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Here’s good news for fans of the television show Smallville who were left without their fix in May when the series went off the air for good: DC announced today that Smallville is coming back as a comic, which will be released first in digital and then in print form. The series will be written by Bryan Q. Miller, who was a scriptwriter for the show, and will pick up where the television story left off. Pere Perez, who worked with Miller on Batgirl: The Flood, will handle the art, and the digital cover above is by Cat Staggs.
DC has an interesting strategy for this comic: It will launch as a digital comic on April 13, with a new digital chapter coming out each week. (No word on pricing or length.) About a month later, it will come out as a print comic, collecting the chapters and adding an episode guide; the first print comic is due out on May 16, and Gary Frank (Superman Secret Origin) will be doing the covers for the print issues.
The weekly chapters are an interesting twist. Not only do they mimic the timing of the original show, they make the comic more of an immediate experience, something people come back to frequently and discuss in real time, as opposed to a monthly event. IDW is doing something similar with its Transformers series Autocracy, publishing an eight-page digital chapter every two weeks, priced at 99 cents. And of course there’s Shonen Jump Alpha, the digital reincarnation of Viz’s Shonen Jump, which publishes a chapter a week of six different manga within two weeks of their Japanese release, with a teen-friendly price of 99 cents per issue (less if you get the yearly subscription).
I spoke to Viz senior vice president Alvin Lu about the weekly chapters at NYCC last year, and he made an interesting point: “Manga is a live medium in Japan,” he told me. “It comes out in popular form every week and is enjoyed at the same time by millions of readers. Creators feed off that energy, and that is the secret of manga’s success.”
Aside from that energy, the weekly chapters are generally priced lower than a comic, and it’s a basic psychological fact that most people will be more comfortable spending 99 cents four weeks in a row than spending $3.99 all at once, no matter how much they get for the money.