Mark Waid on Print Vs. Digital Comics: 'The Old Ways Weren't Doomed'

In a new essay, comic book creator, retailer and publisher Waid addresses the surprisingly healthy (and helpful) co-existence between print and digital comics.
Lori Matsumoto

Mark Waid made headlines in 2010 when his keynote speech for that year's Harvey Awards addressed the then-nascent idea of "digital comics" and how they'd relate to the traditional print market. Three years later -- and with Waid continuing to write for print and digital publishers, in addition to running a digital publisher and co-owning two stores selling print comics -- he revisited the topic to admit that, maybe, he got things wrong.

"I still have no regrets about soapboxing over the New Ways, about the role screen-based portables can have as outreach tools," Waid writes in an essay titled "How I Fumbled the Ball," adding "in all honesty, the Old Ways weren't doomed. Had you told me three years ago that comics sales in America would be up by significant numbers when all other forms of print media were shedding readers at a brutal pace, I’d have been the one to call you a heretic. Yet here we are."

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Instead of the traditional model where digital sales negatively impact analog media, the comic industry has seen a surprisingly healthy coexistence, Waid explains. "A year or two ago, when readers (new, old and lapsed) began reporting that reading comics online spurred them into stores, we considered that to be anecdotal evidence that there was a positive symbiotic relationship between the two," he writes. "Today, we have hard data to back that up; every shred of evidence goes to show that one does not 'steal' from the other."

As someone with business interests in both digital and print worlds, Waid's looking to take that coexistence one stage further by installing a kiosk for digital purchasing in one of his brick-and-mortar stores. "It’ll be strange, offering both physical goods and downloads for sale under the same roof," he admits. "It may not yield results, but if it doesn’t, the next experiment will, or the one after that." After all, he writes, "the audience is out there."