Home Comics & Toys Digital distribution is helping Top Cow evolve even further as a comic book publisher

Digital distribution is helping Top Cow evolve even further as a comic book publisher

4 min read


I had a friend in the US who once told me that Wednesday was the best day to be a fan of comic books. That’s when the bulk of new releases would arrive, as he’d pop up every afternoon to grab a pile of them that his favourite store sorted and held in reserve. These days? There’s not that much emphasis on going out every week to stock up.

Digital comic books are booming right now, thanks to numerous subscription services being available. Whether its direct from a publisher or via outlets like Comixology, the time to grab what you want without having to ever leave your home and face the blazing light of the star that this planet orbits has never been better.

Top Cow (1)

There’s a double-edged sword to all of this of course. Comic book piracy has always been a constant thorn in the side of the industry, forcing many a publisher to fight off the scurvy side of fandom so that they can see a return on their comic books. Some publishers hate piracy, whereas others have looked at the how and why of this scene and adapted to it. Top Cow is one of those publishers who has adapted to use digital publishing as another tool to help move comic books around.

“I think online distribution has helped immensely, because it allows people to sample,” Top Cow boss and Postal writer Matt Hawkins explained at FanCon.

Top Cow (4)

I think that it’s a great way to find things that you like

You’re not going to get a free credit comic from a comic book store usually, you’re going to have to pay for it. We have the Free Comic Book Day annual event, but for the most part you pay for something to try it. That is dangerous, because I think we’ve all bought books or gone to movies and watched things that we didn’t like. When you pay to see a movie and it sucks, it’s a horrible experience and everyone is annoyed with that.

The same with if you buy a book or a comic book and you don’t like it. You feel like you’ve wasted your money and your time. The nice thing about digital and sampling online, is that you have the ability to sample and see if you like it. I think that it’s a great way to find things that you like, and we get millions of downloads a year on our comic books. We have like over a hundred free comics on our website and collectively they get downloaded over a million times a year.

That focus has seen piracy of Top Cow comic books drop over the years, as fans have realised that if they want more comics like Witchblade, Aphrodite IX or the Darkness, then they’re going to need to support the efforts of publishers like Top Cow. “In terms of piracy, I think a lot of what I’ve seen with online comic torrents has kind of gone away,” Hawkins explained.

Top Cow (2)

If a book is making money, it’s never going to be cancelled

And I think because of Comixology, there are so many alternatives where they’re not expensive and you can buy and read comics digitally, I’ve noticed that the piracy statistics have gone way down. People that are pirating books that aren’t going to buy them anyway? Who cares. It’s not exactly going to influence me one way or the other.

What does happen, is that you’ll get people who pirate comics, who read them online, they’ll become a fan and they’ll want to buy them. People want to support things that they like. They’re willing to spend money on something, especially when they know that if they don’t then it’s going to go away. I can’t tell you how many times people have complained to me about books that got cancelled.

Here’s the magic: If a book is making money, it’s never going to be cancelled. That’s just true. No one cancels a successful thing unless there’s a very rare reason.

That’s entirely fair. Comic book creators deserve to be rewarded for their efforts. Owning a piece of their hard work these days costs less than a cup of coffee. Not only is digital distribution fantastic for this, it also has a knock-on effect of seeing consumers support their favourite titles by actually buying physical versions anyway. After all, you don’t want to get an iPad signed, you want the actual physical labour in front of you autographed by the people who put their blood, sweat, and tears into it.

Is there a future for digital distribution then? Absolutely. As Top Cow has proven, it can co-exist with the more traditional side of the medium.

Like stuff like this? Then don’t forget to give our interview with Chew writer John Layman a read.

Last Updated: May 4, 2017


  1. Digital is just far more convenient. You can easily pick up a virtual ton of comics across the various bundle sites for a few dollars, which is perfect for someone like me who gets whelmed when walking into an actual comic book shop.


    • Original Heretic

      May 4, 2017 at 12:49

      Whelmed, huh? You’re just making things up now.


      • CGS

        May 4, 2017 at 12:57

        Whelmed, verb – engulf, submerge, or bury

        Literally never heard it actually used in a sentence before though. Ha.


        • Original Heretic

          May 4, 2017 at 13:03

          Cannot be! There is no such word! Trevor made it up!

          *whispering in the corner* crapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrapcrap


          • The D

            May 4, 2017 at 14:47

            Y’all owe Trevor an apology: https://youtu.be/UdBcnRFN4Vg

          • Original Heretic

            May 4, 2017 at 14:55

            I have no sound, I don’t know what was being said in that video.
            Nevertheless, I did Google it and it is indeed a word, so…*gulp*….*sigh*….*fidget*…..*still stalling*….
            @disqus_DoEH3TsffU:disqus sorry Trev….


          • RinceThis

            May 4, 2017 at 14:55

            Never say sorry to that thing! It’ll come after you now, you’ve opened the door…

          • Original Heretic

            May 4, 2017 at 14:56

            I have quick reflexes, I can slam a door shut VERY quickly.
            Hopefully his foot will be in there, then I can give my favourite kind of apology, the sarcastic type.

          • RinceThis

            May 4, 2017 at 15:06

            Sadly he is immune to sarcasm… But not a slamming door! HAZA!

          • Original Heretic

            May 4, 2017 at 15:11

            Slamming doors and apologies aside, I consider this to be a growth experience. I was made to learn that a word I had only previously used jokingly is, in fact, a real word.
            Do I feel dirty after apologizing to Trevor? Si.
            Do I feel stupid that I thought a real word was made up? Si.
            Do I feel the need to say nice things about Trevor now? Nee, sies!

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            May 4, 2017 at 15:13


          • Original Heretic

            May 4, 2017 at 15:18

    • RinceThis

      May 4, 2017 at 14:54

      gets whelmed, lol.


  2. Original Heretic

    May 4, 2017 at 12:54

    Chew, I want that. I want it bad.
    Been far too long since I’ve read some awesome comics. I think the last series I really got into was The Boys, but I haven’t touched that in years. Only ever got to issue 60 (or somewhere round there).


    • Guild

      May 4, 2017 at 13:58

      I think The Boys finished around issue 72 then there were a bunch of miniseries. The Boys was another awesome series Darryn got me into. That and Chew. Both brilliant.


      • Original Heretic

        May 4, 2017 at 14:09

        Okay, reading that, I gotta make a plan to finish The Boys.
        Even before I started reading it, I was already sold on it.
        The writer from Preacher and the artist from Transmet? Of course I was going to read it!


  3. CGS

    May 4, 2017 at 12:59

    Well he’s got a point, I have sampled a couple titles from their website for free and it did lead me to buying them new rather than getting the cheapest used copy I could find. Every Top Cow series I like that’s not Witchblade or The Darkness seems to have less than 20 issues, but I enjoy their stuff more than typical superhero comics.


  4. Andy Lockett

    May 9, 2017 at 05:43

    I miss The Darkness very badly :c


    • Kervyn Cloete

      May 9, 2017 at 07:55

      When we spoke to Matt he revealed that Top Cow likes to do things in cycles where for a while they will focus on this corner of their universe, then another, then another, etc. And they will soon be swinging things back towards their holy trinity so to speak, with a new Witchblade book being launched later this year. I would assume that along with Witchblade will come both The Darkness and Angelus seeing as they’re so closely related


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also

Best comic book covers of the week – 7 June 2021

From the streets of Gotham to the far reaches of the Multiverse, these are the best comic …