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Digital ComicsAlliance: ‘Spaceman,’ ‘Sin City,’ and ‘Action Philosophers’

Welcome to Digital ComicsAlliance, your headquarters for digital comics news and recommendations. Do you like sci-fi? Check out Spaceman. Do you like crime? Read Sin City. Do you want to be educated? Look at that: Action Philosophers. We’ve got something for everybody this week.

1. Name: Spaceman #1
Creative Team: Brian Azzarello (writer), Eduardo Risso (art), Trish Mulvihill & Giulia Brusco (colors), Clem Robins (letters)
Platform: ComiXology/DC Comics (iOS, Web, Android)
Price: $0.99
Format: 9 issue miniseries
Why: Some things will never change. There’s always going to be people with money troubles, hard-nosed people in positions of authority, and people who need to get by any way they can. We can all relate to these concepts, particularly the one about being broke, so when they show up in the stories we read, no matter how fantastical those stories may be, it makes those stories easy to believe. Azzarello and Risso lean on that hard in Spaceman, where the former 100 Bullets team delivers a future that feels like today but looks like the aftermath of tomorrow’s apocalypse.The lingo is a mix of accents run amok (“brahdas”), slurred speech (“go eez”), regular slang (“lol lol lol”), and a brief burst of Spanish. The story has a bit of celeb culture, down in the dumps drama, and hints of some old fashioned ultraviolence. It’s a comic about tomorrow, today, and it is a treat. The dialogue may take some getting used to, but it’s easy to pick up and elevates a wrong place, wrong time story into something that’s pretty cool. And it’s just $0.99. Buy it.

2. Name: Sin City Megabundle

Creative Team: Frank Miller (cartoonist)
Platform: Dark Horse (iOS/web)
Price: $39.99 for a limited time
Format: Graphic novels
Why: Part of the fun of being a fan of Frank Miller is looking at how his work developed over the years. He’s an artist that wears his influences on his sleeves, and spotting the Neal Adams, Will Eisner, and Jack Kirby in his work is always a treat. There’s probably no better place to do this than his work on Sin City, a series that functions in part as a window into some of Miller’s favorite things. Cars, crime tales, heroes in the Dirty Harry mold, femmes fatales, and more litter the streets of Sin City. It’s a town where the mob knows better than to step in with heavy hands, and where punch drunk old thugs can be a knight in a dirty trenchcoat.

The artistic evolution over the course of the series is neat, but it’s even more interesting to watch Miller expand his little town into something vibrant and vivid. These are some of the best crime tales to hit the comics page, and I’m particularly fond of The Big Fat Kill. If you want a story about the death of people who deserve to die–in that warm, fuzzy, Punisher sort of way–then you won’t find much better than Family Values.

3. Name: Action Philosophers

Creative Team: Fred Van Lente (writer), Ryan Dunlavey (art)
Platform: ComiXology (iOS, Web, Android)
Price: $0.99 each
Format: 12 issues
Why: Philosophy is great. It’s one of my favorite things to read about. The problem is that, since many (professional?) philosophers are academics, their books are aimed toward their peers, not us regular old proles. You know what that means: big words, long sentences, and interminable ruminations. (With apologies to any academics in the audience.) It can be tough to not only get started, but to continue and actually learn about philosophy without a helping hand or tour guide. Enter Action Philosophers.

This comic is a great place to get started. Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey break down basic ideas in very easy to understand terms, complete with funny pictures, and by the end of each issue, you’ve been educated and entertained. These are funny, good comics, and while they may seem sort of “Immanuel Kant for Dummies” the way I describe them, they actually do a really great job of providing context and a timeline for all of these philosophers, which is at least as valuable as their actual teachings. I like these a lot, especially the ones about philosophers who I was already familiar with.

THE SALES

-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.

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 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])
Double Feature (iOS, Web)
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])
eManga (web)
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)
Kodansha Comics (iOS
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)


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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