Friday, March 18, 2011
For the first time, I believe, since DC Comics began selling their comics digitally through Comixology's digial comics website and application, there were no new releases on Wednesday.
On Thursday, DC launched a $0.99 sale on Comixology for over 200 "green"-themed comics, tied to St. Patrick's Day. It's possible that DC purposely held their Wednesday digital new releases until Thursday for the sale, but I think this is unlikely -- a basic rule of business is that if you can get customers hooked on expected a product at a certain time and on a certain day, i.e. new comics releases on Wednesday, that's not something you should monkey with, at least without giving the customers notice.
Despite that DC advertised a number of new releases to be included in that $0.99 St. Patrick's Day sale, those new releases -- which included Mike Grell's 1987 Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters miniseries, Judd Winick's Green Arrow, some Brightest Day tie-in Green Lantern and Corps, and Dennis O'Neil's Green Lantern/Green Arrow -- remained unavailable until late Thursday night.
By way of explanation, Comixology mentioned a couple times on their Twitter feed Wednesday and Thursday that DC's comics were delayed by Apple approval, and that the specific comic caught in the approval process was the Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters miniseries.
Let the unsubstantiated speculation begin.
Grell's Longbow Hunters, of course, launched a new Green Arrow title that would end up with one of DC's "Mature Readers" labels, prior to the creation of their Vertigo imprint and well before, just recently, DC's bucking of the Comics Code Authority entirely toward their own rating system. With that "Mature Readers" label, the Green Arrow title included perhaps more blood than you might've otherwise seen in a comic at the time (though not much greater than today's standards), and a greater amount of implied frontal nudity.
Longbow Hunters itself is rather bloody, with arrows through hands and chests, though again I think by today's standards Longbow matches Magog or Justice League: Cry for Justice in terms of gore (not in terms of story -- Longbow is a classic, and if you haven't read it, you should). In addition to some gore, Longbow also includes a depiction of Black Canary having been tortured, with some suggestion of sexual violence.
I wonder if some part of the above factored into the longer-than-normal Apple approval process.
We know Apple has had trouble in the past with overzealous censorship, including banning the Eucalyptus e-reader because it could access the Kama Sutra on Project Gutenberg. Was an almost two-day delay in the release of new digital comics the result of Apple's uncertainty about the content of a Green Arrow comic book? Do DC and Comixology now have to worry that if they want to make a "mature" comic available, they'll receive time-based penalization from Apple?
Given that the DC/Comixology digital store already contains a number of mature reader Vertigo titles, as well as DC Universe titles with strong content like Identity Crisis, I hope that if any of this is true, it's just a one-time blip. The concerns I express, however, go to recurrent issues facing the comic book industry and fans -- a general public misunderstanding that comics aren't just "kid stuff" and might contain strong content, and a new digital landscape for comics that involves bringing in third parties like Apple that may not understand comics culture, the important of Wednesday delivery, and so on.
I think that the reason more hasn't been made of all of this these past two days is because the only vendor DC's digital delay affected was Comixology, and because the digital comics in question are just reprints. Imagine, however, if this had applied to physical comics, and no comic book stores had received their DC titles until essentially Friday -- that'd be a big deal. I'll be curious to see if this happens again, and if more attention mounts as digital comics become more pervasive.
[You might also like Collected Editions' List of Digital Comics Unavailable in Trade Paperback]