Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Digital Comics, Ultimate Spider-Man & Just Noticable Difference

Wow. So nobody likes Canberra, huh?According to Blogger, no one has even viewed that post. Okay. Point taken. Let's talk about digital comics.

I mentioned in my iPad post that I've got several comics apps installed (Marvel, Image, Comixology, ComicsZeal). And I like them. I've grabbed all the free content I can. Digital comics is one field where I can call myself an early adopter, because in late 2000, as a starving (but still somehow slightly fat) general arts student living in the dorms at the University of Ottawa, I did what many university students tend to do with their sudden free evenings and cost-included 256k broadband connection: I used the Internet to connect with the topics of my childhood. I researched old TV shows, I downloaded songs, I researched episode guides (this was pre-Wikipedia, so a lot of trawling was required), and absorbed as much knowledge as I could. One of these areas was comics, specifically X-Men comics. My relationships with comics at that point had been sporadic at best. It's a whole 'nother post about how I could never afford comics, so the few issues I had were gems to be read and reread compulsively, and at one point I would hang around a comic store reading stuff off the shelf (i read the entire Clone Saga that way) and buying old Handbooks to the Marvel Universe (making a binder with all the information). So anyway, Internet. I read what equated to the whole marvel encyclopedia, and met people who could discuss it with me. And as often happens with me, I retains just about everything I read. My Spanish is only barely passable despite multiple years of learning, but I can tell you the names of the Morlocks killed in the Massacre, and how the editor didn't like X-Man and made him a freaky shaman. Then killed him. But I was talking about digital comics.

Marvel at the time tried something groundbreaking. They set up a digital comics reader on their website. It was a launched app that allowed you to download titles as they were released. For free. It was their DotComics launch, and the launch titles were Ultimate Spider-Man, The Ultimates, Ultimate X-Men, and a few random Spider-Man & X-Men issues (the death of Colossus, which made me cry, and the Spider-Man 9/11 issue, which flattened me, and the Spider-totem arc, which I liked). But really it was the Ultimate titles I devoured whole. It was the first 6 or 7 trades of USM and UXM, and the first volume of Ultimates. I loved them, despite not knowing who Brian Michael Bendis or Mark Millard were, and years later, when I had some money in Australia, they were the first comic books I began collecting in trade format. Like the modern apps, DotComics was a directed experience, with panels expanding and moving to tell the story.

Imagine my joy that now, after my full metamorphosis into a comic nut, I can get that same experience on a portable platform.

Now here's the rub.

Recently, I've gone off Ultimate Comics in general. The Ultimatum event exhausted me with casual killing off of half the cast, Ultimates 3 was terrible, the first 4-5 Ultimate Fantastic 4 trades were great, but art issues and some of the sillier villains put me off (Diablo, anyone?), and though Robert Kirkman is an amazing writer, Ultimate X-Men started simply rehashing stories from the 90s mainstream books.

So when I heard that Bendis is restarting Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man at #1 with a new Spider-Man, no Peter Parker, and that Ultimate Comics: X-men was also starting over with some of the supporting characters from the Ultimate Universe, I was excited. Totally Rad Show gave both issues great reviews, and I was more excited for these two single issues than any for a while. Knowing it'll be months before a trade comes out, I think, for the first time in a while, that I should go buy the issues. Two things stopped me. One, Australian comics retailers sell comics issues for anywhere from $7.50-9.00, which has always stopped me, as I can read an issue in about 8 minutes (a talent I honed reading comics before getting kicked out of the shop), so that's a bunch of money for something quick (insert innuendo here. Heh. Insert). Two, since these number ones are Kind Of A Big Deal, they may not even HAVE any LEFT for me to blow 9 bucks on.

Wait a moment! My computing device! Surely I can purchase these gems for that! And it's true. I can.

For $5.50 an issue.

Now, I could just be spoiled by the iTunes App store pricing model (where your average transaction is $0.99-2.99), or the fact that issues of older comics are $1.99-2.99, but for me, $5.50 an issue hits that button where I think it's too much. Call it Just Noticable Difference or Lowest Noticable Difference or whatever buyer behaviour term you want, it's high enough to make me consider it more than a passive "yeah, I'll just buy that" purchase. Now I know why they've done it: they don't want to undercut in-comic-store sales.

But it still sucks. I might wait for the trade, or see when it drops in price.

Because I'm cheap.

Proxy Champignon,
Master of Brainthinking

1 comment:

Dooga said...

I was a massive comic book geek during the Dark Ages and I also wasn't a very discriminating buyer. I don't know at what point I stopped buying them regularly, but I think it was around the time of DotComics. Sometimes I will pick up a trade in Kinokuniya (or read the ones you lend me) but that's about it these days. If I had an iPad I think this would change though.

Oh and I read your Canberra post in Google Reader. It probably doesn't count towards your traffic.