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DC Comics Get Digital Update

Enhancements to digital comicbooks meant to draw in new readers

DC Entertainment has found a new way to tell its superhero stories.

The publisher today announced enhancements to its digital comicbooks, adding a new dimension to the artwork while also giving readers the chance to determine how the plots unfold. Consider it a choose-your-own-adventure for the new mobile generation.

The updates, introduced Tuesday evening at Time Warner’s “Future of Storytelling” Exhibition, in New York City, are meant to make DC’s digital books even more attractive to a new group of comicbook reader.

DC already has succeeded in attracting readers to its digital books that bow day-and-date with their print counterparts, and a growing roster of “digital-first” titles, based on Warner Bros. films, TV shows, games and toy properties. Around 30% of digital-first readers are new comicbook readers, DC said.

While digital titles that have continued the storylines of the “Smallville” TV show have sold well, DC’s most current success story is a book based on the recently launched fighting game “Injustice: Gods Among Us” that features DC’s more iconic heroes and supervillains from Superman to the Joker. Book adaptation bowed in January but generated more downloads in April, signaling its longevity.

Last year, DC saw digital sales increase by 125% over 2011, according of the company. Digital also hasn’t shown any signs of cannibalizing traditional print sales, which are also up by double digits over 2011. This year, digital grew by 35% in the first quarter, compared to the same period in 2012. Overall, more than 1 million digital comics are downloaded monthly, including back catalog, same-day-digital and digital first titles.

SEE ALSO: Media Spinoffs Spark Comics

“This is not an insignificant business,” said DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson. “This is still a pretty nascent business for us. It was nonexistent three years ago. But the growth we’re seeing is astonishing and we haven’t looked back.” The goal now is to “look for innovation in ways that are organic to the storytelling and not gimmicky. It’s about giving the readers more control of the reading experience while letting the comics stay true to being comics.”

Batman: Arkham Origins” will be the first title to receive the “DC2 Multiverse” update that will add action sounds and soundtrack, as well as give readers the chance to determine the fate of each storyline and character, including Batman and super-foe Black Mask, with multiple options and end results available in each chapter.

“Arkham Origins” is based on the videogame from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment of the same name. Game bows Oct. 25. DC’s inaugural digital-first title was “Batman: Arkham Unhinged,” also based on the videogame universe.

“Today’s announcements demonstrate how we can tie innovations that organically fit and enhance comics,” said DC Entertainment co-publisher Jim Lee. “For example with ‘Batman: Arkham Origins,’ you can choose the destiny of your character by playing the game and reading the comic.”

At the same time, “when you look at multiverse and the ability to tell multiple stories, it’s something that mirrors what gaming is all about,” Lee said. “When we’re trying to attract different audiences and people who are into our characters and not necessarily into our comics, this is a way to get into it.”

Digital-first title “Batman ‘66,” based on the popular 1960s TV show will be the first title to feature the “DC2” enhancements, with panels featuring multi-dimensional artwork and sequences like characters appearing from the sides of the screen.

“The technology is a fun way to present the world of Batman as seen in that classic TV show and lets it leap from the page,” Lee said.

DC’s digital books are available on all comiXology platforms, Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iBookstore and the Nook Store.

“Since we made the game-changing decision to go same-day-digital with the launch of ‘DC Comics – The New 52,’ we very strategically built our digital business to have the broadest distribution and most extensive digital-first content line-up, and now we’re at the forefront of innovation,” Nelson said. “DC2 and DC2 Multiverse leverages technology to make iconic characters like Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Green Lantern even more relevant through highly interactive storytelling.”

Pricing for the new enhanced digital editions have yet to be revealed but are likely to be higher than the current 99 cents charged per issue.

But DC is still looking to keep costs low

The interactive elements “are part of the experimental nature of all this,” Lee said. “With every split of the story, you’re creating a geometric increase in the amount of work that needs to be done.” Yet DC has developed ways to save production coin by repurposing backgrounds, for example.

“The holy grail for decades has been where do we find new readers,” Lee added. “That was a distribution dilemma. But having a digital storefront on anyone’s phones or devices has been a boon to our industry. Now it’s about creating digital content that our fans are attracted to.”

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