"Smallville" managed to be the longest running sci-fi/fantasy series on network television, running 10 seasons before going off the air last spring. Well, it's back for more, except in comic book form.
Smallville: Season 11 #1 just launched today, and in an interesting approach, it's going to be a weekly digital comic available for about a dollar a week. I downloaded and read the first issue, and it reads like... well, like an issue of "Superman." The way the characters are drawn are in line with what they look like on the TV show, but other than a little more Green Arrow (who isn't regularly part of standard Superman comics) and Chloe Sullivan (who isn't a regular character in other Superman comics), it's a pretty standard introductory story.
In this first story, the world seems to be adjusting to having a superhero in their lives. Superman is initially spoken of by all the characters before he's actually seen, ultimately saving a Russian space satellite.
Trying a weekly digital comic is a new approach for the major publishers. Will fans jump on to see stories like these play out weekly on their iPhones, iPads and other devices, or is the public not ready for that yet? They're not leaving print behind; several of these weekly stories, shorter than a regular comic, will be collected into a monthly comic that also includes some extras you don't get digitally.
In addition to Smallville, DC Comics is launching several other digital comics casting a broad net, with a different comic available every day of the week by the time they're all launched in a couple of months.
"The choices that we've made are meant to appeal to a wider audience," DC's senior digital vice president Hank Kanalz told USA Today. "It's a great way to test what a wider audience is interested in. Some of these things may not work as well as we think they will. Some of them will outperform. It's just a matter of finding what strikes a chord with new readers."
It's a bold venture, but comic book companies are looking to figure out what's next as their business continues to decline, with the number of comic books that actually sell dwindling over time in an ever-more-competitive media landscape.
It's also not the first venture of TV continuation in comics; several other licensed books continue the adventures of TV characters in print, and Dark Horse Comics has a Buffy: The Vampire Slayer comic that is also sold as being the next seasons of the show.
Marvel Comics is also trying several new digital initiatives, including Marvel Infinite Comics, which are comics designed specifically for digital that aren't intended to be released in print. Download codes are being included in some comics, and the comic can be downloaded by itself for 99 cents. They've also launched a new augmented reality app that lets you put your phone's camera over a comic and see digital extras.
Are any of these up your alley? Can digital comics help save the industry? Not even the Shadow knows.
Check out previews from several of the new DC digital books: