The iPad Saves Superman?

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and The Flash are all starting over. So what better time to go all in on digital comic books?

On Wednesday (Aug. 31), DC Comics is relaunching all 52 of its comic series as part of a massive effort to jolt sales and renew interest in its heros — by making them accessible to more folks. So instead of having to jump into Superman with the feeling that you’re missing decades of backstory, fans can pick up a new version of issue #1 and start from the beginning.
DC is using the rollout of “The New 52” to push its migration from paper to digital. In conjunction with the launch, all 52 of the company’s comics are now available each Wednesday to tabet users, the same day they hit stores.
Previously, in the short history of iPad comics, not every title has been available, and there was a significant lag for many issues, as DC was perhaps worried about cannibalizing its bread and butter: visits to the comic book store. Execs at DC are watching the growth of their digital business with a careful eye. The last thing they want is to accelerate digital adoption by urging thousands of comic fans to ditch print. But according to DC’s svp of digital, Hank Kanalz, cannibalization has not proven not to be something to worry about.
“We started testing this with a few titles and what we’ve found is that it’s been very additive,” said Kanalz. “What we heard anecdotally is that people have been coming into comic book stores and buying more titles and asking about digital delivery. So we decided to jump in feet first.”
DC starting selling comics via the iPad last June with about 100 issues. There are now roughly 4,000 available, with plans in motion to make all 75 years of the company’s publishing output available at some point.
Now, whatever you can get in the comic book store you can get on your tablet. With same-day digital delivery and the momentum behind “The New 52,” Kanalz is confident:  “This is a great jumping off point for digital.”
Can the new availability widen the audience for comics? “I really think so,” Kanalz added. “If everyone in our audience simply shifts to digital, that’s great too. But I think we can attract more people.”
Besides helping potential buyers avoid the nerd-on visit to the local comic store, digital versions of DC’s books offer extras that may appeal to more readers, such as a touch-screen-enabled zoom feature that brings comics’ artwork more to life and DVD-esque bonus material, like a view into the making of a particular issue.
More bells and whistles are coming. Maybe even video — providing it’s cost-effective and drives more readership, said Kanalz. The hope is that digital comics will also appeal to a broader swath of big brands, which might never touch old-school, cheap paper digests, no matter how much of a bad ass Batman is.
Already, DC has seen brands like Warner Bros. “The Green Lantern” movie running video ads this summer. And DC has tested giving away some free digital issues courtesy of sponsors like Converse and NBC.
Expect more along those lines as digital readership grows. Kanalz won’t reveal numbers but says that each month has seen double-digit growth. “We’re experimenting with different ways to bring in more sponsors,” he said. “There are a lot of different ways we can bring in new business and break new categories. We’re being very creative.”
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