In terms of quality, it’s a great time to read comics: Top-notch creators are cranking out great work for a growing array of publishers. And the recent rise of digital comics as a method of consuming those stories means you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own sofa to snag good funnybooks. But in terms of cost … hoo, boy. The price points for most publishers are climbing ever higher, making it less and less appealing for both casual and obsessive readers to dive in for binge-reads. However, a potentially game-changing new service just launched today: The English-speaking world’s premiere retailer of digital comics, comiXology, introduced a subscription plan that allows you to devour material for $5.99 a month.
It’s called comiXology Unlimited, and while it’s tempting to think of it as the Netflix of comics, it’s a smidge different from that model. For your monthly fee, you’ll get unlimited access to thousands of comics, graphic novels, and anime from an extensive menu of publishers: Image, Kodansha, Dark Horse, Valiant, Archie, BOOM! Studios, and Fantagraphics, just to name a few — almost every company on the market except for the so-called Big Two of Marvel and DC. It is, in no small part, a play to grab folks who don’t regularly read comics but might have heard about critically acclaimed non-superhero stuff like The Walking Dead, Attack on Titan, Lumberjanes, Love and Rockets, Bitch Planet, the rebooted Archie, and Saga. You can read ‘em all on your tablet or your desktop browser.
The catch is that a lot of those titles will only offer you a limited number of issues via subscription — once you reach the end of that stuff, you’ll have to buy the installments that follow. Comics-news site Comic Book Resources did an interview with comiXology CEO David Steinberger where he addressed this approach. “We’re a comic book retailer, and the last thing I want to do is create a difficulty or some barrier to people buying comic books. We are completely aligned with all the publishers and the creators in that we want to create more fans and sell more books,” he said. When asked about whether creators will be allowed to opt out of the service if they disagree with the model (something that’s come up a lot in the realm of subscription-based music services like Spotify), he didn’t get into details. “I don’t get between our publishers and their creators,” he said. “I can’t speak for them.” There might be speed bumps for the project, but it’s undoubtedly a bold addition to the ever-shifting comics marketplace.