Thinking Out Loud About Digital Comic Codes

It’s been a long, long while since I’ve written at any length about collecting-related issues, and while I’m a firm believer in reading the comics I buy, I’m still a comic COLLECTOR at heart. Sure I won’t read comics I hate on any principle, but there have definitely been a few shameful instances in my past where I’ve bought two copies of a polybagged book so one can stay “Mint”. (And before you judge me too harshly, ask yourself what state your Superman #75 is in.)
 
Marvel’s launched an admirable new venture wherein their $3.99 titles* all contain “free” digital download codes so you can use the Marvel app or ComiXology to read the issue on your computer or mobile device. This is smart marketing on Marvel’s part: it costs virtually nothing, acts as a pretty great goodwill gesture, and gives you some lagniappe for your extra dollar (that they would have gotten anyway).
 
The problem comes in with the presentation, though. Most likely to guard against theft, the digital download code comes covered with a small sticker and lasts for about a year, depending on when you purchase that comic. Anyone who’s read the blog for more than about a week is well aware of my unwillingness to spend $4 for a “Big Two” comic, but now we’re getting to the point where these $3.99 books are making their way to discount bins and this leaves me with a dilemma: what do I do with these codes?
 
Because I AM a collector I have an (admittedly lame) problem with ripping the stickers off because then the book can no longer be considered complete. Yet the part of me who wants to get the full value for my dollar — and likes digital comics! — says it’s stupid, after a year the code will be invalidated anyway, so there’s nothing to gain by ignoring the code. We’ve seen this before with Marvel Value Stamps and Image #0 coupons, where if someone cuts a piece out of the comic it legitimately affects the condition of the book, and even though this is a tag clearly designed to be easily removed, there’s still some…modification to the book.
 
Mike Sterling brings up some good points in his Progressive Ruin blog, mainly about the headache of validating whether a comic is still “intact”. And even though I’m not trying to be the retailer’s advocate here, I can definitely see how that’s unnecessary overhead for them. But as a buyer — whether a comic shop customer or a retailer buying back issues — you should definitely have the right to know if the tag has been pulled and the code used, at least if the book is less than a year old. That gives the owner the right to make up their own mind about whether or not they want to deface their comics.
 
So what the hell are we supposed to do?
 
I’ve done way too much thinking about this (read: ANY thinking about this) and loath as I am to admit it, that sticker is a part of the published book in the same way those Image coupons were. Even though they were designed and intended to be pulled, I find it hard to still consider a book “Mint” without it. Not that it’s worth dropping a comic by a grade, I just think they should be identified as “with” or “without” the tag, in the same way Marvel had newsstand and direct market versions of their books in the 90’s. (Again, sorry retailers. I know that’s an unfair burden on you, but it’s got to be done.  Maybe it’s just safest to assume that code is gone at all times.)
 
That said, I still want my digital comic!  I’ve lost track of the link at this point, but I found a post by an astute reader who realized that if you shine a bright light through the tag and squint, you can make out the code underneath.  This allows you to redeem the code without defacing your books.  And since said code expires in a year, you keep a pristine copy of your book and still get a digital copy.  You can even resell your book and keep the digital copy (as long as you’re honest with the seller, which you will be, right?).
 
But I want to give the last word to Mr. Sterling, who’s best insight is right in his headline: “This is all assuming there’ll eventually be a back issue market for anything coming out right now.”
 *It’s worth mentioning that Dark Horse’s new Star Wars #1, even at $2.99, had a free digital download code.
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No Capes! Tuesday or Strange Tricks

In the last year or so my comic collecting has become more whimsical. As I’ve said before, I’m at a point in my collecting where I’m rarely hunting through boxes for a specific issue of a book. Nowadays I sift through boxes looking for anything that might catch my eye. Often I leave a convention or a shop with old educational/ promotional comics, a few cheap and beat up Jimmy Olsens, or a Charlton war anthology. My interest in comics has become such that I’ll pick up and read almost anything if the price is right. It’s taken me some considerable time to get to this point. Ten or fifteen years ago I would never have considered picking up some of the books I’ve gotten in the last year. I’ve become one of those guys that reads something just because it’s a comic, and it’s bound to show me something I haven’t seen before.

Case in point: Charlton’s Love Diary #94. The last time friend-of-the-blog-rakmO and I went on a comics run, I picked this up along with that Batman vs. Yeti hybrid and a few other books; it was in a buy five, get one free box. I like to think that this is my free book. I was drawn in by the cover. I mean who doesn’t like covers that talk to you? Who could read this cover and not want to find out why she’s a, “snake.”

There were three stories in the book and they’re the sort of stories Stephanie Meyer* would write if she weren’t an ardent feminist.

1. “My secret love” – A beach bunny has to choose between a reckless Sonny Bono look-a-like and a Steve Rogers look-a-like who is a by the book young highway patrolman. Since it’s written by someone’s dad, naturally she chooses the cop. Here’s the twist: she doesn’t tell her friends she’s dating a cop because she’s afraid they’ll murder him.

2. “In love again” – Boy marries girl, parents threaten to beat them both senseless. Annulment occurs. Time marches on. Bearded man reconnects with girlish woman.

3. “Manhater” – This is the one to which the cover refers. Because all of the men in her life are such poor role models,  Eve becomes a serial dater. That is until she meets Jeremy. He’s sensitive, funny… in a dad sort of way… and he talks to Eve instead of hitting her or shoving his tongue down her throat. Friends try to warn old Jerr off of Eve and her wicked ways to no avail. The story ends with love… true love.

So the stories were pretty indoctrinating, silly and fluffy… and probably written by a 40 something, pipe smoking dad. That’s only one of the reasons I love this book and will work to find more. The ads are something else! It never occurred to me that comic book ads could ever be targeted to girls/ women, and yet the entire book is slanted that way. There are ads for record sets and posters of David Cassidy, there’s an ad for t-shirts with girly sorts of images, and an ad for jewelry made from silverware. My money’s worth was found in the ad for Pursettes Tampons. It reads a bit like a Hostess ad but with almost no production value. Read and enjoy below.

My collecting just took an unexpected turn for the weird.

*for those that might not know, Stephanie Meyer wrote the Twilight series. That Gloria Steinem hasn’t issued a Feminist fatwa on Meyer is a mystery for the ages.

Quarter Bin Treasure Chest

One of my favorite things about cons is back-issue diving.  And one of my favorite things about that is discovering insane old Silver Age books.  I thought I’d share a few I found at Denver Comic Con.  None of these were a quarter, but they were all under $2.

I’ve never read a Blackhawk comic before, but that’s just Silver Age madness!

The superhero boom is obviously upon us!

I thought this was the same character from our, but I was mistaken.

A note from the editor right on the cover? Always a good sign.

I don’t have to explain why this is awesome, right? It’s Superman and he Guardians!

It gets even crazier when Hitler shows up! Oh damn, I ruined it.

Giant robot? Check. Creepy old-school sci-fi name? Double-check.

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Secret identity hijinx!

Never-ending Battle

Recently Jesse paid a rare visit to the land of his birth. Due to scheduling demands, we only made it to one comic book store. Never the less, it was a trip to a comic shop worth making.

Jesse and Hoyt might recall a post from 2009 about the search for books important to a/my personal collection. I referred to such books as “grail books.”

Imagine my joy when I walked into that shop to find this gem from 1977

The nigh-impossible to find DC Special #29. As a collector of JSA stories, I’ve been looking for this book for a long time. A week ago yesterday, the clouds parted, a light shone from on high, and I was finally able to read the secret origin of the Justice Society of America. It was a good day, but, as I said before, the hunt continues. I’ve got other grail books to find.

Happy Hunting.