JL: GENERATION LOST: The Future of DC's DIGITAL Strategy?

"Generation Lost" took on a whole new meaning today.

With the digital comic's release, a generation of paper comic readers were forced to consider the medium's future.

As DC Comics announced Wednesday morning, the bi-weekly Justice League: Generation Lost is the first DC title to be offered digitally on the same day as its print release.

Beginning today, Generation Lost will hit comic book stores every two weeks for $2.99, but digital readers can download it that same day for the same price.

According to Co-Publisher Jim Lee, the hope for Generation Lost is not that everyone will suddenly switch to reading it digitally, but that the added attention and potential digital sampling will increase sales across the board.

"Anytime you put focus on something and put it in front of more eyeballs, the better your marketing is, the better you're promoting it," Lee told Newsarama earlier today. "The fact that Generation Lost has been singled out and been elevated for this should get more fans talking about it, and get new fans talking about it. You can't help but see it's going to drive interest and attention to that title, not only in the digital space. I think you're going to see a bump up in the print side as well."

Writer Judd Winick said the series' creative team was thrilled to be the first comic DC chose for a so-called "day-and-date" digital release.

"I speak for everyone on 'the team' of Justice League: Generation Lost (and there are a lot of us) when I say that we're all very honored and thrilled that DC has chosen our title as the first ongoing series to premiere both in print and digitally," Winick told Newsarama. "It is both a vote of confidence in the work we're doing and the story we're telling, as well as an exciting opportunity to reach new readers. We're all seriously jazzed."

Of course, some of that excitement could be influenced by the other part of DC's announcement today — that the publisher would pay royalties to creators for sales of digital comics they created.

"I know people are very curious about the royalties," Winick said, "but suffice it to say, I'm quite pleased with it."

The title is on its fourth issue, which is out in stores this week, and Generation Lost #4 is already being offered as part of the digital rollout on the new DC Comics app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. The first three issues are also available at $1.99 per issue.

Winick, who writes Generation Lost from story breakdowns by Keith Giffen, said he had been talking with DC about the possibility of the title becoming a "day-and-date" digital release for the last few weeks. "We got the official word just before the announcement," he said.

The title, which features art by Aaron Lopresti, Joe Bennett and Fernando Dagnino, is a year-long comic that ships every two weeks. It focuses on characters from the Justice League International as they work to unravel a diabolical plot by the recently resurrected villain Max Lord.

While DC executives cited the mainstream recognition of "Justice League" as influencing the title's selection for digital, Winick said he thinks the story's fast-paced story structure is also ideal for a digital outlet.

"As I've said before, Justice League: Generation Lost is a long form, serialized story. We're not doing arcs; this bad boy reads like a book. One chapter at a time, one foot following the other," Winick said. "I think digitally, we're capturing the immediacy of the story, further underlined by the the fact that we're coming out bi-weekly. We're doing a lot of story that comes to reader faster than a standard monthly. It's a great fit for Gen Lost."

With today's digital release of Generation Lost #4, DC has stolen some of Marvel's thunder. Marvel recently announced it would be the first major publisher to attempt a day-and-date release with next week's Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 by writer Matt Fraction and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico.

Yet no matter which title comes first, the decision by both companies to test the digital waters for the first time this month has many fans wondering how this will affect comic book stores.

Joe Field, president of the retailer organization COMICSPro, said he's interested in seeing how the digital releases affect his sales — and he's not convinced the effect will necessarily be negative.

"We are in a period where retailers are trying to decipher whether these things have an instant material effect in our bottom-line sales," Field told Newsarama today. "But in much the same mode of the old adage that says that 'all publicity is good publicity,' hopefully the publicity that's being put on these two day-and-date titles — Justice League: Generation Lost and Iron Man Annual — will lead people to wanting to check them out in print as well. That remains to be seen.

While there was discussion on the retailer-driven Comic Book Industry Alliance boards about returnability, DC has not yet formally announced the issues will be returnable. But Field said he's not expecting lower sales.

"I'm not going to cut off my nose and spite my face by cutting my orders on these titles without actually seeing that sales are going down because of digital," he said. "I don't see that yet. So I'm going to stock these comics the way that I believe that I'll be able to sell them, and whether they're available digitally or not doesn't play into that at this point."

Winick thinks digital can benefit print sales because he saw it first-hand, when he and his former college roommate, author Brad Meltzer, bought an iPad. "[We] bought an iPad for our best friend Noah, who, to say the least, is an avid comic reader -- in other words, a hardcore fanboy," Winick said. "Noah has been continuing to buy his comics in his comics shop as always, but began downloading comics that he was curious about. The ones he dug are now on his pull list. And some, he's just kept downloading. So, second hand, we've seen how digitally an old school reader went digital, but still stayed in the old school. He's doing both."

Winick added that he's not afraid of digital as a creator either, because when he was in art school in the late '80s and early '90s, computers were just being introduced into design work and people were scared of how they might impact artists. "Truly, it was still all about Exacto knives and paper back then, and everyone was terrified about what computers would mean," Winick said. "Our design professor said something that stuck with me: 'Computers are just tools. The computers are never going to make art. You guys are.'

"Similarly, we storytellers are always going to tell stories, regardless of the delivery system," he said. "Most of us are drawing on, with, or utilizing computers in the creation of the stories. It's just a natural extension with the advent of better 'readers,' computers that we can get the stories out there, that we're making the next jump.

"And it's a thrill to know that these characters — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, as well as Booster Gold, Captain Atom, and Blue Beetle — who were created long ago will have new life in different forms. But still, it's all about stories."

More on DC Digital:

<li> Poll: DIGITAL COMICS & YOU: Does DC Make A Difference?

<li> Comic Creators Respond to DC DIGITAL COMICS Plans

What titles do you want to see go digital?


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