"Burn Notice", one of the many spy shows on the USA cable network, recently released a graphic novel online and according to Reuters, the digital release hit 100,000 views the first day of its release. The comic was published by USA in collaboration with comic giant DC Comics (home of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman).
"Burn Notice" is a decent show, with a decent cast (nerd lovers will recognize both Sharon Gless, far left, from Cagney & Lacey and Bruce Campbell from The Evil Dead movies), and is relatively popular (six seasons worth, apparently) with fans. It does not, however, have a cult following or is truly a mainstream mega hit.
Instead, it has a bunch of fans who apparently aren't afraid of downloading an online graphic novel from Facebook, an app, or the USA website to see how a certain plot point got settled. What this tells me, as a publishing professional, is that this was a widely successful idea and execution. And that USA will probably continue to partner with DC to do this for more of its shows.
I think online graphic novels and digital comics, like ebooks, are going steadily mainstream. People aren't creeped out by reading a book on a computer anymore. The fact that a non-comic book buying audience would get this is amazing - and I hope DC can work out a deal to bring those "Burn Notice" fans into comic book stores with in-store offerings, as well.
Or even just release more digital downloads for fans. I'm sure the being free helped, but if done right, some of those 100,000 people might pay for it, as well. 100,000 is WAY above the average monthly comic book sale - and the site managed that in just 1 day. Sometimes, quantity works, especially if DC and USA sell them for cheap. 99 cent digital comics, anyone? The boom in pure sales might make all the difference you need - ask successful self-publishers.