Note: iFanboy is owned by Graphicly, a digital comic book distributor.
Over the last few months, without really realizing it, I started buying my comics using some kind of crazy, tiered system. I’m like a bond trader with Wolverines all of a sudden. In the first tier were the books I faithfully bought Wednesday morning, the books I couldn’t wait to read. The second tier were books I got regularly via mail order; if you’re going to leave it sitting on the coffee table for a month anyway, might as well pay half price. Then there were the books I downloaded, typically whatever I forgot at the store or heard about too late.
Recently, I was checking my pull list against the mail order list to make sure I didn’t accidentally buy the same thing twice when it hit me: “Holy smokes. Trying to make things easier sure complicated things.”
Then, this week, I hit the tipping point.
Maybe I was a little under the weather. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep, or the sky was just a touch too gloomy. Whatever the reason, when I woke up on Wednesday morning, the ritual I normally looked forward to just seemed… irritating. I go to a wonderful shop, I’m friends with the staff there, and I can always count on a lively conversation about the week’s events, but that day the thought of schlepping all the way over there for X-Sanction or whatever felt like a date with the dentist’s drill.
“Ugh!” said I. “That thing I do for fun. Ugh. Screw it in the ear.”
Then I went over and picked up the iPad.
I know that everyone is going day-and-date digital “soon,” but I have been waiting for digital comics for so long and had Lucy yank the football away so often that in the back of my mind I always assume that the book I want is not going to be out there. I rarely even check. That day, I checked.
With two exceptions, Graphicly and comiXology had everything I needed.
I looked over at the stairs, at the pile of spent comics I needed to take up to my office, alphabetize, file, and shelve.
Those last two paper books were going to have to wait at the shop for a while. For the first time, I commenced downloading my entire pull list.
We’re there, kiddies! We finally got there. I will never have to get snow off of my driveway to find out what happened to Spider-Man again. I have missed something at the store and weakly thought, “Dammit, maybe it would be okay to pirate just this once” for the last time. Whether or not Locke and Key is sold out before I can get to the shop is completely irrelevant now.
If I sound like Christopher Columbus shouting, “You guys! There’s a country here!” while the natives look at him and say, “Y-yeah. We know. We’ve been here for kind of a while,” it’s only because I am having a hard time getting this to sink in. I have been shaking my fist at the heavens and pleading for comics to join us in the twenty-first century since before I even had this forum for inflicting my whines on others. There have been so many false starts and unfulfilled promises along the way that I sort of gave up on following the progress. There’s nothing like having it finally happen to make you realize, “Oh, I guess part of me never believed this was actually going to happen.”
I am happier with this than I ever imagined possible. It’s everything I wanted it to be, plus a few more things that hadn’t occurred to me.
Now, what do I do next week?
As retailers have fretted all along, going digital could mean breaking up with my shop. I always brushed that concern aside, thinking, “Whatever. I’ll deal with that if the day ever comes.” Well, here’s that day you were asking about. What now?
Like I said, the store I frequent is great; I drive past a much closer store just to shop there, because they’re pros who care about what they’re doing and always keep a well-stocked shelf. Even as immersed as I am in day-to-day comics doings, they still manage to turn me on to new stuff I would have missed otherwise. For all those reasons, I imagine I’ll still shop there even though I don’t “have” to. It’s a welcoming shop full of like-minded friendly faces where everybody knows my name. There’s not an app for that.
Now, that much closer store I drive past? They’re in trouble. That’s one of those shops where it looks (and smells) like the guy transplanted his mom’s basement into a strip mall. That’s a place where, every time I shop, the guy eyeballs me like I’m going through his stuff. That’s a place where, half of the times I’ve been there, there’s been a “BACK IN 15″ sign taped to the locked door in the middle of a Wednesday. Digital comics are going to kill that store, and no one is going to go to the funeral.
Comic shops are not spotted owls; it is not my job to protect them and keep them alive. It is their job to stay in business by proving they deserve it, and a number of shops in my town handily do just that. For those who aren’t so lucky, now there’s one more venue for getting their hands on what they want. Now that Digital Day has dawned, I’m going to exercise the hell out of that option, but they’ll still see me around the store. And I’ll be in a better mood.
If you find yourself saying, “Ugh! That thing I do for fun,” ask your doctor about Zoloft today, or try following Jim Mrockowski on Twitter.