Sketchbook to Screen: Four Digital Comic Options

Digital Comics

I’ve always been a comic book fanboy. I remember tracking down my favorite books on the spin rack at the gas station down the street when I was kid, then becoming a regular at a local comic book shop, and even managing a comic book shop myself. Of course, that was before I switched gears and became a pop culture journalist. Eventually, it started getting harder and harder to make that weekly pilgrimage to the comic book shop, not to mention moving the sheer weight of all those long boxes of comic books around was a Herculean task in and of itself.

Now, however, there exists a parallel world for comic book fans. A world in which their favorite books are immediately available to them anytime and anyplace. A world where a four year old kid can lift a library of comics with one hand. That’s right. After moving through the Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Ages … comic books are finally breaking through to the Digital Age. So what are some of the best digital options available to comic fans eager to get their graphic novel fix?

1. Comics by comiXology

ComiXology started off as online hub for comic book fans to find out about upcoming releases and set up subscription lists to print out and take to brick and mortar store. Then, in 2009, the company debuted its Comics by comiXology service. ComiXology provides fans with a one-stop shop for digital comic book content. Thanks to cloud storage, players can access their books cross-platform via web browser, iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, or Android devices, downloading specific issues to read offline at any time.

ComiXology is currently the frontrunner in the digital marketplace, thanks to features such as its patented “Guided View” technology, which optimizes the flow of comic book stores from panel to panel. ComiXology also benefits from the widest selection of publishers supporting the service, including the two biggest guns of the comic industry: DC and Marvel. If you want the latest issues of either company’s titles, comiXology is your exclusive source. In fact, both DC and Marvel’s own digital comics apps are both powered by comiXology. Couple that with things like Same Day As Print releases, weekly sales, and constantly additions to its selection of free comics, and it’s easy to see why comiXology is the big fish the in digital comics pond.

2. ComicsPlus (iVerse)

Recently revamped under its “ComicsPlus” service, iVerse Media has been dedicated to bringing comic books to the digital market since it was first established in 2008. Much like Comics by comiXology, the iVerse ComicsPlus apps provide a central storefront for fans to buy individual issues of their favorite comics.

Although DC is completely absent from the ComicsPlus library and Marvel offerings are limited only to graphic novels, iVerse isn’t light on content by any means. Archie Comics, IDW, and Image are among the publishers offered by iVerse. Archie Comics, in particular, is a big supporter of iVerse, as the publisher uses iVerse to power its own Archie Comics for iOS and Android. Another big supporter of iVerse is Diamond Comic Distributors, the largest comic book distributor in North America. Diamond and iVerse have teamed up for the Diamond Digital Initiative, a program which will allow Diamond’s brick and mortar clients to offer digital comics via retailer websites or through codes sold in-store, right alongside physical books. Upcoming plans for iVerse include offering DRM-free comics to customers, new tools for creators to develop their own digital books, and even a crowdfunding program to help creators raise money to get their projects off the ground.

3. Graphicly

Next up is Graphicly (or, depending on where you read it). Graphicly is essentially a digital distributor for artists or studios looking to get their content online and in the hands of readers. Unlike comiXology or iVerse, each book distributed by Graphicly is offered as an individual app or file. Content can be viewed via web browser or Facebook, on iOS or Android devices, or via any number of PDF compatible readers. The upside to this is that content is available on the widest range of devices, but the downside is that the content is usually pretty vanilla, without any bells and whistles. Plus, like iVerse, DC is absent from the Graphicly library and Marvel is limited to older back issues and miniseries. Still, if you’re looking for an eclectic range of titles from both big name and independent publishers, Graphicly likely has you covered.

4. Madefire

One of the newest entries into the digital comic market, Madefire looks to take graphic novels to a whole new level. With a focus on giving creators the tools to expand their stories beyond the confines of the standard comic, Madefire has managed to draw the interest of some top names in the industry, including Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, Give Me Liberty, The Secret Service), Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra: Assassin, Moon Knight), and Madefire co-founder and COO, Liam Sharp (Judge Dredd, Death’s Head II, Spawn: The Dark Ages).

While other digital options essentially take existing print material and convert it to digital, Madefire is crafting completely original interactive experiences. Evolving beyond the purely static medium usually associated with comic books, you’ll never see a print version of a Madefire title, simply because it would be impossible to do so. Madefire are created from scratch with custom digital tools, adding animations and sound to the mix in unique ways. Readers can tilt, rotate, and slide certain panels around to expand on the story. An example of how this technology can work is the addition of special panels which allow the reader to view in full 360 degree panoramic shots. You can see both sides of a battle, characters sneaking up from behind, and even an evil, demonic eye staring down from on high. As interesting as the experience is, it’s unfortunately one that only Apple owners will be able to appreciate, as the Madefire app is currently only available for the iPad.

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Author: David Chapman View all posts by

2 Comments on "Sketchbook to Screen: Four Digital Comic Options"

  1. Melisa Snyder July 30, 2012 at 11:19 am - Reply

    Digital comics are on of the biggest reasons I want a tablet. exciting to have an option where I won’t spend most of my time worrying if I might accidentally crease a page :)

    There are also readers available for each major comic book distributor if people are solely a DC geek, for example.

  2. David Chapman July 31, 2012 at 9:51 am - Reply

    Personally, the comics are one of the reasons I LOVE my tablet. It’s so much easier to get the books I want and to have them on me at all time.

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