Warren Ellis has an interesting article about digital comics and their potential affect on comic books and how they’re written. Currently, most books are written for trade. The entire story is really read over a five issue story arc (might be longer, might be shorter), but the days of being able to pick up a comic and read a self-contained story have long passed, though there’s still times when this happens (usually when a bridge issue between two story arcs is needed). Ellis’s belief is that comic books will go through a change, like music.
Music at one time was enjoyed as an album. You’d listen through every song as they told a complete story or followed musical transitions and flowed together. Today music is geared towards the single song. The days of the concept album or story album are mostly gone, but when they happen we praise them as if suddenly discovering a long thought extinct species. What Ellis doesn’t take into account is the single wasn’t an advent of iTunes and MP3s, but really due to radio and the need for hit singles. But, the introduction of easy to download single tracks has absolutely speed up the process.
Doing some search online, I found the below graphic from 2009 looking at sales of individual songs digitally, album digital sales and cd sales.
Digital sales have gone from $2.6 billion in 2006 to an estimated $14..8 billion in 2011. You can see in the graph above, the increase in digital album sales has made up for the drop in physical album sales, but, the volume of digital single sales has exploded over the same time period. It’s understandable why the focus on what to release has changed, from a full solid album, to one with a few hits. The single is clearly ruling. But, will we see a similar shift in digital comics?
We’d need to see a full release on what people are buying to figure out the actual trend. Are people purchasing single issues here and there and not full runs? If so, we might see a similar shift in how stories are written. Gone will be the days of epic, multi-issue stories, replaced with self contained single issues.