The Netflix For Comics Is Finally Here

ComiXology and chill.

If you’ve been here long enough, you’ll know I’m a superhero guy. Most comic readers tend to be, but the medium has a heck of a lot more to offer than just capes and tights. Part of the reason people equate ‘comics’ with ‘superheroes’ is exposure, and the lack thereof for non-Marvel and non-DC titles tends to keep new readers at bay. That’s all about to change thanks to ComiXology Unlimited.

Say what you will about their effect on the print industry, digital comics have made buying these stories easier, especially outside North America. What’s more, it’s about to get a whole lot easier with this $5.99 a month subscription service, which includes, of course, a 30-day trial. It’s only active in the U.S. as of now, though if you already happen to have an American ComiXology or Amazon account, you should be good to go before it rolls out in your region. In fact I’m looking at the updated app right now and I see Dark Horse, BOOM!, IDW, Valiant, Oni Press, Archie, Fantagraphics, and perhaps most excitingly, Image comics.

If you haven’t heard of Image, they’re publishing some of the best creator-owned works. Titles like Bitch Planet, Saga, Sex Criminals, Pretty Deadly, The Wicked + The Divine, Fatale and The Fade Out, all of which appear to be available. You’re also going to find everything from Hellboy to Scott Pilgrim to The Black Incal by Moebius and Alejandro Jodorowsky! I’m tempted to spend the next few paragraphs listing titles (They have Axe Cop* for God’s sake), but the point is, whether you’ve been meaning to pick these up or you haven’t heard of a single one, this is probably the deal you’ve been waiting for.

There’s also some good news for iOS users. While the Amazon/Apple eBeef means you still have purchase on the site first, you can access the entire Unlimited library directly. Between this and Marvel Unlimited (all or most of Marvel up until six months ago for $9.99), we’re essentially moving towards a library model that’s going to get more and more people reading comics. And while the libraries aren’t entirely up to date – some titles’ first volumes are all that are available – it should be enough to pique the interests of casual readers and outsiders, and get them buying regularly.

It probably won’t be long before DC follows suit (imagine being able to access Vertigo’s Sandman anytime, anywhere, for no additional cost), but what the new Unlimited feature really does, other than create potential customers for newer issues, is give lesser-known writers and artists a bigger platform. On a given Wednesday, most customers will choose to spend $4.99 on a character or creator they’ve heard of, as opposed to $2.99 on ones they haven’t. This sort of evens the playing field because it allows comics like Power Up! And Lumberjanes to cultivate readerships based on more than just a few preview pages. The way pre-orders work for physical comics is really weird, and how many print issues are shipped to a given store depends on interest shown months in advance (sometimes before the books even have words in them), so while this may be the next nail in the coffin for people who like the smell of paper, there’s also a fairly noticeable upside. So get reading, newbies. You’ve got a lot to catch up on.

UPDATE: It appears creators were not aware of the ComiXology deal, so that might make things a bit awkward!

*Axe Cop was born out of the pure, unfiltered imagination of a manic five-year-old, and it’s my recommendation for the day. What’s yours?