Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Revisiting Digital Comics for the iPad: Getting Better, BUT...

Okay, since the last time I brought this subject up, I've had a few months to become more familiar with downloading digital comics to my iPad 2 and doing my part to embrace The Future of Comics.

I've been using various apps from comic companies such as DC Comics, Marvel Comics, IDW Publishing, Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and Dynamite Entertainment, as well as the ComiXology store app, and I think I have a much better grasp of the digital comics cyberscape than I did in my previous post.  Now whether I can provide you with any information that's actually useful and helpful instead of my standard rambling nonsense...well, fingers crossed.

The good news is, if you're still debating with yourself (always the best debates, as far as I'm concerned) about trying out this newfangled technological mumbo-jumbo, the digital comics marketplace is just about ready for you.  Several digital comics are starting to be posted online the same day-and-date as their tangible print versions, which of course, puts them in more direct competition with your friendly neighborhood comic shops.

Even better, the selection of back issue material is gradually improving as companies keep adding more of their older material.  DC Comics has really stepped their game up in recent months with their special "101" weekend sales, which sell 101 digital comics relating to a featured character or team for just $0.99 each.  The selections seem to be a nice mix of newer stuff already available as digital comics and classic stuff from the '70s, '80s and '90s.  Some of the older items that haven't been restored and published recently in print are just scanned, so the image quality isn't quite on a par with more recent material.  It's good, though, to have these older stories at your fingertips instead of hoping they'll someday make it into a print collection that may sadly never come.

Also, DC, Marvel and Image are making a solid effort to provide a selection of free comics every week, mainly introductory issues to get you properly hooked and wanting to buy more issues from that series.  On the flip side though, IDW, Dynamite, and Dark Horse provide a nice selection of free comics to try after your download their respective apps, but rarely update their selections with different books or offer special sale promotions.  Unless you're looking for the newest releases posted at the full $1.99 or higher price, you probably won't use their apps very often.

Another issue I've noticed is the ability to view comics you download onto your iPad on your regular computer or smartphone and vice versa.  ComiXology makes it very convenient to access your digital comics library from various technologies, giving the sense of an actual "comics collection,"  but not every publisher plays along.  For some inexplicable reason, Marvel uses the ComiXology template but any comics of theirs you buy or get free on the iPad do not show up with your ComiXology library on a PC or smartphone.  The same thing goes for Dark Horse and IDW, although they seem to have their own templates.  To make matter worse, Marvel comics downloaded using their iPad app don't even show up on their horribly-designed official website, which means Marvel comics bought on the iPad apparently stay only on the iPad.  So if you're using ComiXology as your primary digital comics library, I recommend sticking to purchasing titles from just DC, Image or Dynamite until the others get with the program.

I'm still fumbling my way through this new digital frontier and comics publishers are still doing their own bit of fumbling, but the important thing is that digital comics are getting there.  Unless the price of print comics suddenly drops dramatically and people stop spending their disposable income on flashier things like iPhones, Blu-Ray players and videogames, the digital format is comics' best hope for long-term survival.  Yes, it's change and people who love comics traditionally don't do well with change, but ready or not, The Future is almost here.

Let's make it something good.


  1. I know this isn't what you were going for here, but for some reason this post reminded me that DC Blue Ribbon Digests once existed. I have begun raiding eBay to assemble the ones I had as a kid.

  2. Yeah, not quite the digital vibe, but I understand your digest love. Fortunately, I kept mine over the years, although I would love it if these were reissued at regular size or in a color omnibus set.

  3. Hey thanks for calling us out! To clarify, Dark Horse runs weekly discounts on selected digital series for only 99 cents. Plus updates, adds, and runs Free promos as well on a regular basis. Thanks Charles!
    Dark Horse Digital

  4. And thank you for clarifying things, Topher, and taking an active interest in what your consumers are experiencing. Unfortunately, because of the lack of teamwork between Dark Horse's app and ComiXology that I mentioned, I only seem to notice those sales if I bring up the Dark Horse app.

    It would be great if Dark Horse could incorporate the advantages that DC and Image seem to have with ComiXology and become more consumer friendly with their product. Speaking for myself, I prefer to have all my digital comics centrally located instead of having to rely on several individual apps in order to read them.