ComiXology launches Unlimited service, and comic creators react

Contributed by
May 25, 2016, 4:36 PM EDT

The Netflix of comic books. That’s the shorthand used to describe ComiXology Unlimited, the new subscription service launched yesterday for the Amazon-owned digital comic book platform.

Touting “endless access” for the monthly cost of $5.99, customers can explore thousands of titles -- including The Walking Dead, Attack on Titan, Hellboy, Adventure Time, Peanuts, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lumberjanes, Saga, Scott Pilgrim, Spawn, Love and Rockets, Locke & Key, The Umbrella Academy, Outcast, Star Trek and Transformers. The digital comic books will be available via app on devices such as Fire Tablet, Android, iOS and on the web.

Although the big two of Marvel and DC are not included in the service, which offers a 30-day free trial, other publishers taking part include Image Comics, Dark Horse, IDW, Dynamite, Valiant, Archie, Zenescope and more.

The launch initially appears to be inviting news for consumers who can read as much as they want, and many creators appeared on board as well. But the news was also met with concerns among some industry professionals who questioned the model, and appeared unaware their titles would be included in the unlimited service.

Greg Pak (The Totally Awesome Hulk) tweeted support for ComiXology, noting that many “free” books were first volumes, which encourages people to pay for Vol. 2. This was a sentiment echoed by iZombie co-creator Chris Roberson, who posted that the service is a good way to sample books, not read entire runs.

Meanwhile, Ed Brubaker said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the service, since it has a goal of increasing paid sales, even though, “generally, subscription services are not great for creators, because they get little-to-no royalties.”

Dan Jurgens (Batman Beyond; Lois & Clark) appeared opposed to the subscription model, posting on Twitter it is not a good thing “until creators can walk into Target and get as much of whatever they want for only $5.99 a month.” The suggestion here is that creators won’t be paid appropriately for their work.

Joe Hill (Locke & Key, from IDW Comics) tweeted that: “App guys love to reduce books, TV, movies, comics & music to ‘content.’ But each is different. The Netflix model may not be ideal for all.’

Speaking of Hill, he said they found out via social media that their books were included in the unlimited model, as did creator Jamie McKelvie (The Wicked + The Divine, Image Comics). Other creators, like Brian Wood (Aliens: Defiance and Starve, Dark Horse Comics) and C. Spike Trotman (owner of Iron Circus Comics, and creator of Templar, Arizona) posted on Twitter they had been notified some time back, was invited to participate, and signed a contract.

With regards to ComiXology, we received the following statement from a spokesperson:

“We don't discuss our business terms, but please know that every comic, graphic novel and manga appearing in the service was approved by the publishers to be in our subscription program. ComiXology Unlimited is designed to spur sampling and the discovery of new series, which spreads the love of comics and increases revenue for all publishers and creators on comiXology. Everyone -- the creators, the publishers and comiXology -- all benefit when more people are reading and buying more comics.”

The statement definitely places the onus on publishers to notify creators their comics would be on ComiXology Unlimited. This component of the story, about what responsibility the publishers had to notify their creators, is developing (as Warren Ellis not-so-subtly alluded to). In the meantime, however, ComiXology Unlimited is live, and available for customers to read as much as they want -- and then choose whether to pay a little more down the line.