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Earlier today, in a move that stunned the internet and comics community, ComiXology launched “ComiXology Unlimited”, a subscription service that allows customers to “read freely from thousands of titles, including comic books, graphic novels & manga…for $5.99 a month” according to their press release. Similar to Netflix in that the comics are not owned or downloaded but accessed online, the move is one that many believed was inevitable, though no now had quite yet figured out how to make viable across multiple publishers.
ComiXology is the industry leader when it comes to providing a digital reading platform, and the addition of a subscription streaming service adds huge value to their existing model of having customers pay to access digital versions of individual issues or collected editions. It should be noted that ComiXology Unlimited does not include any titles published by Marvel or DC, with Marvel already having created its own subscription service called “Marvel Unlimited” while DC still hasn’t dipped its toe in that water. But ComiXology Unlimited does include a wide selection of creator-owned material. The service includes selections from top Image Comics titles such as “Saga”, “Bitch Planet”, “The Wicked + the Divine” and “The Walking Dead” plus other publishers’ titles such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Lumberjanes”, “Lone Wolf & Cub”, “Locke & Key”, “Love and Rockets” and “The Complete Peanuts”. Though none of the selections offer complete runs of entire series, the service is being positioned as a way to introduce new readers to different series that they then may want to continue reading through ComiXology’s standard a la carte digital service.
Though the announcement is playing in many quarters as huge step forward, and a positive one, criticism is also making the rounds. The notable rumblings center around creators’ rights, and how exactly they will be compensated under this model. In an interview with Comic Book Resources, ComiXology CEO and co-founder David Steinberger addressed this…kind of:
All of our business terms are private, confidential between us and our partners. The best I can say is what I said earlier — to make more fans of comics, and to get more people engaged in comics. The program succeeds by making everybody more money. It’s good for the entire market segment to have more people reading, and that’s what this is designed to do.
And Steinberger went on to say:
I don’t get between our publishers and their creators. I can’t speak for them.
However, already some creators have expressed doubts on twitter and elsewhere:
Publishers who signed with Comixology Unlimited are probably having a lot of fun talking to creators today I bet
— Warren Ellis (@warrenellis) May 24, 2016
And now with Comixology Unlimited I suddenly understand how all those musicians feel
— Cameron Stewart (@cameronMstewart) May 24, 2016
Creators get money when you buy their specific books. That’s how royalties or profit sharing works.
— Ed Brubaker (@brubaker) May 24, 2016
Brubaker did however add:
But as I say, I’m cautiously optimistic. We’ll see if it helps sell more of the paid stuff we make our livings on.
— Ed Brubaker (@brubaker) May 24, 2016
Some creators have even expressed that they were completely unaware that their own creator-owned books were being offered on the service, which certainly doesn’t look good for either ComiXology or the publishers of the books in question:
So at what point were the publishers going to talk to the creators about ComiXology Unlimited?
— Pia Guerra (@PiaGuerra) May 24, 2016
Did any creators hear about Comixology Unlimited before it was announced?
— Jamie McKelvie (@McKelvie) May 24, 2016
However, not every creator has bad things to say, or even ambivalent things to say:
Just signed up for @comiXology Unlimited. Looks like most of the “free” books are Vol. 1s. Designed to get folks to pay for Vol. 2. Good!
— Greg Pak (@gregpak) May 24, 2016
In any case, it’s a huge move that will have everyone in the industry watching closely to see both how the service impacts sales, and how equitably any rewards may be distributed. Will services like these create new generations of fans, finally solving how comics will adapt to digital realities? Or is this just another half measure? Only time will tell.
Below is the list of titles which will be available on launch, though no details have been made available as to what the timing will be on the cycle of content as the platform moves forward.
- Adventure Time by Ryan North, Braden Lamb, Shelli Paroline and various (BOOM! Studios)
- Aliens by Mark Verheiden, Sam Kieth, Peter Milligan and various (Dark Horse Comics)
- Archie by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples (Archie Comics)
- Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama (Kodansha Comics)
- Atomic Robo by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener (Tesladyne)
- Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro (Image Comics)
- Bloodshot by Duane Swierczynski, Manuel Garcia and Arturo Lozzi (Valiant Entertainment)
- The Boys by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson (Dynamite Entertainment)
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Joss Whedon and various (Dark Horse Comics)
- Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory (Image Comics)
- The Complete Peanuts by Charles Schulz (Fantagraphics Books)
- Conan the Barbarian by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan (Dark Horse Comics)
- Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima (Kodansha Comics)
- Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image Comics)
- Ghostbusters by Erik Burnham, Dan Schoening, and various (IDW Publishing)
- G.I. Joe by Chuck Dixon, Robert Atkins and various (IDW Publishing)
- Grimm Fairy Tales by Ralph Tedesco, Joe Tyler and various (Zenescope Entertainment)
- Godzilla by Duane Swierczynski, Arthur Adams, Simon Gane and various (IDW Publishing)
- Hellboy by Mike Mignola (Dark Horse Comics)
- Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics Books)
- The Incal by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Moebius (Humanoids)
- Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (Image Comics)
- Letter 44 by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque (Oni Press)
- Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima (Dark Horse Comics)
- Love and Rockets by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)
- Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW Publishing)
- Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson and Brooke Allen (BOOM! Studios)
- My Little Pony by Katie Cook and Andy Price (IDW Publishing)
- Outcast by Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta (Image Comics)
- Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios (Image Comics)
- Princeless by Jeremy Whitley and various (Action Lab Entertainment)
- Red Sonja by by Gail Simone, Jenny Frison, and Walter Geovanni (Dynamite Entertainment)
- Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
- Serenity by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews and Will Conrad (Dark Horse Comics)
- Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Oni Press)
- Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
- Spawn by Todd McFarlane (Image Comics)
- Star Trek by Mike Johnson, Stephen Molnar, Joe Corroney and various (IDW Publishing)
- Poorcraft: The Funnybook Fundamentals of Living Well on Less by C. Spike Trotman and (Iron Circus Comics)
- Transformers by John Barber, Andrew Griffith, Marcelo Matere and various (IDW Publishing)
- The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse Comics)
- Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai (Dark Horse Comics)
- The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard (Image Comics)
- The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (Image Comics)
- Wonderland by Raven Gregory and Sheldon Goh (Zenescope Entertainment)
- Wuvable Oaf by Ed Luce (Fantagraphics)
- X-O Manowar by Robert Venditti and Cary Nord(Valiant Entertainment)