DC vs. Marvel. Marvel vs. DC. It’s very easy for fans from both worlds to get caught in the “us vs them” debate. Personally, I try to avoid it if possible. Both worlds have their strengths and bring something unique and special to their respective fans. Over the last decade, Marvel has tailored their strategy towards the big screen and has dominated cinema. DC has had enormous success on-screen with the Christopher Nolan “Batman” franchise, and to a lesser extent the “Man of Steel,” but their weapon of recent times has been TV shows, both animated and live action. For all its faults, I’m a DC girl, through and through. But this past SDCC, Marvel made an offer I couldn’t refuse. I got a month of Marvel Unlimited on sale for $0.99. And oh, the world that opened up. I only wish DC would do the same. I’ll break it down for you.
For the uninitiated, Marvel Unlimited is more or less a Netflix for the comic distributor. For $9.99 a month, you can access a large selection of back issues, streamed to your browser. It’s got its bugs and spots to improve on, certainly; however, it really solves one of the biggest problems for comic readers – whether you’re an old hand hunting down information on a specific character or getting into comics entirely: back reading? Is hard.
In fact, let’s do a quick comparison here. Is there a more popular media as hard to track down as comics? In this digital age, it’s easy to get a lot of older works, quickly and legally. Looking for a movie or TV show? Stop by Netflix first. Many times, they’ll have it for you to stream. Sometimes you might have to order the DVD. If they don’t have it, you might check your local library, or consider buying it off of iTunes or Amazon if you’re in a hurry. If it’s a show, you’ve got Hulu to check as well, or the website for the show you’re looking at, or On Demand. Music? If the band themselves haven’t uploaded the video to YouTube, you can always swing by Spotify, or buy it off of iTunes or Amazon once again. Books? A bit harder, but with all the eBooks available, it’s pretty easy to get a copy immediately for a reasonable price, and if not, there’s always overnight shipping, or, if all else fails, your local library – they might even have a copy available to download. Perhaps not quite as easy as the others, but at least there are more copies of even out of print books in circulation. You have a lot of pretty reliable options to get it before you have to resort to piracy. (DCN does not support piracy in any form.) We’ve made it very, very easy to get even the most obscure movies, shows, and songs online for a reasonable price. Many may still pirate, certainly, but it’s not the only way. There’s no accessibility problem here.
Now let’s say some friend or really loud and opinionated DCN writer is passionate about Cassandra Cain, and now you’re curious. You’d like to hunt down her solo run. The first Batgirl series ever, and a best seller – nothing particularly obscure. You see that most of her stuff has been collected in trade, so you go to your local comic book store to pick up some copies, only to find that they’re all out of print, and virtually no one has them. Just buy the singles? You’re lucky to find five of them, and they’re not cheap. Libraries? Not really. Buy the trades off of Amazon? You might get half of them, for about $50 each. Comixology? Finally, you’re in luck – for the low price of $145.27 (plus tax), they can be yours! Well, not yours-yours. You can’t download them to your computer, and sure, the reader has scope for improvement. And if the site ever goes under, you’ll lose all the comics. But at least they’re on Comixology, right? A surprising amount of stories don’t even have that.
Or, you can torrent them. Sure, it’s illegal, and no money goes to either DC or to your LCS, but at least you can read them all. I’m sure more of you than you’d care to admit have done it. I’m sure most comic fans, period, have done it. It’s the most reliable way. I don’t condone it. But realistically, it’s a symptom, not a cause. Sometimes, it’s the only way. And that’s not good for anyone.
But for Marvel, there’s now another option – Marvel Unlimited. Entire runs are available to stream, for a much lower price than Comixology, with the options to purchase issues as you go. Getting into Marvel has never been easier.
I’m confident that DC could “steal and tweak” the concept from Marvel, build and offer their own DC Unlimited service that we as fans would love and appreciate. It’s your move, DC.