|Hard copy of Artifact Rebirth alongside digital Artifacts FCBD #0 on cell phone.|
|Cover comparison: "real" vs. |
As I toy around with digital comics I get the same sinking feeling as I did with the "evolution" of music distribution. Yes, it is more expedient and does make titles previously difficult-to-find easily accessible. Yes, it does allow for the magnification of panels and covers without loss of resolution. Despite these benefits, I still can't however help but feel that in the trade-off something greater is being left behind with this transition to digital. Since buying a smart phone, I have been periodically looking at a variety of free comic downloads online using the Comixology app.
|Panel close-up of digital|
Admittedly, many of the experiential qualities ameliorated due to the transition to digital are personal. For me, what is lost in the experience is part of what made it so appealing to me 35(!) years ago when I picked it up. What it does not allow (at least in the same way practical comics do) is the ability for the artwork to tease your peripheral vision. Oddly enough, one of the most pleasurable sensory stimulants I associate with comic book collecting is gone as well: the smell. (Students laugh at me when I get a similar level of joy from the scent of old books--they just don't get it.) The acre and attentiveness necessary to collecting (bagging, boarding, but not bending) that is integral to the hobby is also rendered obsolete.
Though my sense of nostalgia runs deep, the Nook tablet I received as a gift this Christmas reminds me there is likely no going back. Now, even Barnes and Noble's offers some fairly deep cuts of comic book collections and (appealing to the hipster/youth market, I'm sure) a wide array of manga. In some ways, this digital accessibility could help solidify the comic book world's financial future.
I can see the appeal for those who unfortunately don't have a solid, reliable local comic shop (lcs) from which to obtain "real" versions of these materials on a weekly basis. Or other fans in the community in which they live to personally discusses the latest controversial heel reveal or no re-boot on New Comic Book Wednesday. For this reason, I welcome the technological advances as they help insure the continuation of the medium I love. I am not, however, looking forward to the day when traditional comic books go the way of vinyl: available for inflated prices (digital back "issues" are very reasonably priced) and relegated to only the most popular titles being available.