I like Viz a lot and so this totally pains me to say, but I’m actually pretty bummed about the move to digital-only on Shonen Jump [ref].
Yes, I absolutely think it is a good move to combat piracy. Yes, I think it will significantly improve the reading experience of thousands of die hard fans. I think it being successful will pave the way for other digital partnerships and initiatives at Viz, another good thing. There are a lot of up-sides to this move, and I don’t want to take away from them, but there’s a huge downside to this move that I haven’t seen discussed yet.
The move to digital pulls cheap, accessible comics off of the newsstands of huge parts of North America, where there might not otherwise be comics or manga. Shonen Jump sold in Walmart. It sold in corner stores, it sold (probably terribly but still) in comic stores, it sold to people without Very Expensive pieces of digital technology. It’s read by kids–and teens, and adults too–but it’s $5 and 300 pages of action, adventure, and even romance, and it has all sorts of articles, free Yu-Gi-Oh cards, and more, it is perfect for kids. I know kids read it, and I’m going to come right out and say that it is the single best way that the medium of comics reaches younger readers–100-200,000 copies of Shonen Jump available on magazine racks across North America.
Some kids don’t have credit cards or Apple digital devices or much more than $5 to spend on a comic, and Shonen Jump is how we as a medium get that $5. $5 at Marvel buys you about 1.25 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man. It’ll get you 1.66 issues of Teen Titans over at DC. But at Viz $5 gets you 300 pages of new comics every month. There’s just nothing else like Shonen Jump.
The folks at Viz are smart and passionate people and they love manga, I have no doubt they’ve explored every angle and come to the conclusion that this is the best move on a number of levels. I’m not second-guessing them here. They published this anthology, aimed at kids and tweens and teens, this wonderful ambassador of manga and of comics, of visual storytelling, and they’ve done so for round-about 10 years now. That is a longer and more sustained commitment to comics outreach than Marvel or DC have managed, combined, since Crisis. Viz deserve a huge round of applause for that, and I hope those last few print issues of Shonen Jump will be appropriately celebratory for their fantastic accomplishment.
I just wish it didn’t have to end, because frankly, comics needs Shonen Jump in print every month.