Happy Free Comic Book Day!
The Avengers, X-Men, The Amazing Spider-Man … you may have noticed that the biggest films of the last few years have sprung from a medium typically frequented only by nerds and virgins. The stigma associated with being a comic book guy is shrinking as comics have come into the mainstream. Now is a great time to rediscover comics.
Some of my earliest childhood memories involve comics and comic book characters. Spider-man was on the Electric Company and his own live-action TV series and Saturday morning cartoon. The Incredible Hulk ran for five years on CBS. Even Captain America got a TV movie. I was a Marvel fan from way back. I had no comic book store in my town so I read what I could, when I could.
Comics can be a great way to get kids into reading and drawing and can really spur their imaginations. It’s because of comics that I learned how to draw.
I’ve always been more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan. These days I’m reading Deadpool, Avengers Assemble, the great new Hawkeye run, and The Walking Dead. The quality of the writing of comics has increased dramatically over the years. Guys like Joss Whedon, Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Posehn, and Kevin Smith have made their contributions and raised the bar considerably.
I’ve never been one for clutter and rows and rows of longboxes annoy me.
The advent of the iPad ushered in a renewed interests in comics mainly because the tablet form factor lent itself well to the comic book. As with books and music, the lure of carrying an entire collection with you on a single device makes going digital with comics a very enticing prospect.
If you want to give comics a shot there’s basically four apps you’ll want to take a look at.
The first is the Comics by ComiXology app. This app is very good at separating me from my money. It’s a free app on the app store and it’s basically a comic book store on your iPad. All of your big name publishers make their content available through here with the notable exception of Dark Horse. You can read your purchases through their website or their app which is available on just about every relevant mobile platform. Their distinguishing feature is their “Guided View” mode which presents the comic a panel at a time to enhance the narrative. This isn’t a big deal on the iPad but is virtually the only way to read comics sanely on your phone. The app sends me daily updates about what’s on sale. I should really turn that off as it’s been highly effective at getting me to buy their content.
If you have a large collection of comics that you (or someone else) scanned into CBR or CBZ format used by comic readers, the Comic Zeal app is for you. It gives you the ability to load and read your scanned comics … it even stores them in virtual longboxes. It allows you to go full-on comic nerd and tag and organize your comic book collection.
Marvel has recently introduced a new app that’s basically Netflix for comics. For a flat fee, you can consume back issues of their catalog through this app and even store a few for offline reading. The entire library is not available and that reduces its appeal somewhat but it gives you access to content you likely wouldn’t have bought anyway. This app has promise and I’m keeping an eye on the service.
Dark Horse has some great comics … Joss Whedon’s comics (Buffy, Angel, Dr. Horrible, etc.) are here and they used to hold the Star Wars license until Disney yanked it when they bought Lucasfilm. There’s not much to say about this app. I’m not overly fond of it and I just wish they’d join ComiXology and be done with it.
Even though I’m dealing in digital, I encourage you to support your local comic book store. I have one not far from me that I visit every now and again.