Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Talking to Comics "Pirates"

(Cover to EC’s Piracy #1 by Wally Wood.)


For those of you who have been directed here from elsewhere and thus new to this blog and this company, hello and welcome. My name is Fred Van Lente, and among the many comics I write for Marvel, I am also writing a comic book history of the comic book industry called COMIC BOOK COMICS, illustrated by Mr. Ryan Dunlavey.

In our next issue, “The Future of Comics,” we’re looking at, among other things, the history of what’s commonly called the Direct Market (i.e. “comics shops”) and the challenge posed to it by digital distribution, both the legal kind and the less-than-legal kind: What’s commonly called “piracy,” though I know that’s a controversial term for some.


After some initial conversations on this topic with the fine folks on my Twitter feed, my Tweep @Delduwath sent me a link to “Talking to Pirates,” in which game designer Cliff Harris asked for folks who pirated his games to write in and tell him why.


The results were a fascinating read, and I thought I’d issue a similar call for folks who read scanned-in free comics: The industry and the press demonizes you a lot, and I want to hear your side of the story.

I’m not going to BS you, I am against comics “piracy” myself for a variety of reasons, but I’m not trying to pick a fight or start a flamewar. I just want to hear alternate points of view:

* Why do you read free, scanned-in comics? (Or did you used to, and if you stopped, why did you?)
* Do you avoid DRM sites like Comixology or the Company-specific apps, and if so, why?
* What do you think the comics industry could be doing better to get your business (if anything)?
* Comics piracy is often cited as a reason for declining sales – do you agree with this?


Please feel free to respond in the Comments section of this blog post or email us at pirates@eviltwincomics.com. Your responses will remain ANONYMOUS. I am doing this solely as an independent writer, researcher and historian. I am not a stooge for any publisher, video game producer or record label. I will not store your contact information even if you choose to share it with me, and I will definitely not share your identity with any third parties, corporate, government or individual.


I will summarize what you tell me in a future blog post, and use that summary as part of our upcoming story in Comic Book Comics #6 story, which is optimistically entitled “No More Wednesdays.”

34 comments:

Rick said...

I read pirated single issues because there exists no proper comic shop in a good distance of where I live.

I do try to buy Trades of everything that I read that I enjoy, because I feel that anything worth reading that ends up being good is worth reading again.

I usually use Piracy as a litmus test for future purchases.

Anonymous said...

I read comics that I'm interested in but not enough to buy. A lot of times a series looks promising but after buying trades that I really didn't like, it's easier to test out the series by downloading it rather than buying it at a store. I also look up issues for series that I can't find. If I can find 1-5 and 8-12 at my comic shop but the remaining issues no where else in my area, it's easier to download them. A lot of times, if I really enjoy the comics, I end up buying them when I have the funds either at cons or from my shop but really, I only download things I wouldn't buy anyway i.e. if I didn't download to read them, I wouldn't bother to read them. There's a lot of things I have that lI've been told to read, so I downloaded them, but still haven't read yet just because the interest isn't really there.

I don't think downloading is killing the industry because comic fans are really passionate about their books and I think a lot of them enjoy HAVING the comics, rather than a file on their computer. Pirating seems to be used as a test run, at least for me, for new series or, like I said, filling in the gaps of a larger collection when there's no access to a bigger library.

Anonymous said...

I read pirated single issues through torrents. But I make up for it by buying lots of
trades, hardcovers, and omnibuses of the comics I read digitally. Individual comics take up too much space, in my opinion. I collected comics weekly for 3 years, and amassed 3 long boxes worth of single issues. Those take up a lot of space. Collecting single issues on a regular basis for longer would just take up too much space in my house. If Marvel and DC kept up with current issues on comiXology and Graphicly I would buy them there. But they rarely do. It's mostly 6 month old back issues and older. Which is good. I love reading older comic runs. But I would be more than willing to pay 1.99 an issue for current comics every Wednesday on a digital service.

geosray said...

Never read a whole issue from a scan. Panels here and there yes. I'm subscribed to MDCU and if there's an issue that's not digitized that I want to read, [shrugs shoulders]. I do use digital comics for making message board avatars because of the high resolution and quality.

Somtimes a digital comic becomes so enjoyable that I buy the trade it's in

Anonymous said...

Hard times. I can't afford my beloved comic books right now. Supporting my family comes first. This was a very difficult decision to come to, as I am against taking food off a writer and artist's table, but I just couldn't walk away from the stories/characters/series that I love. I don't know. Maybe it's selfish. I just hope that my one downloaded copy doesn't cause a series I love to be cancelled.

Matthew J. Brady said...

I used to read pirated comics, but I don't any more, for various reasons. When I did read them, it was probably because of finances, since at the time I had less money to go toward purchases like comics, but the ease of finding free reading material was also nice, as was the possibility of catching up on years of unread comics. I used to justify the piracy by equating it to a library, in which I would read books for "free" that I wasn't really interested in owning, but I've heard arguments that have changed my mind.

The reasons I've stopped reading pirated comics are multifold, with the main ones being moral (in that I prefer to support the artists I like), financial (I can afford to buy the comics I want to read, or get them from a public library if I don't want to spend the money), time (I have enough physical comics to read that I don't need to download more), and hassle (it would honestly not really be worth the effort to figure out how and where to download the files, then wade through which ones are valid and avoid any resulting spam or viruses that came with them; I don't have the time or energy for that sort of thing anymore).

The one area where I don't think piracy is bad is when it is the only way to find works that are in legal limbo and unlikely to be reprinted, like Miracleman, Flex Mentallo (which is supposedly being collected, yay!), or Air Pirates, or underground-type stuff that is too rare or expensive to get elsewhere.

I do use Comixology and other digital platforms when available, and they are definitely preferable to illicit downloads. I would greatly prefer to find a way to give money to the artists when reading comics on a computer or mobile device.

Eric Garneau said...

I apologize in advance for the lengthiness of this. It's a complicated issue, IMO, and it's very cool of you guys to tackle it. In my case, anonymity is not needed; I have no problems defending my actions publicly.

This discussion is especially germane for me as I'm a former comics retailer and still an avid comics buyer. I spend $100 a month or more on the industry, and I do it proudly.

That said, from time to time I also pirate. It basically breaks down into 3 categories:

1) I own the physical copies, but want something more portable. For instance, I recently reread all of Sweet Tooth over a weekend vacation. Instead of stuffing 19 comics in my suitcase, I downloaded 19 CBRs and put them on my iPad. This hardly seems like thievery to me... it's merely a shortcut, and truthfully I really don't see the problem with it.

2) I really need to read a certain back issue that isn't collected and would cost far too much to buy. Ex: in recently researching the 50s/60s Batman stories that inspired Grant Morrison, I read about a comic from 1953 that wasn't collected in "The Black Casebook" trade (which I own). eBay would've had me paying over $100 a copy for it, so I just found a torrent and downloaded it (that particular issue only BTW). Realistically, the back issue market is mostly dead, and I don't see the harm in this. If I really wanted to own the physical copy, I'd buy it. Similarly, if DC'd had it digitized, I would have paid $1.99.

3) The most wrong, in my opinion, but very rarely I will do it: if I want to try out a new series, but don't feel like spending $3.99, I'll pirate a CBR of the first issue. I recently did so with FF #1. I liked it, but not enough to continue reading, and so my piracy stops there. Although my actions certainly constitute theft, I want to point out that again, I WOULD have paid $1.99 if Marvel'd had it in their digital store (I realize that's a contentious point for retailers). I also think comic shop owners should think about instituting some kind of no-commitment buying policies on first issues. Like, if I pay $4 for a book and don't like it, I can bring it back the next week for ANOTHER $4 book (provided it's in good condition).

Anonymous said...

I am currently unemployed, though when I had a job I had a pull list at my local comic store of the writers and artists I wished to support.
The other reason I pirate is for back issues that have not been collected and which my comic book store doesn't have in their back issue bin or that my finances do not allow me to purchase at the time.
Still, when my finances do allow I do by floppy issues. I do buy trades. I do buy digital comics. I support writers and artists in the industry whose work I like.

Delduwath said...

The aforementioned @Delduwath, here. This is going to be super-long, so be warned. So long, in fact, that I had to split it into two comments. M condolences to those who go through with reading it.

(Part1)

I used to download scanned comics pretty heavily when I was in college. For the most part, it was because (1) I didn't really have an income, and (2) I didn't know what was what in the comic book world. I was able to read entire series that I wouldn't be able to afford - and, in many cases, wouldn't be able to find - otherwise. Now I can get The Maxx in trades, but that wasn't the case back then, for example.

Then, at one point, I picked up issue #4 or #5 of Cable & Deadpool. That wasn't the first comic that I bought, but it was the comic that set me down the path of buying comics regularly. The amount of comics that I buy has increased steadily - I now have four full shelves of trades (including some of the fancier, higher-pricepoint stuff, like the Starman Omnibuses and Absolute Sandman), enough trades lying around to fill another shelf, and four shortboxes and one longbox of single issues. So, I don't feel like I've short-changed the comic book industry. I buy at least one comic each week (although I'm trying desperately to rein myself in - money is one reason, but lack of space to store this stuff is an even bigger reason), and for some of them I'm trying to switch to trades.

I've since stopped downloading scanned comics completely. There's a number of factors. In no real order,
1) Subject familiarity. I have read enough comics that I now know what exists, what to expect, and what I like. I also started frequenting a comic book forum a few years ago; that serves as a great way to expand my knowledge and tastes, as well. I've used scanned comics as a sort of sampler and primer, but now am savvy enough to know what's up. Furthermore, now that I'm knee-deep in the comic book community, I know that I can use scanned previews and forum discussions to gauge if I'd like a comic or not; before, I didn't know where to look for this kind of thing.
2) Creator familiarity. I now know enough about creators I like that I can buy comics based purely on name recognition, and feel confident about the purchases. I realize that if creators are paid for the work they create, they can create more of it. From a purely selfish point of view, buying things means that more things like that will be created.
3) Creator humanity. I follow a bunch of my favorite creators on Twitter. I've shaken hands with them at conventions. They're not faceless drones anymore, they're people. It's a lot harder to deprive a person of income when they're just a name on paper. I'm in a position to financially support the creators I like, and that sounds like a good plan to me.
4) Time. They say that the young are time-rich and money-poor, while the old are money-rich and time-poor. I'm finding that to be pretty accurate. I don't have the time or the desire to scour the web for teh scanz anymore; it's a lot easier and ultimately cheaper to go to a store and buy some comics.

I've purchased hard copies of most of the comics that I've previously downloaded. Not all, I won't lie - some of the things I downloaded ended up being terrible, and some ended up just being not for me. I've also been introduced to many writer through scans, writers whose entire back-catalogs I've since purchased.

Delduwath said...

(Delduwath's long-ass rant - Part 2)

In the to-do list in my head, there's an item far down that says "Get digital backups of every comic I own". This is partially for backup purposes, partially for portability purposes (if I'm traveling, I can take 100 scanned comics with me with ease), partially because sometimes, I just like to read comics on the computer. I know that I can buy digital versions of at least some of the comics I have, but I feel like it's not unreasonable not to do that - I've already bought the (fairly expensive) singles, I'm not convinced that I need to pay again to get digital copies of them. If buying the hard copy of a comic gave me a free scanned version of it, that would straight-up be a dream come true.

I haven't researched ComiXology and its ilk yet, so don't have much to offer there. As I understand it, they are DRM-protected, and I'm staunchly anti-DRM (but that's sort of a separate discussion). If I could just pay some money and get a plain CBR/CBZ file with no DRM on it, I would absolutely partake of that at least to some extent.

The comic book industry already has my business, but there are definitely ways to improve my quality-of-life. Obviously, reducing prices would be great. $4 for 22 pages of comic is quite a bit of change. Even $3 hurts, sometimes - especially in those cases when the story is super-decompressed (and I get one page's worth of content per issue), or when the comic ends up not being so great. Getting out trades faster would be amazing. Marvel already does a great job collecting singles, but I still wish the trades came out closer to the actual date that the collected story-arc concluded. Why not put the paperback out first, and then the hardcover? Would you really lose so much money on hardcover sales by doing it that way? As for DC, they take forever to get a trade out - if they even do it.

I'm not convinced that piracy is killing the comic book industry. The notion that EVERY download is a lost sale is insane. Absolutely, SOME downloads are lost sales, but personal experience suggests that the majority of downloaded things are downloaded "just because". It's easy to grab them, so why not? There have been plenty of comics that I was curious about, but never would have bought. For free, though? Yeah, I'd check them out. What's killing the industry for me is bad writing, bad art, bad business practices. Why is there so much senseless violence, blood, rape, gore, darkness in so many comics? Why are there straight-up tracers employed as artists? Why are critically-panned writers still writing the same bad stories over and over? Why are comic book publishers content with keeping comics such an impenetrable, niche hobby? Why do people have to hunt down obscure specialty stores to get into comics? It's like, you can't fall into comics by chance, you can only become a comic book fan if you are already a comic book fan. Why isn't there an all-ages version of Spider-Man sitting in every single pharmacy, grocery, clothing store? I was so bored when I had to go shopping with my parents when I was a kid; if there were comics around, you bet I would have clung to them like a lifeline. That's what I used to do back when there were still Genovese Drug Stores around; my parents would shop, and I'd read Spidey comics (that's actually where my first comics came from). Why didn't people who went to see Iron Man get a free Iron Man comics with their ticket? I'm sure it would have attracted some new readers.

I'm sorry, this turned into a bit of a rant. My apologies. I think the comic book industry can be healthier by focusing on writing great stories, putting them in the hands of as many people as they can (which means making them easier to find and easier to buy), building personal connections with their readers, and by not wasting their time worrying about people who-may-or-may-not have bought a comic if they couldn't download it.

Delduwath said...

Hm. Looks like the first part of my very long response didn't show up. I guess I'll wait to see if it shows up, and re-post it if it doesn't?

Delduwath said...

Here's Part 1 of my long response, which seemed to fall through the cracks when I posted it earlier.

(Part1)

I used to download scanned comics pretty heavily when I was in college. For the most part, it was because (1) I didn't really have an income, and (2) I didn't know what was what in the comic book world. I was able to read entire series that I wouldn't be able to afford - and, in many cases, wouldn't be able to find - otherwise. Now I can get The Maxx in trades, but that wasn't the case back then, for example.

Then, at one point, I picked up issue #4 or #5 of Cable & Deadpool. That wasn't the first comic that I bought, but it was the comic that set me down the path of buying comics regularly. The amount of comics that I buy has increased steadily - I now have four full shelves of trades (including some of the fancier, higher-pricepoint stuff, like the Starman Omnibuses and Absolute Sandman), enough trades lying around to fill another shelf, and four shortboxes and one longbox of single issues. So, I don't feel like I've short-changed the comic book industry. I buy at least one comic each week (although I'm trying desperately to rein myself in - money is one reason, but lack of space to store this stuff is an even bigger reason), and for some of them I'm trying to switch to trades.

I've since stopped downloading scanned comics completely. There's a number of factors. In no real order,
1) Subject familiarity. I have read enough comics that I now know what exists, what to expect, and what I like. I also started frequenting a comic book forum a few years ago; that serves as a great way to expand my knowledge and tastes, as well. I've used scanned comics as a sort of sampler and primer, but now am savvy enough to know what's up. Furthermore, now that I'm knee-deep in the comic book community, I know that I can use scanned previews and forum discussions to gauge if I'd like a comic or not; before, I didn't know where to look for this kind of thing.
2) Creator familiarity. I now know enough about creators I like that I can buy comics based purely on name recognition, and feel confident about the purchases. I realize that if creators are paid for the work they create, they can create more of it. From a purely selfish point of view, buying things means that more things like that will be created.
3) Creator humanity. I follow a bunch of my favorite creators on Twitter. I've shaken hands with them at conventions. They're not faceless drones anymore, they're people. It's a lot harder to deprive a person of income when they're just a name on paper. I'm in a position to financially support the creators I like, and that sounds like a good plan to me.
4) Time. They say that the young are time-rich and money-poor, while the old are money-rich and time-poor. I'm finding that to be pretty accurate. I don't have the time or the desire to scour the web for teh scanz anymore; it's a lot easier and ultimately cheaper to go to a store and buy some comics.

I've purchased hard copies of most of the comics that I've previously downloaded. Not all, I won't lie - some of the things I downloaded ended up being terrible, and some ended up just being not for me. I've also been introduced to many writer through scans, writers whose entire back-catalogs I've since purchased.

Anonymous said...

Wait, you have to pay for comics?

Anonymous said...

I used to pirate a lot, but since getting a part-time job I buy pretty much all my comics, and am slowly working backwards to get trades of what I have read pirated.

The only time I would pirate now is for a first issue of a series that I'm very unsure if I'd want, as a test. But that's only if I can't find a free preview on comic book resources.

However I steadfastly believe that I should not pay for digital media. Unless there is a physical copy included in the price, I will not pay for a digital comic. In the case of pure digital release, I would either avoid the book altogether or pirate. If I don't have something tangible, paying for it doesn't seem right.

Anonymous said...

The only comics I've ever downloaded have been obscure tie ins from the 1960s that cannot possibly be reprinted for legal reasons. I wouldn't download new comics and don't accept the "try before you buy" argument. If I want something I buy it. If I can't afford it I save for it or if I don't want it enough to do that I do without it. A lot of the excuses - emphatically not reasons - people offer for downloading originate in a sense of entitlement that I just don't feel. Sorry if that seems self-righteous.

Anonymous said...

I've been financially supportive of the comics industry since I started reading again a decade ago. However, I've always been "Wait for the Trade Guy." I haven't been interested in single issues since I was a kid, I much rather prefer my nice bookshelf of TPBs; it's just more convenient.

For years, I'd make weekly trips to my local bookstore, buy a cup of coffe and sit down with a few trades, purchasing the ones I liked. A couple years ago, during the Blackest Night event, I got tired of being 6-12 months behind and started looking for alternate sources.

I still buy the trades that I like, the only difference is now Amazon gets most of my business instead of Barnes & Noble.

Do I think what I'm doing is right? No, but I try to be as responsible as possible. If I had to choose between losing my downloads and losing my comics, I'd uninstall BitTorrent in a heartbeat. I love the medium, and I'm grateful for the endless enjoyment it's given me over the years.

In the end, it's an option available to me and I take it.

However, I would begin buying single issues INSTANTLY if the major publishers started releasing digitally for me to OWN, not view. I haven't purchased a physical movie or book in almost a year, and have been actively working towards selling off my collections of them. It's amazing how much living space you have when you start throwing away DVD towers and bookshelves. But every digital copy I won is mine, I can use it as I want. Right now, I can't with things like Comixology or the Marvel Chrome app.

As someone who has been a long-time gamer, I can tell you for certain DRM hurts more than it helps. Releasing DRM-free comics is not going to make them any easier to pirate than they already are. People who just want free stuff will take it regardless. For all the downsides of DRM, look no further than Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed II. The DRM was so bad on that game, I know people who pirated the PC version simply because their legitimately-purchased retail copies WOULD NOT WORK.

It's time for the comics industry to get their heads out of the sand and embrace the future. I feel bad for the retailers, but times change and people have to change with them.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Japan for a few years, which as far as I could tell, does not have any direct-market retailers. I could get trades off Amazon.jp, and would often buy stuff from there, but as far as floppies go, my only legal option was to get my brother to buy stuff and ship it overseas (obviously a lengthy and expensive process). So for the sake of convenience, I would download the weekly releases of single issues, buy trades of stuff I really liked or wanted to re-read, and get my brother to send me the stuff I still wanted to collect.

Nowadays, I'm back in the US, but still far enough away from a direct market store that it costs me $15 in gas to get there and back. I do still have a pull list at that store though, and spend about $15~20 a week there. I have also purchased many comics through Comixology and other apps (including Comic Book Comics 1~5!), but $2 is my limit for single issues. I love the idea of same-day digital comics, but you're nuts if you think I'm going to pay the same price (or more, in the case of Savage Dragon) for a comic that according to most online agreements I don't even technically own.

And yes, every Sunday I do still download a pack of the previous week's releases. I do realize that what I am doing is not morally right, but I honestly don't think that the comics I'm pirating constitute as lost sales either. If the scanned versions weren't conveniently available, I wouldn't be buying them anyway (or in many cases, have already pre-ordered the collection on Amazon).

Anonymous said...

*Obviously I meant Comic Book Comics 0~4 in my previous comment, since #5 isn't on Comixology yet. But I promise to buy it when it is (as long as it's $2 or less). :P

Anonymous said...

A couple friends of mine download them illegally.

Incidentally, the one was driven into a $10,000+ debt hell largely resulting from obsession with comics. He's working hard to get out of it, but he just had to stop buying them despite his continuing passion. How van you blame him? Plus they do tend to take up a lot of space very quick. I travel a lot and found entire run of suicide squad (66 issues) for thirty bucks? How can I turn that down? For me, the physical space and time is far more problematic than the money. Plus you got me still reading Kant from your last series :)

My other friend I bought that huge compendium of walking dead for his birthday. He loved it naturally; everyone does. He's unemployed with no income whatsoever. So he just reads walking dead every month. He's very enthusiastic about it. How can I blame him? Should he be disallowed from experiencing the art? Its not deviant; he's not bwahaha-ing in the basement. He has no job skills. I enjoy being able to enthuse about series with him. Would there be any difference if instead I lent him the copies I buy? Nope!

Matt Heckler said...

I have only ever pirated comics that aren't currently in print. For example, I recently downloaded Priest's run on Black Panther in the 90s. It's out of print, so the only way to get it would be used, and piecing it together would be rather expensive, on top of the fact that trades aren't even available for it anymore as far as I can see (even Amazon only has it through third-party sellers). I don't know $1.99 is low enough to pay for digital comics. If it was $.99 like a song, I'd go for that. The fact of the matter is that I'm unemployed and I can't go throwing around money frivolously; I mean, my downloading comics is really barely different from going to the library to rent a novel or borrowing a TPB from a friend. They're just internet friends.

carlos said...

ive used it as a way of reading comics ill never read or be able to afford to read. such as miracleman, zap, flex metallo. but as is the case w/the latter (which was out of print or hard to find) its coming out in collected edition and ill buy it. if i could find miracleman for under $200 id be more than happy to. its just in our times its not fesible to drop that kind of money on a out of print trade. so piracy has helped me there, but ive never used it for new issues or books i can find for affordable prices at my lcs or amazon. ill still buy my comics and trades or hardcovers.

Anonymous said...

I download largely because comics are an expensive habit and my broke ass can't afford to buy nearly as many stories as I read. Other reasons I download: reading back issues I can't get my hands on (either because they're out of print or because I simply can't find them); reading things to see whether or not I'm interested in picking them up (see above, re: my broke ass and not being able to buy every thing that might pique my interest); reading series until a trade is released that I will then buy, due to finding it way more convenient than glossy-papered floppies that are full of ads and that get bent if I don't buy special little bags and boards for them.

Honestly, if the comics industry wants my business? It needs to start paying more than lip service to women, queer people, people of colour, people with disabilities, and basically everyone who is not the standard rich white straight able-bodied cis boy. Because I'm not that rich white straight able-bodied cis boy, and it's very hard for me to work up enough sympathy to give a fuck that I'm pirating products from an industry that has plainly told me, again and again, it doesn't give a fuck about me.

And I mean, sure, piracy is probably responsible for sales decline -- to a certain extent. For example, I never would have started reading comics without first downloading scans of them from websites I hung out on (due to the fact that comic shops are not exactly the most accessible place for people like me), and now I spend hundreds of dollars on comics per year. And lots of people I know use downloading as a way to decide whether or not they want to spend their money to continue reading a series.

Anonymous said...

I live in Chile, and the few comics that make it here, make it months after release and with usually bad translations, so due to lack of availability I started reading scans. I also buy trades and hardcovers from the US, but shipping is expensive as hell so that's only for stuff I feel confident I'm going to like, or indie comics. Until I heard of the Comixology app, and now I buy as much stuff as I can through there, but it's not enough, because most of the things I like are not there, and will not be for several weeks or months in some cases. If they went with Same Day As Print for everything, I guarantee you my scan-reading days would be over, or at least mostly over.

Anonymous said...

1) I want to be support creators I love, but I can barely support myself, and I still want to read comics.

2) Well, I rarely buy comics, so I wouldn't say I was AVOIDING them, but if I'm spending money, I'd rather get something material for it.
I think a general way to 'fix' digital comics is to let you download and own the files, but to read them you have to run a program that uses DRM (like Steam).

3) Cheap digital floppies. Like $0.25 or less. Cheaper trades. Anthology magazines that are widely available.

4) No, I feel like it introduces enough people to the medium to make up for the small number who download as a replacement for buying. I would never have bought any comics at all if not for the internet. I would have stuck to manga (which the Internet also introduced me to).

DeBT said...

Usually, I avoid downloading American comics unless I have a passing familiarity with them, or I read an interesting review or preview on Scansdaily. I like to sample the merchandise before buying it wholesale. I already have too many books cluttering up the house already - I prefer to sample the best comics available, and not feel discouraged when I wind up buying something I didn’t enjoy. For the most part, I generally restrict my readings to whatever volumes are available at the library.

Another reason for downloading a comic is to see if it’s my kind of thing, and determine if it’s the kind of story I’d enjoy. After reading the first three volumes of 100 bullets, I torrented the rest to see what would happen. When I finished the series, I had no idea what just happened after the fourth book. That’s a sure clue that I wouldn’t enjoy it even if reread in paperback form. It may also take some time before a comic hits their sweet spot. I didn’t become interested in Fables until the 6th volume, and The Walking Dead until the 5th.

In a rare instance, I downloaded the last half of From Hell, so I could print out the annotations at the end. Having the notes on another piece of paper makes it so much easier than having to constantly flip back and forth between hundreds of heavy pages. Too bad there aren’t any scans of Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder series - that one would immensely help as well.

I’ll play catch-up with a series’ run if I’ve heard good things about it, and want to familiarize myself with the backstory. I don’t like reading spoilers of events that I have no idea of what everybody’s talking about. I couldn’t stand reading the essays in Charley’s War talking about events that weren’t available in the current collections, and was incredibly impatient in finding out what happened in a British comic that ran 20 years ago. I was only able to alleviate my frustrations after downloading the rest of the comic online. That way I could be able to afford waiting for Titan Books to release one volume a year.

Another major reason for downloading comics is that they may go on for much longer than a general casual audience would be willing to stick with. The boxing Manga, Hajime no Ippo has been running consequentively since 1989, and is fast approaching the 1000th chapter. Even if the most dedicated company translated one volume a month, it still would take years for them to catch up to the latest chapters. Recently, Ken Akamatsu's even gone to lengths to request publicizing out-of-print Mangas for wider distribution.
http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2011-04-13/j-comi-posts-1st-user-submitted-purified-manga-scans

Lately, I’ve become more interested in comics that AREN’T available in English, and not just Manga. There’s several scanlations of European albums scattered around if you know where to look. However, the rampant sloppy translations and focus on realistic-art stories is something of a turn-off. I’d appreciate their efforts more if they focussed just as much attention to the goofier-looking comics as well.
http://sundaycomicsdebt.blogspot.com/2011/03/chninkel-project.html

Anonymous said...

With a mortgage and a child on the way, $2.99 and $3.99 per issue is just too much. I spend $10-$20 per week on my pull list subscriptions (and often feel guilty about spending that much), so trying out new titles or keeping up with "event" miniseries and crossovers is just out of the question for me at this point.

I love comics too much to quit cold turkey, so I've been changing my habits- more dollar bin stuff, more online comics, more borrowing from the library- and downloading is part of my efforts to curtail my spending.

William George said...

* Why do you read free, scanned-in comics? (Or did you used to, and if you stopped, why did you?)

I did. Typically to see what the fuss was about when the bloggers and review sites were raving about something.

Now I don't because it turned out very little that was raved about was worth the time it took to do the downloading.

* Do you avoid DRM sites like Comixology or the Company-specific apps, and if so, why?

I have the Comixology app. It's a nice bit of software.

And when I see something compelling being offered at a price that reflects the lack of printing, shipping, and shelving costs, I'll buy it.

This rarely happens and I only have a few comics.

* What do you think the comics industry could be doing better to get your business (if anything)?

Better prices, more content. I was going to say "better content" but that's in the eye of the beholder.

However: The latest Ultimate Spider-Man can be bought digitally for something akin to the cover price. Five bucks or something like that. I can read that within ten minutes. Those twenty pages are unlikely to be compelling enough to want to read it multiple times. I don't see it as value for money.

For a buck I can get Angry Birds and enjoy that for hours.

* Comics piracy is often cited as a reason for declining sales – do you agree with this?

Utter bullshit.

1- The global economy is the worst it's been since the Model T. But this ins't nearly as important as the following two reasons...

2- As mentioned above: Five bucks for ten minutes of reading does NOT provide enough value for money for anyone with a lick of sense in their heads.

3- The comics industry in North America (and Japan for that matter) has been focusing on fanboys, to exclusion of all other demographics, for a very long time now.

The creators are fans, the editors are fans, and the marketing arm are fans. And they don't know how to produce work for anyone outside of the geek culture echo chamber.

In short: The blame for declining sales rests squarely on the shoulders of the people producing the work. Piracy is a convenient scapegoat. Nothing more.

Anonymous said...

All good comments but it hasn't been mentioned that comics are different from both music and movies in that it is a lesser experience reading a comic on a digital device than in paper form.

Exact copies for music (flac) and movies (bluray rips) can be obtained but no scan beats a comic printed on paper.

Also digital comics for sale can not be more than US99cents.

Anonymous said...

Out of curiousity, how many of you have tried Marvel's Digital comics program? 8000+ comics, 4.99 a month, and I don't think it has region restrictions as far as I can tell [correct me if wrong]. It seems like that's what many are looking for, and a preferable option to stealing stuff.

Anonymous said...

Found this late (via Comics Worth Reading). If you're still collecting comments though:

1. I read scanned-in comics for three main reasons:
- single issues cost more than I'm prepared to pay for them
- single issues take up a lot of storage space over time
- buying single issue comics is a pain (or it was when I last used to do it). Everything needs to be pre-ordered months in advance, lots of stores don't deliver, etc.
- companies aren't offering digital single issues at a schedule/price I'm prepared to pay

2. I don't avoid those sites. But whenever I've looked at them they seem to just sell a largely random selection of out-of-date comics, so I've never bothered to buy via them.

3. If the companies sold digital single issues on the same on-sale date as paper editions at 99c per copy with a decent interface and automatic subscriptions etc. (so they were "sending" me my comics as they came out) I'd stop pirating on the spot. I don't care about owning, a time or number-of-reads based rental is fine by me. Everything I like enough to read more than a couple times I buy in TPB anyway.

Why would I go legit? Well, firstly, it's the right thing to do and I can afford it so don't mind. I pirate because the free products are what I want and the ones I have to pay for aren't. Secondly, because getting free scans is actually a bit of hassle - I generally get things only a week after they came out.

4. No idea. Sales have been going down since the 80s so it's certainly not the only factor.

Anonymous said...

I pirate for a few reasons:

1. First and foremost, I pirate due to lack of access to comic shops. There's only ONE comic shop in the country where I live, and they only carry imported superhero titles at outrageous prices. My tastes run to more indie stuff, so I can't obtain what I want any other way. Sure, I buy stuff online, but there are high import duties. I can't afford to pay that.

2. Price of back issues. This is less of an issue that it was in the 90s, but I still see old comics for $50 or $100 or more. I'm not a"comics investor" and the whole idea of comics as collectibles disgusts me. I just want to read the stories! If a back issue is more than $5 or $10, I pirate it

3. Format. Frankly, I prefer reading comics on my iPad / computer over the real paper version. They're easier to store, I can take them with me wherever I go, I can organize them on my computer however I like...there are a lot of advantages to the e-format. I'm aware that some companies offer digital comics, but the selection is incomplete and they all contain DRM. If I bought digital comics, I'd want to do whatever I wanted with them.

All that being said, piracy is what brought me back to comics in the first place. I stopped reading comics for over 15 years, and it was only piracy that brought me back in the first place. There was no risk to jump back in because it was free. And because of that, I've started buying a few comics again. Without piracy, I wouldn't be reading again in the first place.

jsc said...

I read digital comics, both paid and free because it's very convenient.
I tend to buy the paperback collections, but would actually prefer to purchase the trades in digital format.

I avoid DRM sites like the plague, because DRM limits what you can do with the product.
An example would be that if in the future I had bought a comic/trade, and it's locked to a device, at some point in the future, that device will change,either due to technology progress or failure of the original device. With non-drm material, you can still use your paid content on newer devices. DRM Lockout does not happen with the physical trades, and I want the same to be true of digital material I've paid for.

To better secure my business, the comics industry would need to offer DRM free material at competitive prices.

Piracy is often cited as a reason for declining markets. The comics sales have been going down for a while now, simply because there's so many other forms of entertainment - Internet chat/video games etc, and comics are lagging behind.

I would buy "comic book comics" as drm free cbr's - the 99 cent price on comixology is very competitive, but that's a middle man again cutting into profit.

Do you know about Steve Lieber's underground? Comic was pirated, Steve engaged with the pirates, end result was increased sales of the hard copy trade.

Samuel said...

Prologue: When I was in H.S. a decade ago, my dad would give me $20 a week for my school lunch and bus ride to school. What did I do? I literally walked 3 miles to and from school and didn't eat lunch just to buy comic books. At the time Witchblade #1 was about 3 years old and had lots of hype with a 40 dollar price tag. I didn't eat lunch and walked over 6 miles every day to buy that comic book and it left me with a cliffhanger. So I had to starve myself for #2. That is comic fan dedication for a good story.

Meanwhile: Remember the state the comic book industry was in around '98? It was horrible. Comic book shops were closing all around me including the one where I bought Witchblade #1 and built the bulk of my backissue collection. Times were rough to be a fan in Chicago. I'll never forget when my dad drove me to the suburbs because I had found the first appearance of Jubilee after calling shops for a couple of weeks. When I finally became old enough to get a job, I subscribed to X-Men and Uncanny X-Men even though my comics would arrive ruined thanks to the USPS.

Elsewhere: The factory where my parents worked closed in 2001 and I had to choose between buying college books or comic books. I tried to keep up with my beloved X-Men but reality is a bitch; The comic industry would lose one of it's most dedicated fans.

10 years later: As I'm searching for torrents to pirate new music I stumble across a torrent for X-Men issues #1-#66 and I couldn't believe it. The comic book stories i dreamed about reading were right in front of me in digital form. All I ever cared about were the stories and here they were for the taking.

Meanwhile: I don't feel bad at all about pirating those comics. I PAID MY DUES. I'm one the few dedicated fans that kept the comic book industry alive BEFORE all the movies came out.

Writer's Note: I'm a resurrected comic fan. The comics I pirated were back issues I could never afford. Who has a thousand dollars to read Giant Size X-Men #1 and Incredible Hulk #180? I've been buying TPB because as great as digital comics are they can never compare to holding and owning the physical comic. In addition, I buy digital comics from ComiXology and it's great that they offer free #1's to get a preview of a series. I will continue to pirate comics but I will also continue to support my local comic shops, and comic artists/writers.

Bullpen: This industry is a give and take industry. My nephews and neices have access to my collection of over 1000 comics. They are reading for free. I'm sharing my collection with them; They are not pirates. So how is that I become a pirate when another fan wants to share his comic with me digitally? I'm not stealing, I'm being shown advertisements for movies, cartoons,toys, t-shirts, and actual comics.

Torrent Search for "Opinion": The second comic I pirated was Watchmen. It's safe to say that Alan Moore got as much money from me pirating that digital comic as he did from the movie ticket I paid to watch the movie.

Epilogue: This week my comic shop purchase totaled $80 for Uncanny X-Men #129, #130, and #137 completing the Dark Phoenix Saga collection I had started back in High School by starving myself to the benefit of the local comic shop that gladly took my lunch money.

Excelsior!

Ryan Dunlavey said...

Comments are now closed. Thanks for the feedback everyone!
Comic Book Comics #6 will go on sale in July 2011.