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Committed: “Elektra: Assassin” is out of print

Elektra: Assassin means a lot to me and it saddens me that comic books are still treated in as simply collectible objects, rather than being valued as important works of art, the contents of which must always be easily available to potential new readers.

There are classic novels that will never go out of print because for hundreds of years they have continued to make money for publishers. Is Animal Farm out of print? No, of course it isn’t, because even though it isn’t George Orwell’s most famous novel, it is widely accepted to be an important, seminal work, relevant and engaging to readers of any era. Similarly, while Elektra: Assassin may not have made the enormous impact that Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns made upon release, it is widely acknowledged to be a seminal work of both the writer (Miller) and the artist (Bill Sienkiewicz.) I truly believe that it is easily the greatest comic ever made, it is the pinnacle of the alchemy which can be achieved when a writer and an artist truly collaborate.

Now I am trying very hard not come across as some kind of over-zealous nutjob, but I really do think it is the best comic, particularly of that era and the fact that it is out-of-print speaks volumes about the publishers’ complete misunderstanding about content and value. While many applaud Watchmen as the greatest comic of the ’80’s, that wasn’t a comic book at all, but a book about comics, written as a comic book. It is a marvelous work, fascinating and engaging, but every aspect of it is a device designed to allow the reader to examine the nature of comic books.

Elektra: Assassin was far more of a culmination of everything that was being learned (and broken) in sequential storytelling up to that point. In terms of exploring that freedom visually and verbally this is a pinnacle of expression. It is a successfully dynamic, disturbing, compelling story, using archetypes to emotionally connect on many levels… I have spent so much time introducing it to people that when I wanted to write my first professional comic book review, I wrote it about Elektra: Assassin. It is the first book that I lend to friends who I love, and people who don’t appreciate it just aren’t that close to me (not because I chose to distance myself from them, but because it just works out that way. To paraphrase the old saying “Love me, love my comic books.”)

Meanwhile, outside of the world of comic book publishing, for the last three weeks an unpublished illustrated book has been the number one bestseller on Amazon , simply due to pre-ordered copies. According to the publisher, although the book won’t go on sale until June 14, “Up until this week we have done nothing to promote this book.” In fact, the only form that people have seen the book has been an emailed pdf version of it, illegally sent from friend to friend.

The Bay Citizen reported that “media outlets such as the New Yorker have begun to speculate that one of the biggest engines of its success has been booksellers and other industry folk circulating the 32-page PDF to the wider world.” and it does seem pretty clear that in this instance, the fact that people were able to read the book before buying it significantly contributed to their desire to buy it. While this isn’t always the case, it certainly does support the idea that previously unknown books can benefit from being seen for free via electronic distribution.

So once again, I’m forced to ask; Why not allow comic books (particularly great works of art which are out of print and so would otherwise go unread and unsold) to be distributed in a digital format? Perhaps comic book publishers don’t want to risk putting brick-and-mortar stores out of business by potentially losing sales to online stores… Apparently, unlike music and film distributers, comic book publishers really CARE about small stores, and unlike those other institutions, they’re going to be able to change the way that people and the internet behave and stop information from flying freely around. No, of course they aren’t. This is a fallacy. It is completely laughable in fact. (By the way, that was sarcasm, back there.)

Unfortunately, comic book publisher’s seem to want so badly to cling to the past that they’re completely unwilling to deal with the future, even as it becomes the present. And readers are losing out.

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What really pisses me off the most about this is that I DON’T CARE. I have nothing to gain from being able to buy comic books digitally, this is purely a comic book fan’s outrage. I actually prefer print versions, but I want to buy people Elektra: Assassin, (because it is the greatest comic book I have ever read) and if I cannot buy it in print, I’m willing to buy it in some kind of electronic format and email them a link to download it. I really don’t care.

What I object to is being forced to think about why publisher’s won’t digitally publish their out-of-print back catalogue. Surely if it is COMPLETELY unavailable in print, they won’t ruffle any feathers by putting it out electronically, because no stores can make money from a book that DOESN’T EXIST?

I apologize for the all-caps shouting, but this is damn tedious. All I want to do is continue to love comic books and the superior form of communication and story-telling that they offer. I want go back to writing nice articles about my comic book love and how it has impacted my life, rather than being forced to have endless conversations with various people about how we can throw a damn lifeline to this industry which seems absolutely hell bent on going down.

What I have no interest at all in, is being forced to deal with a passion for a comic book which NO ONE can share with me because the apparent luddites who control comic book publishing are afraid of the internet.

Comics will continue to make their way out, just as music and film did. Do publishers really want us to start scanning in old books and posting them online for each other? Or would they prefer to do it themselves, in some more controlled way that insures that they make some money? If comic book publishers were REALLY so worried about the direct market stores, they wouldn’t make them pay for the “free” comic books on Free Comic Book Day, if they were really worried, they would give stores a way to sell digital copies of out of print comic books themselves. I would happily go into my local comic book store and click “ok” on a computer screen to download a copy of Elektra: Assassin directly to my inbox.

I’m tired of having these conversations. Elektra: Assassin is the greatest comic book I know. If you can’t find a second-hand copy, look for an illegal download. I apologize to the publishers and (even more so) to the creators, but it is important that you read it. In an instance where a book is out-of-print and unavailable as a digital download, but only available illegally, we really have no other way to read it except to commit a crime. Perhaps for every comic book act of piracy, those of us who would prefer to buy it could donate some funds to the CBLDF or the Hero Initiative? I don’t know, all I do know is that there is no excuse for having a game-changing book like Elektra: Assassin be out of print.


You can get it for $20 on ebay.

Easily available in the Elektra Omnibus (for now)…

The lack of availability for Elektra Assassin is what lead me to download it from a pirating site. That’s a second aspect of this–the lack of availability of these things encourages people to be pirates–rather than failing to hunt it down from a store or from an online retailer, you can just go online, cross an invisible ethical line, and actually have it rather than not have it. And the creator gets just as much from the non-sale as they would from me buying it second-hand.

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 18, 2011 at 10:36 am

this is why The-MAKER-of-us-all created back issue hunting. ;-)

@ Sharif

I think you’ve missed the point of the article

@ Raymond

Considering the Elektra Omnibus is $75, it’s debatable how “easily available” that really is.

By coincidence, I was just at the Detroit Comic Con this past weekend where I met Bill Sienkiewicz and had him sign these 8 issues. I still believe when people talk about how much comics changed in the 80s and how they “grew up,” Sienkiewicz’s name deserves to be in that conversation along with Moore, Miller, Gaiman, Spiegelman, et al. For as much as those writers changed the content of comics and what kind of stories they told, it was also still essential that their looks change as well. No one was more responsible for the overall visual advancement of comics in the 80s than Billy the Sink.

Cheers for having the guts to say people should illegally download, if the publishers are gonna slack off.
Maybe people should buy some of the creators creator ownee work to make up for it

Theft is theft. Unless you are stealing a loaf of bread for your starving baby, you are a thief and you can blow me.

You know well that I agree with you 100%. Elektra Assassin *must* be available for purchase as a digital comic. So must EVERY OTHER COMIC produced. Digital or Print are both just 2 ways of consuming the same content. Let people who want paper get paper, and people want bits get bits.

I’m starting work on a Digital Comics Manifesto, but here are some pertinent goals:
1) Every comic (ever) available in print must be available digitally. Load up the full back catalog immediately and make new releases available day and date
2) Direct Market stores must make roughly the same amount of money selling digital that they make selling paper. Comixology and Diamond have both announced programs that purport to move in this direction though the economics are not clear yet and Diamond is trying to tie digital sales to print sales (which would be a mistake)
3) Stores must make that money for digital sales regardless of whether the customer is buying while physically standing in the store or via a virtual store (website/app, etc.)
4) Users must be able to share their comics with friends. Ideally, purchased comics would be in DRM free formats, but I’m just as fine with my comic app platform keeping track of my ‘license to read’ a comic, and allowing me to pass that copy to a friend (just like I would a paper copy) and then only the friend could read it until I took it back or loaned it to someone else

There are lots of details to get sorted out (especially how Apple’s 30% slice of comics sold in the App store affects #2 above) but those are key things we should be looking for from a good digital comics offering. The good news is that we’re creating a whole new market from scratch, and we can make it work the way we want it to!

@Tom: Way to totally miss the point. Backissue hunting is a part of the collectibles aspect of comics. It shouldn’t be necessary to read seminal stories.
That being said, I agree with the generalities of the article but not the specifics. Elektra: Assassin might be amazing, but it’s not nearly as well known as most of Miller’s other works and Seinkwicz isn’t widely known to the bookstore comics readers.
@People equating downloading with stealing: If no way to buy a new copy of something exists then who exactly am I stealing from? I’m not taking a physical object, so someone else can and probably will buy it if it’s sitting at a used bookstore or a backissue bin, so it’s not theft from the store. The publisher isn’t trying to make money off it, so it isn’t stealing from the publisher. No royalties are paid on used books, only new printings, so I’m not stealing from the writer and artist.

“Do publishers really want us to start scanning in old books and posting them online for each other?”

Start? I’d wager more people have read Elektra: Assassin on their computers than in print. If you want any comic ever, including the most recent releases, you can find it for download easily.

Don’t take that as a woe-is-the-poor-publishers story. These publishers have a lot of problems, and I think they’re of their own making.

Thank you for promoting the GREATEST book of the 1980s. I too love Elektra: Assassin, and yes, it’s a damn shame it’s out of print. I think Elektra Lives Again is also out of print. Hell, pretty much every Elektra comic is out of print. By the way, can we get more Elektra comics? It’s ridiculous.

Maybe it’s just my tastes, but I can’t stand Sienkiewicz’s art. I find it to be disjointed and confusing and it cripples the narrative whenever I try to read a book he does the art on. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s just how it looks to me.

Mutt, why make the distinction that “theft is theft” then immediately start giving reasons why sometimes it’s not? If that’s the way we decide on morals then I say:

Theft is theft. Unless the comic book is hopelessly out of print, then you can blow Mutt

Zory: I don’t want to download a bootleg copy illegally. I want the comics, but: I want the creators to get paid. I want the publishers to get paid. I want the store to get paid. All of those folks spend their waking hours working hard to create, publish, and curate content for me. They should get paid for that work.

Sonia’s point is that the industry is ‘in big trouble’ and yet here are consumers sitting with their wallets open, ready to THROW MONEY at them, and they haven’t given us the option. Example: Why can’t I buy Fear Itself (which would have a much lower ‘give it a shot’ threshold as a digital copy vs. individual paper issues or a deluxe trade paperback)? This is mainly because people (MISTAKENLY) think digital comics are different or in opposition to the direct market, when in fact they represent the first real opportunity for local shops to take back market share that has been going to Amazon.

This will work when retailers get paid to sell digital comics. This is the first real opportunity for growth in this industry in years.

I just bought this used a few months ago off ebay for like 10 bucks.

But I am not at all ashamed of having illegally downloaded Miracle Man and Flex Mentallo and a few other impossible to read for less than hundreds of dollars classics of the medium. And if and when those classics come back into print, I will gladly pay for them. I want to pay for them even–please print them comics companies.

Don’t get me wrong, matthh, I’m not endorsing piracy. I’m just pointing out its existence and how extreme it is.

It seems analgous to Disney’s decision to rotate the availablility of its classic films in and out of “the Disney vault.” I guess it sucks that I can’t buy a DVD of Peter Pan right now, but I don’t think it justifies me downloading it illegally.

@Tom: Way to totally miss the point. Backissue hunting is a part of the collectibles aspect of comics. It shouldn’t be necessary to read seminal stories.

That argument rarely holds water in the era of eBay and Amazon. Go to eBay right now, and there’s an auction for a TPB of Elektra: Assassin starting at 99 cents. Or you can buy the full run of floppies for $14, including shipping, thanks to Buy It Now.

I agree that publishers shouldn’t let seminal works like this go out of print, and their digital release strategies are hopelessly muddled right now as they try to protect comic shops, but it’s not up to readers to decide that the answer is then to illegally download it. The fact is, if you want to read it, Elektra: Assassin IS available for a reasonable price secondhand.

And even for books that aren’t available for a reasonable price, I’m sorry, stealing is stealing.

David Serchay

May 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm

For that matter if you just want to read it, check out your local library. Even if they don’t have it, you might be able to get it through Interlibrary loan.

Phil Sandifer

May 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Piracy is nothing more than the phenomenon of consumers reacting with frustration at the failure of content owners to put content out there in an easily obtainable format at a reasonable price point.

For a prime example of how to combat piracy, look at how BBC America managed to turn American Doctor Who fans – who had been pirating the show for six years – into people who watched the show legally on television. They switched to same-day airing and got the episodes up on iTunes the next day. And in doing so spiked their ratings nicely, because American Doctor Who fans did not, by and large, want to steal the program – they just wanted to not wait two weeks for the program.

The comic industry needs to learn this lesson and make content easily available at fair prices. And that doesn’t mean $2 an issue – at least, not for archive material. With 60+ issues of Geoff Johns’s Green Lantern run already out, a $120 price tag to catch up on a continuity-laden series is a dealbreaker for readers. Archive material – even relatively recent archive material – needs to be out there and at a price that encourages people to buy it.

If Marvel and DC would bother to release collections in a way that I can easily and affordably get someone caught up on what’s going on, I’d happily be recommending things like Grant Morrison’s Batman or Matt Fraction’s Iron Man. But when catching up on Morrison’s run has a current price tag of nearly $150, it ain’t gonna happen.

I would love to give more of my money to Marvel and DC and encourage my friends to do the same. I wish they’d let me.

Chad, totally agree that there are options like eBay available today and that stealing is not a viable option. The challenge is that Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz (not to mention Marvel and your local retailer) don’t see a dime from these purchases. This is the same issue the videogame market has with pre-owned videogames: the developers who worked 80-100 hours per week to make the game don’t make any money for those sales. All of this is being propagated under the fallacy that it is better not to release digital comics so publishers can ‘protect comic shops’.

Dan, agree that there are some parallels with Disney’s strategy for ‘releases from the vault’, however the difference is that Disney does this for a very small number of pieces of content (less than 100 titles total.) With comics, there are thousands and thousands of titles over the last 80 years. So, not having these thousands available is like book publishers not keeping the thousands of books in print that they do (eg. Sonia’s reference to Animal Farm) or if all studios didn’t release any DVDs on a regular basis.

PS: everything we’re talking about here for comics will ultimately be true for the general book market (which was 9% digital in 2010) and the DVD market over the next few years. The age of digital media is here and comics is a market that is uniquely situated to thrive in it.

Animal Farm might not be out of print, but someone else might think of another work they think is the greatest work of literature is out of print. I can’t get worked up about Elektra: Assassin bring out of print, there’s other Miller and Sienkiwicz easily available, What does upset me is how much Moebius work is out of print. Arzach! The Airtight Garage, The Incal Vol.1 !!!

I don’t want to get into the internet’s 10,000 piracy debate where everyone’s position is already intractable thanks to the other 9,999, but I do want to say that Elektra: Assassin is amazing. I was a single issue purist for decades, but Assassin was the first trade I ever bought, despite having already read it. It remains one of a dozen books I can say this about. If it’s not the best comic ever, it’s damn close.

Did you know that for a goodly portion of time, Born Again was out of print? Born A-fucking-gain!!!

This is the comic that made Sienkiewicz my favorite artist, his work here is amazing.

I bought the floppies as they were published back in the day, still have ‘em in my collection. :)

Still, it’s too bad that the collected edition is out of print (for now), but as others have said, the story’s readily available to anyone who wants to BUY it off Ebay and various webstores and comic shops.

It’s already been reprinted in collected form enough, and I don’t blame Marvel for not wanting to spend resources on keeping it in print.

Hey anyone who uses the library, you are a thief so the Mutt wants you to blow him.

A few points:

1. I can sympathize. For the longest time, the only part of Morrison’s Doom Patrol that was available was a trade of the first storyline, with pages setting up the next storyline cut out.

2. A lot of those classic novels that never go out of print are in the public domain. I’d guess that makes it cheaper to keep them in print.

3. That book you mention, with the pdf sample, has a catchy title and a solid hook. That’s surely helping its popularity. I’m not sure a freely available copy would, to the same degree, help a book that didn’t have those.

4. It costs publishers time and money to digitize comics, particularly if you want it done right, so that the original work is well-represented by the digital transfer. If the original is not in the best of shape, or if elements are missing, it’s going to cost more. Unless they can be certain they’ll either make money or increase awareness of a character/title/brand/etc., they may not see an advantage in wholesale digitizing.

5. On the same note, in matthh’s first comment, who’s going to pay for the digitization and for the digital storage for every comic ever printed? How do company’s monetize that?

6. Maybe one solution is to set up something like Warner Archive Collection, go a digitize-on-demand route, or reprint-on-demand for a bare-bones version. DC and Marvel are kind of doing something like this with Showcase and Essentials, making runs of old comics available in cheap formats. What if they hooked that into an on-demand ordering system? This would probably cut out direct market stores, though.

7. Books go out of print, then later come back into print all the time. As do movies. I’m sure Elektra: Assassin will be back in print at some point. It sucks when something you like and want to share is out of print, but this seems like less of an issue to me these days than it did back in the 80s and 90s, before the trade paperback model took hold.

8. Sonia, you might want to try digging up articles and interviews with film archivists and preservationists, particularly those working at the major studios or at the Academy. Although the issues faced may be different, the concern is the same – making sure that the important works of the past are still available in the present, but doing so with (usually) corporately owned works.

Yeah, borrowing books from the library is exactly the same as digital piracy.

Is digital piracy and the library really so much different? There are parallels to be made for sure. I can go to the library and read a book and publishers don’t get a dime. How is that different than me going to the internet and also reading it for free? Is it because the government bought the books instead of ‘random comic fan Bob?’

Why is it that publishers are okay with libraries and not piracy? And why are they okay with me letting my friend borrow an issue but not some random stranger?

Digital piracy can be a murky moral issue and anyone that treats it as anything but is oversimplifying it.

That said. Never read Electra: Assassin. Have to check it out.

Ronald Jay Kearschner

May 18, 2011 at 9:02 pm

As I understand it, copyright was original seven years, then works became public domain for the good of mankind. Corporate lobbying (example Disney) now has copyright virtually limitless. How about a law that if a work is out of print for more than a year, copyright reverts to the original creator. It may not be worth Disney’s time/money to put ELEKTRA ASSASSIN online, but Frank Miller has an interest in keeping his canon in print.

Ronald is right, and that’s what aggravates me more than any actual position on piracy. Copyright was limited for very specific reasons: so that people would still have some incentive to create but the public consciousness wouldn’t be deprived of a steady flow of ideas.

Unfortunately, there are very few people with a financial interest in the advancement of human knowledge and many, many very wealthy people with a strong financial interest in enshrining “intellectual property” as something sacred.

I understand the ethical objection to piracy, but the notion that one entity should have exclusive control over an idea for 100+ years is ludicrous and stifles progress. Digital piracy may be an injustice, but it comes at the end of a much longer lasting one. Yet the internet is all in a tizzy about one but almost never about the other.

You are either pretending you don’t know what I mean or you eat babies.

Either way, all who want to blow me are welcome.

With Disney vaults there is however at least the knowledge that in a couple years whatever you wanted is very likely to come in circulation again, and for a period of time after the film has been in store it is also reasonably well available as second-hand (well enough to not really count as “collecting”). Yes, if one wants instant gratification one is screwed but to be honest I have never really understood that “I must have everything right now” attitude.
Well, then there is of course Song of the South…

With comics it’s much more often so that whatever you might be interested in probably won’t be republished, or it is not known when. Something as great and significant as Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse strips is finally getting republished and it only took a lifetime, some others have a good chance of never seeing reprint.
I admire those publishers who do their best to keep their back catalogue in print, because that is also a sign that the back catalogue is actually worth reading. Tintin books have been in print quite consistently (except the couple of first ones, for “Song of the South” reasons) as has Cerebus, and whatever else is said about Dave Sim, he is a man who really gets comics as an artform, better than practically anyone.

“5. On the same note, in matthh’s first comment, who’s going to pay for the digitization and for the digital storage for every comic ever printed? How do company’s monetize that?”

Theres the rub of course, as I was talking about the other day, nobody on the internet wants to pay for much of anything, so of course companies aren’t going to pay somebody for a week’s work to sit down and convert something that generates 50 bucks in sales. Maybe geeks should start speaking with their pockets more and they’d be catered to the way women are by ABC’s terrible programming.

Travis Pelkie

May 19, 2011 at 2:27 am

Isn’t one solution to, I don’t know, petition the company that publishes the work and ask them to put it back in print? If a company gets a certain demand for something, they’ll discover it’s in their best interest to bring that product to the market. If retailers are getting a demand from customers, they’ll get in touch with the companies and ask why they can’t get this book either.

@AS: The big reason that Cerebus has been continually in print for all these years is because Dave Sim owns the whole damn thing. As long as he’s alive and can afford to do so, he’ll bring out new editions. And he’s making Cerebus public domain once he and Gerhard are dead, so anyone will be able to bring out new editions of it.

That’s another rub with books like this — since the companies own the characters and the works, the rights “can’t” revert to the creators.

Digital distribution is probably the way to go, but if Marvel doesn’t see the demand, they won’t shell out the cash to properly digitize the work.

Is there a “tracking system” for digital piracy? That is, is someone keeping track of what sorts of works are downloaded most, or is this really impossible due to the “black market” aspect of digital piracy?

Travis Pelkie

May 19, 2011 at 2:37 am

One thought, actually —

given that, as some people said in the comments, this is in an Omnibus, shouldn’t all the pages BE digitized, so actually it should be easy enough for Marvel to release this in digital form?

I think the big 2 actually are “pro comic shop”, to a degree, because the comic shop segment is what keeps them going. If comic shops go under, comics as a medium will continue, but the big 2 and their superhero stuff will probably wilt away, supported only by the latest comic book movie to have come out, and that will only float them for that weekend. Selling digitally in a way that makes sense (a cheap amount, out the same day as the physical comic book, since digital distribution is cheaper than print) would probably increase readers on a grand scale, but would decentralize the distribution in a way that would ultimately hurt the big 2 (even though COMICS would survive).

Or som’in.

And blowing the Mutt would be bestiality, right, and that’s DEFINITELY illegal.

Sim owning everything definitely helps. Of bigger publishers, those major francophone series like Tintin and Asterix are also doing the same though, but in those it has been assumed pretty much from the start that the lifetime of the series are longer…selling steadily for 50 years is of course unexpected but even the more generic also-ran series don’t come with as harsh sell-by dates than many US comics…
Well, Watchmen probably will stay in print still for a long time, but otherwise the companies which are trying to sell their products like they are cultural artefacts and not bread tend to be the smaller ones.

The “pro comic shop” attitude of the big two is indeed true to some extent, I’m afraid, and for a while one can have also been arguing that ownership of intellectual property has become increasingly important and making comics as a goal in itself less important. Considering that, there is little value to be gained from digital distribution because they are just comics, who cares about them anymore?

I’m saying if you make exceptions for some theft then who are you to say it’s wrong when other people do the same? And besides, I’d say eating babies is a pretty modest proposal.

Not to speak for Ms. Harris, but I do believe she was getting at the point that classic work by seminal creators should always be available one way or the other. Think of the children, as it were…if kids still read comics, and they probably shouldn’t read Elektra: Assassin for a bit. (Not because of content, but it would be a bit much for a new comics reader, yeah? Kinda have to build up to it…)

Still, I’ve got mine, so who cares! Single issues from the back issue bins, suckas! You can keep your new-fangled trades and downloads!

Good discussion going here folks! Some additional thoughts:
* Who’s going to pay to digitize? We are, by buying them when they’re available. Marvel/DC have a massive pile of content to sell, and people who want to buy it, given the right price point. Of course they should choose carefully and based on demand which things they digitize first. I’m just saying that eventually 80-100% of everything should/will be available. Which brings me to my next point…
* Digital comics need to be available in bundles. Right now, DC is releasing Fables on Comixology. But they’re doing it only 1 issue a week! At a minimum, digital comics have to be available as ‘digital trades’, giving the same price point discount that paper versions do. Ideally, you’d also have options like ‘All of Transmetropolitan for $100′ or whatever. Right now, there’s a disincentive for me to buy the individual issues (it takes 3 clicks to purchase each issue!) and I just know that eventually they’re going to be digitally ‘traded up’ for a better price. Speaking of price…
* There’s no reason digital comics necessarily have to be cheaper. There is nothing inherently less valuable about having a comic digitally vs. physically. Would I love for them to be cheaper, sure. BUT: instead of printing costs, now the publishers have to pay Apple 30% off the top. If prices have to stay the same price to ensure there’s enough margin for creators, publishers, app vendors, Apple, AND my local comic shop, I’m fine with that. Especially as a starting point for the discussion
* Can we constrain the rest of this conversation to talking about people who want to pay for comics? Let’s leave the religious war aside and focus on what we think is the right solution for paying customers to buy digital comics?


May 19, 2011 at 10:00 am

I haven’t read Elektra:Assassin or any of Miller’s Daredevil but it’s something I definitely intend to get around to and it does seem ridiculous when things like this go out of print.

As for people saying it’s maybe not as well known to the general public, well I think Sienkiewicz is one of those artists whose work should definitely appeal to non-comic readers as it’s just damn good art and doesn’t look stereotypically “comic-booky”.

It’s like the situation with Peter Milligan’s Enigma which I don’t think has been in print for a long time. I hear it mentioned a lot as equal or superior to Watchmen but because Milligan hasn’t become a big superhero writer or had any movie adaptations of his work it continues to be neglected, as does most of his work in general.

Enigma by Milligan&Fegredo is great. Can’t compare it to Watchmen as they were going for different things even if both were about deconstructing superhero genre, but it is great and a shame if it isn’t in print.

About digital format, a problem is indeed that the formats for print comics are not necessarily good for digital comics. Let’s look at my computer screen (ok, this is possible only for me, but bear with me). It is not the smallest ever but it is not quite as high as a regular comic book page. This means that if I want to see a spread, this involves a good deal of minor scrolling back and forth or I need to shrink the pages with a good chance of pages ending up looking like crap. And my screen is reasonably big for a laptop.
There is a good reason why I read only such digital comics which are made directly to Net and don’t even try to mimic printed page. I am not keen on buying some iComic in order to be able to read comics.

Another point is that pamphlet size, trying to sell past issues in individual issues is ridiculous. Bigger packages which give you the whole story is the way to go, preferentially clearly marking if some packages are in sequence.
But considering how poor job Marvel is doing even with printed trades, I’m not expecting anything from them. A while ago I was thinking that I should probably check out some newer Marvel books, since my local library has some trades…but there on the shelf were sitting trades which IIRC were called “Siege” and “Siege: New Avengers”. Looking at them, nowhere could I see any information if I could just pick one or the other and enjoy a full story or if they were part of the same story (I presumed as much from the shared name) or if they were supposed to be read in certain order or if there were more books which I needed to read to get the story.
The response of I, a casual reader positively inclined to comics, was “F*** this, I’ll find something else to read then”. And keep my Marvel reading restricted to Essentials, because they have the title and a sequence number clearly marked on the spine (DC is slightly better in this, even if not perfect).
I fully expect a similar experience from an attempt to buy digital comics.

I’m pretty sure Enigma by Milligan is out of print because I’ve looked EVERYWHERE for it and come up empty. I’m a huge Peter Milligan fan and would love to read it, so I might find it online. Best believe, though, that if it’s ever reprinted I’ll pick it up first thing on Wednesday.

Luckily I already bought Miller’s Elektra omnibus so I can read that beautiful work. not everyone can fork over $75 bucks, if it’s even available at all anymore in that format.

AS: definitely agree that viewing ‘standard’ comics in digital format does not work on landscape computer screens. We’re definitely talking about portrait/tablet devices (which is why the market for digital comics exploded with the launch of the iPad.)

For sure, good bundling will be important. Publishers could get really sophisticated and sell a bundle like Siege that actually did all the interleaving of different issues from different series into a single chronological recommended reading order (Comixology: if you’re listening, that was a feature request!)

One more data point: today Amazon announced that Kindle book sales now greater than hardcover and paperback book sales COMBINED! More details here: http://unthoughtdirections.tumblr.com In a few years, we’ll be looking back and wondering why there was so much debate out the transition to digital…

I would have never discovered the wonderfulness that was Garth Ennis’ Hitman without piracy, since DC only collected the series up to “Who Dares Wins” back in the day, and that shit was out-of-print too.

So uh…yay piracy?

And I think I read 3 issues of Elektra Assassin. It just seemed like this odd stream of consciousness propped up by some brilliant Bill Sienkiewicz artwork. I don’t know if there was some coherent narrative to be found later on, but I wasn’t in the mood to keep trying.

Really enjoyed Daredevil: Love and War, though!

PS: Elektra Assassin is the #1! Whether it was Sienkiewicz’s art (whose New Mutants run, starting with #18 changed my perception of comics forever), the whole notion of just removing Elektra from Marvel Universe continuity, the character of Garrett, Ken Wind (OH GOD HE SMELLS LIKE MAYONAISE!), the notion of Shield agents who were potentially totally corrupt, and the general feeling that this book was full of drug filled mania, I was absolutely hooked.

If I had this on my iPad, I could just pull it up right now. As it is, I’m going to have to climb up into the storage area in my garage, dig into my longboxes, and pull it down to re-read it… Can’t wait. I love comics!

I’m 99% sure that Panini still have Elektra Assassin in print in the UK…

“What does upset me is how much Moebius work is out of print. Arzach! The Airtight Garage, The Incal Vol.1 !!!”

No Moebius work is ever long out of print. In France, I mean. You should learn french…

However the Elektra Omnibus IS out of print. It’s still readily available in many places, but that surely won’t last long – and the secondary market prices of Marvel Omnibus go crazy VERY quickly!

Again – we must have been reading the same comics in the 80’s. I got to comic stores at the time when there was all this stuff that looked the same, and then MAYBE 2 or 3 titles that were TOTALLY DIFFERENT. This was Elektra: Assasin for me. I now realize that I was challenging my mind, my literacy, and my visual intelligence by diving into the Miller/Sienkiewicz masterpiece. And to think I lent it to someone a while ago. Or maybe my brother has it. I can’t remember. Either way, I read it so many times that it started to fall apart. Thank god for this comic books, just like the other seminal work of the 80’s. But this work has always stayed with me, and I for one am thankful it hasn’t been adapted or used in a crappy movie version.

I’m commenting a bit late on this one, but since you were lamenting the fact that it’s been out of print I’m sure you were happy to see that Marvel is putting out a hardcover edition of Elektra:Assassin. Sienkiewicz’s work caught my eye when I was younger, but I never picked up anything he worked on. I’ll definitely be pre-ordering this new edition.

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