Archie Just Made a Fascinating Step Forward for Digital Comics

As physical comic book stores reckon with the age of the novel coronavirus, there are sea changes coming to the comic book industry as we know it. But one long-lingering aspect that’s become increasingly important is digital trade, and Archie Comics’ new team-up with Comixology is bringing it to the fore again.

Through Screenrant, Archie and Comixology announced that every title released by the publisher as of today, as well as access to its vast back library of series and digests, will now be a part of Comixology’s $8-a-month Unlimited subscription service, with new issues arriving in readers’ libraries day and date with their release on store shelves and in digital storefronts.

Unlimited itself has been home to a library of archival releases and new, original series — including past works from other major publishers like Marvel and DC — since its inception a few years ago. But this is the first time a major Western publisher has made new releases accessible like this as part of a subscription, akin to something like how the Weekly Shonen Jump app offers day-and-date translations of its latest series chapters.

Both Marvel and DC have long offered free digital copies for readers who purchase new single issues, and sold those digital issues day-and-date through storefronts like Comixology. But their own subscription services have always been slightly behind on new releases. Marvel Unlimited has provided a back catalogue as well as a steady arrival of “new” releases sixth months after they’ve hit store shelves. The comics aspect of DC Universe has been offering them 12 months after release; when the service transitions to a comics-only platform as DC Universe Infinite next year, it will likewise offer new titles six months after their physical release.

It’s a big step forward to making the digital side of comics reading more accessible and more vital than ever — and with a major publisher like Archie getting on board, it’ll be interesting to see who else could potentially start making similar moves to get digital books in people’s hands (err, depending on just where they read them, I suppose) as soon as possible.