In the new digital comics, every hit brings a surprise

Mr. Waid’s foray into the digital realm was, in part, a response to the expense and difficulties faced by creators looking to stand out in comics. “Comic book printing costs have now skyrocketed very quickly to the point where it is not possible for small press comics,” he said. Thrillbent’s soap operas include “Insufferable”, starring artist Peter Krause, about a bossy sidekick. It complements Mr. Waid’s print series, “Irredeemable” and “Incorruptible,” about a hero who becomes a villain and a villain who wants to change.

Mr Waid said digital comics require new skills, especially when it comes to pacing and presentation. “With a printed comic, the only place I can surprise you as a reader is the upper left corner,” he said, referring to the narrative opportunity presented with each turn of the page when the eye moves to the top panel. “With digital, I can surprise you at every turn of the page. “

ComiXology, a digital distributor, is like the iTunes of comics. Founded in 2007 with a handful of employees, the company released its first digital comic two years later: Atomic Robo, from publisher Red 5. It now has 50 employees and more than 23,000 titles in its library, with approximately 300 comics added each week from seven of the top 10 publishers in the industry.

On a recent visit to the company’s headquarters in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, most employees were in front of their computers tackling the technical and creative challenges of transforming printed comics into digital comics. The goal of comiXology is “to create the best possible reading experience and to do so in a way that does not interfere with the printing program,” said David Steinberger, chief executive of the company. The comiXology app even includes a retail search tool for all readers who want to purchase a print edition.

“It’s all about availability,” said Steinberger. “There are a lot of places you don’t have a comic book store within an 80 mile radius in the United States. “

Mr Steinberger said a significant digital milestone was taken last September, when DC reintroduced all of its main characters, including Superman and Batman, with new series (all starting at number 1) in both print and digital formats; they were available for digital purchase the same day each printed issue arrived in comic book stores. Before that, most comic book publishers had only tested limited digital distribution.

DC Comics also offers new weekly digital comics before they become available in print, many of which are aimed at non-traditional readers. “We have different content every day aimed at a slightly different consumer,” said Jim Lee, the DC Comics co-editor who oversees digital efforts.

Online comic book promoters say readers will benefit greatly from digital and print collaboration. Marvel’s Mr. Alonso envisioned the lesser-selling print series surviving as digital-only comics. Mr Waid says he believes one medium can help the other. “Digital can be a gateway to physical stores for what they do well: a full stock and a human face to give recommendations. “

Lisa M. Horner