comic reading people I talk to don't even know where you can BUY comics.  I think the ease of clicking a button and downloading is attractive to people.  I know I buy 10 times more music than I used to because of Itunes.  But music is different. I think holding the physical comic in your hands beats reading it on an ipad or iphone any day of the week.  Hopefully digital comics brings more popularity to comics which could result in increased foot traffic into our friendly neighborhood comic stores.  

Jimmy Palmiotti

I am thrilled DC now has digital downloads available. This is a step in the right direction to getting the fantastic books they put out each week to a bigger, worldwide audience and at the same time keeping up with the technology offered to everyone. I personally have a relationship with ComiXology for my creator-owned titles, so they were the perfect choice in my eyes to partner up with. I am especially thrilled to see that Jim [Lee], Dan [DiDio] and Geoff [Johns] were able to get this going so quickly, and do it the right way, with creators, fans and retailers in mind, and I think it's just the start of a long list of positive changes coming for the company and the industry as well. If only they could plug that oil well in the gulf...then today would be a perfect day for me.  

DC has a long standing tradition of including their creators in their royalty programs. The program already in place is one of the finest in the business and makes sure that each and every product and use of their work is worked in a sharing program and I personally expected no less from this announcement. This company , as any other creator will tell you, has some of the finest book keeping in the business and understands that the work we all do together is part of a long time relationship. This announcement is good news for everyone involved...and a real incentive to keep producing some of the finest books in the industry.

I think the digital model will be especially successful to those without comic shops at their disposal, as well as making a whole new generation of people aware of these fine characters. As far as 5-10 years from now, I am guessing so many things will be changing, the best we can hope for is the guys running the show are able to roll with the changes, predict what's coming and make sure at the end of the day that the content is king, no matter what the presentation and format is. I personally think retail outlets will be changing into more social gathering atmospheres, the 22-page comic will all go to trade-books, and that the digital delivery system will not only offer the books, but a cheaper way to get alternative and behind the scenes content included with the purchase at a minimum cost. Its all about accessibility... and one look at how the world of TV and film has changed in the past 20 years and you can plainly see where the world is going.

Paul Dini

As the comic book market shrinks, the recognition of each company's star characters dwindles as well. If more and more people are getting their entertainment through digital media, the solution is clear - put your characters where the people can find them.  

I think [having royalties for digital] is fair. If the creators receive royalties for print, they should also receive it for digital. It's the same story and artwork, just a different delivery medium.  

Part of me will always love having the physical comic in my hand and going to the store every Wednesday to pick them up. I hope both digital and physical books will have places in a marketplace that continues to expand for comics. 

Jonathan Hickman

Well, of course, it's a fantastic thing that DC is going to offer digital content. And it's also great to see that they have instituted a royalty plan just like my bosses here at Marvel have. These are good things. They are things that should be done.

But I must say that I have continued to have great trepidation regarding the stratification of delivery channels. Yes, it's wonderful that Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, etc. have their own apps for downloading content - God knows we need to get more comics into peoples hands - but I think it's a mistake, and one that marginalizes an emerging market, not to have a single channel from which to buy.

Saying that, all progress is forward motion, and all kudos to DC Comics.

J.T. Krul

I'm thrilled.  Digital comics is going to be an exciting aspect to the overall comic book industry in terms of getting stories in people's hands.  With all the personal devices (iPad, iPhone, iWhatever) already in the world and more being developed everyday, it's a natural outgrowth for content.

I woke up this morning, downloaded the DC Comics App on my iPod touch and within minutes was reading the preview to JMS's new Superman.  Very cool.  And it only makes me want to get an iPad even more.

I am happy with DC's proactive manner in addressing [the royalties] aspect of digital comics. In terms of printed comics and trade publications, DC definitely treats the creative talent well, so I have no doubt that the same will be said for the digital realm.

I still firmly believe that the only force that will totally tip the scale in terms of paper vs. online publications will be mother nature. When paper itself becomes cost prohibitive, then you'll see such a transformation out of necessity. Remember, people said the same thing about books for years, not to mention radio, and the movie theaters, and network television. It's not an either / or scenario. At least, not in my mind.

James Robinson

My reaction? Digital comics are inevitable. It was bound to happen, and now it has. I'm glad the penny has dropped so we can get on with telling stories no matter the venue. The fact that DC acknowledges it as a revenue source and so already has the creators in mind, is another plus to my working for DC Comics. However, I have to stress my respect and regard for the comic book retailer. Personally I enjoy the visceral experience of holding a comic in my hands as I read it. I hope that this new breakthrough, while appealing to some, won't deter those who also enjoy their Wednesday trip to the local comics store.

Denny O'Neill

The digitaization of DC is the most significant event in comics since Action 1.  Maybe since he invention of four-color printing.  Game is changed.

Scott Beatty

I think DC's digital program was inevitable. Why not offer another platform choice for comics? With the decline of magazine sales and increase in Kindle-read books and iPod/iPhone/iPad media, it just makes smart sense. I fear for the decline of the local comics shop, or loss of revenue for the LCS. But on the other hand, now that comic companies have cracked down on internet piracy and scanning of comics, I'm happy that there will be a legitimate source for both new comics and the various back-issue and graphic novel libraries available. Let's just hope that the cost is commensurate with what you get, and that royalties for creators are as fair. Beyond that, I'm sure most (if not all) comics will be downloaded within the next decade. I'm sure that'll save trees and reduce comics' carbon footprint, but I also worry what reliance on digital (versus physical) storage will do if the lights ever go out. After all, you can still read a (comic) book by candlelight. Of course, I'm a guy who has all his music stored on iTunes. The thought of never having to bag and board a comic book in acid-free boxes has my OCD bells a-ringing...

Erik Larsen

Reaction? Nonplussed. Others have been doing this for some time and at a lower price point. I don't think a digital comic book has the same value as a physical one to most readers. I don't expect people flocking to buy digital comics at $3.99 a throw.

[On royalties]: No idea but generally DC has been pretty good about such things.

[On when digital could dominate the marketplace]: Never if $3.99 is going to be the price point.

I think DC will get a lot of resistance at that price point. What's likely to happen is that some consumers will bootleg books and fans will opt to get their books for free via an alternative form of distribution. This price point will encourage piracy. DC's competitors are selling their product at a lower price point--this will only make them look greedy and it will limit their appeal while giving readers moral justification for alternative acquisition of the desired product.

Once the price point drops, sales will likely pick up and we'll find that many readers will buy digital comics, often in addition to print copies. Many readers will want both a physical collection at home and a virtual one that they can easily take along with them on trips and to school or the office. It won't take long before it's the dominant form of distribution but I think what's likely to happen is that it won't cut into sales of the physical comics all that much and that the audience will be made up of new readers, ones that were illegally downloading pirated comics already and those who want digital comics in addition to printed ones.

Marc Guggenheim

I'm thrilled.  It's felt like the new era of digital comics was only halfway complete without DC's participation.

[On royalties]: I only know what DC has announced publicly, which was reiterated in an email Dan and Jim sent to creators, but something is always better than nothing, so without even knowing specifics, it's hard not to have a positive reaction.

[On the future]: I think such predictions are always dangerous and inevitably bound to be wrong. That having been said, if I had to guess, I'm imagining a world where certain publications are predominantly consumed digitally while others are predominantly distributed the soon-to-be-ol'-fashioned way. In other words, it'll be a mix.

Tony Akins

DC's announcing it's entry to the Digital Comic market via the iPad is good news in general...though I'm surprised they weren't on the this boat when it set sail.  Did they want to wait several months after the iPad had sold over two million units, each shipping with a Marvel app and library nicely bundled? Or were they really caught that unaware of the potential impact Apple would have on this market?  The question now is whether the DC app is a better performer than the Marvel app, which is a Comixology clone. Another question is, will the DC app be better than MY app?

As far as royalties go, it makes sense that creators should receive royalties on any sales of their work, whether digital or print. I'm interested to see how this affiliate program with the retailers is set up. There are many creators that have anticipated the Apple device, or a similar device...from , for years.  The iPad is a game changer and emancipator for many, many creators. The one concern we have had is the role that the retailer will play in this new market as the comic shop is the cultural center of the community.

I don't ever see the digital model being dominant in the comic field. 'Dominant' being the operative word. Print will always dominate, I hope. The iPad is the 'KindleKiller" yes, but even as sales of the iPad break three million (it took the Kindle many years to approach the numbers Apple will claim in several months), not every comic fan will have an iPad or its like. But the digital market will carve out its place. It will co-exist with the printed comic, one supporting the other. There will be titles that will exist solely in digital form and never have availability in hard form, and I imagine that these will thrive because of the easy access to the consumer digital books and comics enjoy. Nothing will ever be "unavailable" to the buyer.

Humberto Ramos

My answer is simple: Congrats to DC. Whatever makes the readers come closer to the comic books will of course help the whole industry.

Jerry Ordway

I think DC has always tried to make forward moves without undercutting the direct market, so clearly there was a lot of sensitivity to the comic stores in not doing something like this earlier. The huge popularity of the IPAD has to have forced the issue. With so much comic content already being passed around the internet, I am thrilled to hear that there will be a pay model launching.

I'm very much a creature of habit, and love the feel of reading a newspaper, comic or magazine printed on paper, but you can't ignore changes brought to us by technology. Comics emerged, leaving the pulp magazines in the dust. Newstands disappeared, and the comic stores picked up the slack, changing the business model  along the way. For the past few years, the rise of the IPhone and hand held devices gave comics a taste of what could be. Now with a decent sized screen, and a portable reader, it makes sense to try and sell comic material, without having to read from a one inch screen. I don't know what the royalty plan will be, but in my dealings with DC, they have always been fair in regards to royalties, and licensing fees. My hope is that this will not supplant the printed comics or collections, but market comics to folks not inclined to make a weekly pilgrimage to the comics store, or who are unaware that specialty stores exist.  The ITunes store is a great gateway to a new world, and hopefully a way for hardworking comic folk to make some income from our labors, past and present.

J.H. Williams III

I'm reserved on this until I see more information on how well this works for everybody.  I've only had a one-day notice that this was coming and being announced.  I do wish we had been informed of it before the fact of it much sooner.  But that said, I'm not surprised by this at all, that DC is making this move. All of us, the industry and community involved in comics knew this day would come. I had predictions of this change occurring in our industry years ago when I first saw Amazon's Kindle and guessed at the future progression of that technology. And now with Apple's iPad, it's more true than ever. So major comics publishers jumping into this makes a lot of sense from a business model view for them.

I really don't know the parameters of the royalty situation just yet, considering I didn't know about this until yesterday. DC has sent out letters that are supposed to detail the royalty structure. I just wish that they would have involved us in those decisions ahead of time, getting our input on what will best serve the people who work in this industry. I did receive an email pre-letter from Dan and Jim on the subject this morning where they are assuring that the royalty structure will be comparable to the print copies, but we'll see how true that is when the details come our way.

[On digital becoming the industry's dominant form of distribution]: It's really hard to say when this will occur or if it will occur at all. I do think that there is a strong chance that periodicals will go his direction but we'll see.  I could see that as a future for our industry, where periodicals become digital but then get collected into shelf worthy nice collectible printed books.   What this means for comics shops is that they would have to change their business models as well, becoming  exclusive graphic novel stores.  I know they are already in competition with chain book stores on this but I feel that comic shops could be in a unique position to offer much greater selection of content than the big bookstores do, purely out  of space allocation reasons.  The bookstores just will never have the full shelf space to provide properly for our industry, where the comic shops will be in position to specialize and dominate a graphic novel market, with periodicals being digested through digital avenues.  Another interesting thing about going digital is it may overtime force a higher quality of product to be produced in order to warrant strong printed book versions.  It will need to be material that people and fans will want to display proudly if we are to continue to have quality collectible forms of collected books of the serialized digital material. 

The future is going to be interesting.

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