Digital ComicsAlliance: Conan #1 for 99 Cents, Batman, and Casanova
Welcome to Digital ComicsAlliance, your headquarters for digital comics news and recommendations. This time around, we've got a special Dark Horse sale on the first issue of Conan for $0.99, from now through Thursday. We've also got an alternate universe Batman, and a little Matt Fraction comic where the evil twin is the good guy. Dig in.
1. Name: Conan #1
Creative Team: Kurt Busiek (writer), Cary Nord (art), Thomas Yeates (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Comicraft/Richard Starkings (letters)
Platform: Dark Horse Digital (iOS, Web)
Price: $0.99 (from 07/05-07/07, $1.99 thereafter)
Format: One issue
Why: Conan comics have long held a reputation for high-quality art, but the stories always struck me as a bit standard. You know -- shirtless guy with sword meets other guys with swords, they fight, the end. Kurt Busiek, Cary Nord, and Dave Stewart, though, turned Conan into a must-read comic. Busiek pulled from Robert E Howard's original stories and created adaptations that were written more like mythology than fantasy. Busiek's script is appealingly lyrical and Nord's characters are very brawny and solid. Together, they created one of the most believable incarnations of Conan ever, with more wit and violence than Schwarzenegger's version. Come for the incredibly well-rendered violence, and stay for genuinely compelling story. Busiek and Nord are a killer team, and this is a definite high point in Busiek's already impressive career.
Creative Team: Brian Azzarello (writer), Eduardo Risso (art), Patricia Mulvihill (colors), Clem Robins (letters)
Platform: ComiXology (iOS, Web, Android)
Format: One issue
Why: Azzarello, Risso, and Mulvihill are responsible for one of my favorite comics series of all time--100 Bullets. This is the third stab at Batman as a unit, after Batman: Broken City and the Batman strip in Wednesday Comics. This try isn't as darkly comedic as Broken City or as distilled as their take from Wednesday Comics, but it is the best part of the Flashpoint event. Thomas Wayne is Batman, and that little change makes all the difference. This Batman is meaner and more serious than the one we know and love, with different ways of operating in Gotham and a willingness to put criminals under the ground. Azzarello's script is as enjoyable twisty as usual, with plenty of clever dialogue to chew over, and Risso and Mulvihill do what they do best: beautiful, moody comics featuring people who feel like real life in all its skinny, warty, pouty, sexy, beautiful glory.
Creative Team: Matt Fraction (writer), Gabriel Bá (art), Cris Peter (colors), Dustin Harbin (letters)
Platform: Marvel/ComiXology (iOS)
Price: $1.99 each
Format: #1-4 (preview of #1 here)
Why: Sometimes, it's nice to read a comic that's just a comic. There's no big tie-in to some major event, no movie adaptation coming down the pike that's going to force the book back to basics, and nothing holding the creators back from taking their book to the limit and back again. Casanova: Luxuria: this is that comic. Casanova may well prove to be Matt Fraction's version of Frank Miller's Ronin, a chance to synthesize, and then exorcise, all of his influences right there on the comics page. It feels like he threw all of the music, movies, and comics he likes into a big pot, brought it to a boil, and Casanova is what came out. It's super sexy and super smart super spy comics, and Bá and Peter do an obscenely good job of showing us the world of Casanova Quinn, spy, thief, and unapologetic smart-aleck. Casanova is exactly the kind of comic you want, even if you don't know it yet. Get familiar before the third volume comes out later this year.
-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. From 07/04-07/07, you can purchase books from Dynamite's Project Superpowers line for $0.99 each. These feature public domain heroes being pulled into the modern day, courtesy of Jim Krueger, Alex Ross, and others.
-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 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, 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)
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.