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Digital ComicsAlliance 05/12/11: Yaoi Censorship, Freebies, and Draculas

We’re constantly striving to find the best way to deliver to you the information you need to know about digital comics. So, pardon our dust as we demolish Digital Comics Weekly and erect something new in its place: Digital ComicsAlliance, your headquarters for digital comics news and recommendations. In our weekly post about digital comics, we’re going to give you three important things: the major news, the big sales where you can get good books cheap, and of course, our recommendations for the comics you should be downloading.

1. Name: The Sixth Gun
Creative Team: Cullen Bunn (script), Brian Hurtt (art)
Platform: ComiXology
Price: $1.99 each (#1 is free)
Format: Series
Why: There are just two issues out thus far, one of them free, but The Sixth Gun is too good to miss. It’s a weird Western, which means that there’s magic, monsters, and some good old fashioned gunfights. It starts with a daughter witnessing her father’s murder, and then we’re introduced to magic guns, thunderbeasts, shady allies, the walking dead, and a truly massive amount of murder. The cast is a nice mix of naive newcomers and seasoned gunslingers with something to hide. It doesn’t have a lot of surprises, but The Sixth Gun is very enjoyable, flipping easily between comedy and hard action, and now’s the time to get in on the ground floor. It’s well told, well drawn, and pretty engaging.

2. Name: One Piece

Creative Team: Eiichiro Oda
Platform: Viz Media (iOS)
Price: $4.99 each
Format: Graphic novels
Why: One Piece is the best adventure comic. There are pretenders to the throne, but when it comes to telling a great story with excellent characters, heart-rending drama, and exquisitely creative action scenes, Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece can’t be beat. It starts off being merely good, with some goofy comedy and goofier action. Once you hit volume nine or so, though, it takes off into the stratosphere. Oda starts strapping some serious drama into the series, lengthens his story arcs, and starts telling thousand page epics. When One Piece is on, it can’t be touched. It’s an extremely long series, 56 volumes with the 57th due in a few weeks, but more than worth the investment. This series’ll take you through a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. Volume 1 is much more sedate, so begin there. If you want to jump in with both feet, read our Catch Up for the series.

3. Name: Dracula: The Company of Monsters

Creative Team: Kurt Busiek (story), Daryl Gregory (writer), various (art), Stephen Downer (colors), Johnny Lowe (letters)
Platform: Graphic.ly/ComiXology (web, iOS, Android)
Price: $1.99 each (free 10-page preview)
Format: Graphic.ly, ComiXology
Why: Vampires are played out. I’m not usually a fan for whatever reason, but Dracula: The Company of Monsters is surprisingly good. Well, not surprisingly–Kurt Busiek is usually a clear indicator of quality. But as a guy who doesn’t dig vampires, it was a surprise how much I liked this. Rather than focusing on the romance or horror, this series takes a more sociopolitical tack. When Dracula comes back to life and educates himself about the modern society, he finds himself being controlled by corrupt businessmen who want to use his powers to further their own goals. This isn’t your traditional vampire story, and it’s all the better for it.

THE NEWS

-Is Amazon censoring yaoi manga on the Kindle?: Brigid Alverson has consistently and thoroughly covered this growing controversy through posts here, here, and here. Long story short, several explicit yaoi manga (manga that features gay male relationships and is generally aimed at a female audience) have been booted from the Kindle Store. In the days since th story broke, a few titles have returned to the store, while others remain gone. Amazon has been customarily silent on the issue. I emailed them for comment several days ago and never heard back, and Alverson reports a similar frustration. A side effect of Amazon’s silence, however, is that you’re then forced to try and figure out what went wrong yourself, rather than Amazon simply stating what the issue is, why the books were removed, and how to rectify it. It looks doubly ugly when, as Alverson notes, trashy, (presumably) heterosexual content like No Holes Barred, a theoretically sexy photobook, remains on the store.

-Brigid Alverson explains digital manga: This is a great overview of how digital publishing has created a new market for manga that may not be financially successful.

-More Thor: Albert Ching speaks to Fred Van Lente and Bryan JL Glass about writing tie-ins to Thor, one of which is digital. There isn’t a lot of digital comics-specific info, but it’s a good read.

-Dark Horse Presents (Digital) Dark Horse Presents: Dark Horse Presents, Dark Horse’s recently revived 80-page anthology comic, is coming to Dark Horse Digital on June 15th. After that, issues will hit the digital service 30 days after hitting comics shops. While this isn’t the day-and-date release we were hoping for, the $3.99 price tag makes it a pretty sweet deal. DHP is eight bucks for eighty pages, which is reasonable on a per page basis, but sort of hard to talk yourself into buying at the comic shop. Eight bucks can get you a volume of manga or a discounted graphic novel on Amazon. Four dollars for eighty pages, though? Much more reasonable.
Related: This look at Dark Horse’s digital development is neat.

-Marvel Comics Scores Top Grossing App on iOS: This is just a list, but it’s nice to see. Marvel tops the ranking, with ComiXology’s app coming in third and DC Comics holding down fourth place on both iPhone and iPad.

-¿Betty o Veronica?: Digital comics, when done properly, are a global endeavor, so it only makes sense that Archie is making their comics featuring America’s Favorite Teen available in Spanish.

-Committed to Quality: Sonia Harris has some perfectly reasonable ideas about the user experience of digital comics. Sonia’s an experienced designer, and her thoughts are definitely worth paying attention to. Digital comics are a new world and will, at some point, require new ideas. She’s right in saying that digital comics are, right now, a bastardized format. Where’s the future?

-Sometimes you gotta be friends with boys: Faith Erin Hicks’s upcoming Friends With Boys sounds great. This interview with Chris Arrant sheds some light on how it is to serialize a graphic novel online, what the story’s about, and Hicks’s career thus far.

-NOOK, meet digital comics: Todd Allen examines the relatively newborn digital comics ecosystem on Barnes & Noble’s NOOK platform. The NOOK isn’t a Kindle-killer, but it seems like a pretty sweet platform for digital comics.

THE SALES

-ComiXology runs Marvel Mondays sales 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.

-Viz Media is running a great sale on Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball on their app. They’re offering a 20% discount on each volume of Dragon Ball from now til 05/16/11. That’s Monday night, y’all, and they cost only #3.99 now, so get on it. The press release for the sale describes the story as “an adventure of a lifetime,” but that’s awful dry, isn’t it? Here’s the truth: Dragon Ball has some of the funniest poop jokes you’ll read in a comic, in addition to some raunchy comedy, and some great action. It’s goofy, delightfully dumb, and all in all, a great read. It’s easy to see why Toriyama is such a legendary mangaka.

-This weekend, Friday through Sunday, Dark Horse is offering every issue of Serenity for $0.99. You can only get the discount through the website, however, so don’t try to purchase through the iOS app. Dark Horse specifically mentioned the performance of last week’s sale on The Guild comics when letting us know about the deal, so maybe if this one’s as well-supported, sales will be a regular thing with them.

-Dark Horse has put their Free Comic Book Day offerings (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Criminal Macabre, and Baltimore) are all being offered for free on their site from this week on through the end of May. Access Baltimore/Criminal Macabre here, and Star Wars/Avatar here. Not a traditional sale, exactly, but still notable.

THE PLAYERS

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, 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)
IDW Comics (iOS)
Image Comics (iOS [identical to the Image offerings on ComiXology and syncs with your ComiXology account])
iVerse’s Comics+ (iOS)
Marvel Comics on Chrome (Web)
Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited (Web)
My Digital Comics (PDF, CBZ, and more)
The Illustrated Section (PDF)
Viz Manga (iOS)


THE BASICS

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.

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