Digital ComicsAlliance: Dragon Ball, Batgirl, and The Question
Welcome to Digital ComicsAlliance, your headquarters for digital comics news and recommendations. This week, we've got the first volume of Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball (one of the best shonen comics ever), the introduction of Batgirl to the DC Universe, and The Question at play where Superman usually patrols.
1. Name: Dragon Ball
Creative Team: Akira Toriyama (cartoonist)
Platform: Viz Manga (iOS, web)
Price: $4.99 each
Format: 16 volumes, with a free 35-page preview
Why: Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball is definitely a kid's manga that's guaranteed to get you in trouble with someone. It's been banned from libraries and schools for inappropriate content, mainly due to the relatively innocent cartoon nudity that pops up to facilitate a dirty joke or two. But really, that's Dragon Ball's strength. This is a brutally funny comic, full of puns, sight gags, and great jokes.Toriyama likes his jokes childishly dirty, and boy, does that make Dragon Ball a great read. These are some of the most good-natured comics you'll ever pick up, and able to be enjoyed by kids or adults. It's got some of the best realized action and comedy in comics, and that's a depressingly rare combination these days. Books tend to lean to one side or the other, but Dragon Ball hits both marks dead center.
Creative Team: Scott Beatty (writer), Chuck Dixon (writer), Marcos Martin (pencils), Alvaro Lopez (inker), Javier Rodriguez (color art), Willie Schubert (letters)
Platform: ComiXology/DC Comics (iOS, Web, Android)
Price: $1.99 each
Format: Nine issues
Why: I'm skeptical of origin stories, particularly ones for characters that are decades old. I mean, honestly -- who cares? Are the specifics that important? Superman is going to be the same character whether he was found as a baby or a toddler. Batman is going to be Batman whether or not he captured Joe Chill. I'd much rather that everyone involved skip all the rigamarole and just get on with the story, you know? But Batgirl: Year One is a rare exception.
Marcos Martin, Alvaro Lopez, and Javier Rodriguez steal the show, of course. Their slim, graceful figures are perfect for not just Batgirl, but the entire Bat-family. The colors are bright, and create a mood that fits Gotham City, but with a distinctly Batgirl-ish flavor. Beatty and Dixon did a good job with the script, though they tend to play up the foreshadowing entirely too much. Yes, we get it, the Joker is going to shoot Barbara Gordon. That aside, this is a really strong read. Well worth your time.
Why: Tommy Lee Edwards and John Workman. Workman is one of the greatest letters of all time, rivaled only by Tom Orzechowski. The chunky, empty, uneven balloons with long tails in The Question are great, and instantly set the book apart from every other DC comic ever. It gives the book a raw feel. Not raw in the sense of being unfinished, but raw in the sense of being loose and fresh, like freshly cut grass.
Tommy Lee Edwards's art hammers the point home, with lots of thick, loose lines and big splotches of color. Edwards draws x-ray vision better than anyone else, and he turns Veitch's "city shaman" version of the Question into something that's really very visually interesting. Panels snap into black and yellow to emphasize certain actions, characters walk crookedly, and Metropolis is full of debris and filth. This is one of those books that's fun to just look at, and seeing The Question's tactics at play in the City of Tomorrow is very, very fun.
-ComiXology runs Marvel Mondays sales (wait for it) every Monday. Certain Marvel comics, usually ones from a specific series or united under a theme, are offered for half off. You can check their blog for the current sale on Monday mornings, and sometimes Sunday nights. Once Monday is gone, though, so is the sale. Keep an eye on their blog for other sales, too.
-Dark Horse runs themed sales every weekend. They've run sales on Serenity, The Goon, Conan, and Fray, among others, so you're pretty much sure to find something to like at some point. This week's sale hasn't been announced yet, but stay tuned to the Dark Horse Digital blog. There is also a page on Dark Horse Digital that lists ongoing specials.
There are a few different ways to get digital comics right now. Here's a selection of the methods, listed by company in alphabetical order, and the formats they support:
Archie Comics (iOS)
Boom! Studios (iOS [identical to the Boom! offerings on ComiXology and syncs with your ComiXology account])
Comics4Kids (iOS [ComiXology for all-ages comics])
ComiXology (iOS, Web, Android)
Dark Horse (iOS app that syncs to your account on the web)
DC Comics (iOS, Web [identical to the DC offerings on ComiXology and syncs with your ComiXology account])
DriveThru Comics (CBZ, PDF, ePUB, and more)
Dynamite Entertainment (iOS,Web, Android [identical to the Dynamite offerings on ComiXology and syncs with your ComiXology account])
Graphic.ly (iOS, Web, Android, Nook Color)
IDW Comics (iOS)
Image Comics (iOS [identical to the Image offerings on ComiXology and syncs with your ComiXology account])
iVerse's Comics+ (iOS, Nook Color)
Marvel Comics on Chrome (Web)
Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited (Web)
My Digital Comics (PDF, CBZ, and more)
The Illustrated Section (PDF)
Square Enix Manga (web)
Viz Manga (iOS, web)
Yen Press (web)
There are a few things you need to know. You no longer need an iOS device (you know: iPad, iPod, iPhone), but you will need an internet connection, web browser, and, usually, Flash. Generally, you don't get to actually own your digital comics. You're paying to read them, and while this has been a fairly smooth process this far, that may rankle for some readers.
Are all these distributors different? Functionally, no, they aren't that different at all. Most of them allow for panel by panel reading (or a variation thereof) or page-based reading. The main differences are in selection. Frustratingly, certain comics are offered on several services, but released at different times. Marvel alone offers five choices. Most other publishers keep to one distribution method, and if they don't, they tend to keep their stuff mirrored across the various methods. If you want DC Comics, you're using ComiXology, for example, but Boom! Studios has comics on both. For Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, you'll have to pay a subscription fee. It's essentially Netflix for comics, however, so that may be worth it for you.
Personally, I use a mix of all the services, which is far from an optimal configuration, but one that works well. Poke around and see which one you like the most.
When do digital comics come out? Marvel has a weekly schedule, with an option for viewing the next month's releases. That's as close as you'll get to a release schedule. To see what's new on ComiXology, subscribe to this RSS feed. IDW generally releases books four weeks after they ship in print. ComiXology updates on Wednesdays, Graphic.ly updates throughout the week, and IDW's app updates on Tuesdays, with day-and-date books arriving on Wednesday. Dark Horse updates on Wednesdays. This category on iVerse's Comics+ site lists the updates for the week. Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited releases books every Monday.
I'll update with RSS feeds and landing pages that show new releases as they appear! If you're a digital comics publisher and you don't have a feed or page that users can visit... well, please create one. We'd all appreciate it.