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July 28, 2014

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Never fear! Digital comics aren’t phasing out paper comic books

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Brenda Cervin and Alex Helmin check out comic books at the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con at the South Point Saturday, June 15, 2013.

Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con

Veronica Fink reacts as she puts her foot on the table to have comic legend Stan Lee sign her shoe at the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con at the South Point Saturday, June 15, 2013. Launch slideshow »

The digital age of comic books has arrived but fear not, traditionalists. There is still room for those long boxes filled with single issues.

“We’ve seen it’s not hurting the print market,” said comic book writer Rick Remender, who writes “Captain America” and “Uncanny Avengers” for Marvel. “What we’ve seen is a resurgence.”

Comic book fans gathered this weekend at the South Point for the Amazing Las Vegas Comic-Con. Despite the proliferation of digital comics, paper comics were everywhere on the show floor, whether they were being sold or signed.

It’s a trend that is likely to stay, said longtime writer and artist Neal Adams.

“People like to handle comic books. They like to read comic books,” said Adams, who's worked on Batman and Superman stories. “They like a stack of comic books in the bathroom or next to their bed. They like that.”

Though it may seem like digital comics can hurt the mom-and-pop stores, retailers such as Ralph Mathieu aren’t afraid.

In fact, it can provide fans who don't live in Las Vegas, which was rated one of the nerdiest cities in the country, a place to catch up without having to travel long distances. Or, if travel isn't a concern, it can provide a gateway to bringing people into stores.

“Digital is the newsstand of yesteryear for people that are new to comics that are discovering that way,” said Mathieu, who owns Alternate Reality Comics, the oldest comic book store in Las Vegas. “Then (they are) going to comic stores and getting the physical format.”

Before digital comics gained popularity, comic fans were unofficially grouped into two categories: the ones who hunt for single issues and those who waited for collections (whether they were trade paperbacks or hardcover books).

Each side has its drawbacks.

For the single-issue fans, getting back issues could be a hassle, and some back issues may be marked up because of rarity.

Fans of collections would have to wait anywhere from six months to a year before they are released.

Digital comics have more or less provided a middle ground.

Lapsed readers can get caught up on their favorite series sooner rather than later without having to go through the process of finding older issues.

Trade readers could read their comics months ahead of collected editions, and be more current with the latest storylines.

“People don’t really think about that,” Adams said of using digital comics as a way to catch up. “You don’t have to wait for the trade edition. You can read the trade edition on the Internet, and get a hard copy.”

Digital comics also have made it easier for people to get into the industry.

Creators can cut out the process of self-printing a comic and can gain traction before pitching their series to a publisher to be distributed in the standard market.

For example, Las Vegas-based writers Larry Ridlen and Apollo Villa-Real have released “City of Mith” via the mobile application Comixology.

“It allows us to immediately put our stuff out without having to go to a Marvel or DC,” Ridlen said. “(Print and digital) can coexist hand in hand. It’s just a preference on what someone has.”

The digital comic revolution hasn’t hit comic book fan Taylor Krajchir yet.

“I just like something I can actually hold,” said Krajchir, 27. “As a collector, you can’t collect a digital comic. I don’t have anything against them. They’re just not for me.”

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