Mark Millar Says Despite Strong Digital Sales, Keep Buying Paper Comics


Over on the Millarword Forums, Mark Millar has made a very interesting post about the profitability, or lack thereof, of digital comics. Now, I don’t always see eye to eye with Millar on everything, but you should all go and read his post, because the man makes some very good points.

I find Millar’s opinion particularly interesting here, because, as revealed by comixology’s digital download charts for 2010 (see here), Millar took 8 of the top 10 spots for paid comic downloads. Therefore, you’d think that he’d be raking it in right? Not the case, as Millar clears up in his post:

Okay, I’m loving the fact that Millarworld books account for 8 of the top 10 downloads in 2010. That’s cool, but what superficially looks like a great deal for creators is less so under a little scrutiny. Yes, you’re eliminating paper, printing, comic store and distributor costs, but there’s hidden costs here I haven’t seen highlighted anywhere.

1/ Apple take 30% right off the bat.
2/ In the case of Wanted, Comixology then splits 50/50 with the publisher.
3/ Then the publisher pays the agent and creative team out of the remaining cash depending on their deal.

In hard numbers, the digital comic is normally half the price of the paper comic, but you have just as many percentages to pay out as a creative team to an electronic distributor and publisher. So effectively the creative team is getting half as much money. For creators, this isn’t great and for comic stores this is awful. I don’t mind paying thirty percent to a local store where my friends work and the guys care about the product. But do I want this money going to Apple?

In a nutshell, I’m very, very on the fence with this one. I don’t like the idea of digital replacing paper anyway, but unless sales more than double creators are going to be worse off and the lifeblood of the industry, the stores, are going to feel the pain more than anyone. Y’know, like, the guys who keep us in business? I know lots of stores who weather the economic busts we face periodically because they love comics and will always stick around. Would Apple do the same?

Also, and perhaps the most worrying question of all, how do we know what we’re selling? It’s quite hard to fake what comics are doing as you can check with the printers, distributors and a number of places. Official, quite accurate numbers are printed online. But I checked several sources last night and nobody could tell me what my download numbers were for these supposed record-breaking numbers of mine. Just their chart position. I’m really not liking this at all.

In other words, keep buying paper comics.

What becomes immediately obvious to me is that there are way too many middlemen involved here, and they all want a big slice of the pie. To be honest, it’s always this way, with the original artist being left with only the crumbs from the table. That’s not to say it’s right though. I’m also very much with Millar in the fact that I’d much rather that 30% go to the local comic shop than to Apple. My local comic shop has been very good to me over the years, and I’m pretty friendly with the guys there. Apple however, not so much.

Maybe I’m a just a curmudgeon, but I’m very resistant to the big digital comics push that seems to be going on right now. I’d much rather spend an extra dollar to get a physical copy of a comic, which I can hold in my hands and read, and not have to read on my computer or iPhone screen. I don’t think I’ve ever downloaded a comic that was available both in digital and physical formats. Now, digital only comics, that’s a completely different story…

One other point of interest is that you should all take a look at look at Dark Horse’s new digital app. They are cutting ComiXology out of the loop, and developing their own app, which allows them to sell the comics for cheaper, and give more back to the creators! Read about it here.

Related posts:

  1. DC Comics Launches its Official Digital Comics Store!
  2. Mark Millar Announces UK Based Kapow! Comic Con
  3. Mark Millar Promotes CLiNT Magazine, and Dumps on 2000 AD!!
  4. Mark Millar Auctions off the Role of the Villain in Nemesis!
  5. Mark Millar and Dynamic Forces Announce Nemesis Charity Auction

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