To find out whether the superhero saves the day, today's comic book readers don't have to turn a printed page. Many comic book fans prefer swiping a screen on a tablet or an e-reader, and Lion Forge Comics is building its business model around these tech-savvy readers.
Since debuting its work in March 2013, Lion Forge (lionforge.com) has come out with a dozen comic book titles that are available on tablets, e-readers and smartphones for about $2 each.
"Everyone is seeing digital as a side thing, but that's where we see the industry going," said Carl Reed, one of the company's co-founders.
ICv2, a Wisconsin-based trade publication, estimates that digital sales of comic books in North America reached $70 million in 2012, the most recent annual figure available, up from $25 million in 2011.
"Digital still accounts for only a minority of all comics, about 10 percent, but it is growing," said Milton Griepp, publisher of ICv2.
Lion Forge's customer base spans from first-time comic book readers to those who typically read print comics but are switching to digital for easier access, according to Reed and David Steward II, Lion Forge's managing partner and creative director.
Lion Forge's biggest seller to date is its Knight Rider comics, offering a fresh take on the 1980s TV series about crime fighter Michael Knight and his talking car, KITT.
The company signed a licensing deal with NBC Universal Consumer Products that allows it to use the Knight Rider trademark, as well as those of other TV shows that ended their runs long ago. They include Miami Vice, Punky Brewster, Airwolf and Saved by the Bell, which Lion Forge recently released as new digital comics.
The fan base of these TV shows has led to a surge in sales for Lion Forge. In addition to its licensed titles, Lion Forge also has developed several original comics, including Roboy, chronicling the adventures of a 12-year-old robot/boy with super strength, introduced last year.
New this year is Roar Comics, a digital imprint for children and teens. This is used to identify comic book titles that are suitable for younger readers.