Death of a Superhero: Comics Buyer's Guide Against Digital Supervillains

Yesterday came the somewhat shocking news that the Comics Buyer's Guide will cease to be published effective March 2013. The reasoning behind it was that poor market conditions--including the downturn in print advertising and proliferation of free content available online--have made the magazine no longer as relevant.

“We continuously evaluate our portfolio and analyze our content strategy to determine how well we are meeting consumer and Company goals,” said David Blansfield, President. ”We take into consideration the marketplace we serve and the opportunities available for each of our magazine titles. After much analysis and deliberation, we have determined to cease publication of Comics Buyer’s Guide.”

It's fairly obvious why the magazine is no more. Readers no longer rely on the publication for comic book news, with countless sites on the internet doing the same job. The broader issue behind the publication's end might be in the secondary reasoning behind the decision. That is, the decreasing revenue from print advertising. Digital is lurking on the horizon and it might transform the industry sooner than you think.

Ever since the big two pretty much went to day and date on digital, digital comics have been making great inroads on print comics. Don't get confused...print still rules the roost. Digital though is becoming more and more acceptable when it comes to reading comics, primarily due to costs.

The main reason cited for the end of Comics Buyer's Guide has to do with costs and it's a reality that's all to familiar to any publisher, mainstream or indie. The reality of conducting a business--and at the end of the day making comics is a business--is that if your costs exceed your revenues, you won't be making comics for long. It's a harsh reality, but it's one that's unavoidable when it comes to making comics.

The fact that a guide dedicated to news of the comic book industry and pricing comics books is no more should be very telling. The speculator market in the 90s led to a spectacular crash among collectors, where the sheer number of books hoarded exceeded their collective value. It's been a long time since that point and it's doubtful comics will ever get there again, but there have still been some milestone comics as of late that garnered the attention of collectors and readers alike.

Both The Walking Dead #100 and Amazing Spider-man #700 come to mind in this case. While many read these books for the storylines, there were still some people looking to buy them and sell on ebay. In fact, Image released twelve variants of The Walking Dead #100. Sure, they're tributes to the series and the fans, but most of them weren't accessible to the common fan. There's still a monetary worth in physical comics, but the availability of digital comics makes it less necessary to get the physical books.

Reading comics is all about just that: reading comics. Whether you read it digitally or physically really makes no difference from a story standpoint. The big difference is in the experience and some physical comics purists are still leery of their digital counterparts. The fact is though that digital comics are making an impact on the market. According to ICV2, 2012 saw digital sales reach upwards of $75 million, nearly 11% of the overall $640 million market.

Digital sales won't overtake physical copies anytime soon, but it's something on the horizon that will arrive sooner than later. This isn't meant to be a "death to print" battle cry. It's more to say that print will be replaced by digital more quickly than anyone previously thought and it's taking publications like Comics Buyer's Guide and Wizard magazine with it. The shuttering of Comics Buyer's Guide is steeped in comic books lore and mythology. The only difference here is that there's no writing the character (or magazine) back into future storylines.