Digital ComicsAlliance: ‘Usagi Yojimbo,’ ‘Abe Sapien,’ and ‘Fairy Tail’ For Cheap!
Welcome to Digital ComicsAlliance, your headquarters for digital comics news and recommendations. This week, we get bloody with Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest, laugh a little with Fairy Tail, and marvel at Stan Sakai's wonderful Usagi Yojimbo: Yokai.
1. Name: Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest #1
Creative Team: Mike Mignola (writer, John Arcudi (writer), James Harren (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Clem Robins (letters)
Platform: Dark Horse (iOS/web)
Why: Violence in comics! When done well, it doesn't so much enhance the story (it's a part of the story, duh) as it does position the story correctly. It shows you how you should be feeling and a rough idea of how high the stakes are. Cape comics are generally bloodless, and when they do get bloody, they're usually limited to cool, sexy blood: bloody lips or noses, maybe a nice and manly cut across the chest. Flesh wounds, basically.Look at this fine, fine work above from James Harren in Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest. Abe Sapien blurred out except for his fists and face. Thick blacks in the line work and chunky speed lines. Walls shattering under the weight of Abe's desperation. And most of all, wet splats of yellow blood with each impact. Tell me how it makes you feel. Don't you want to read this comic and see how it got to this point?
Creative Team: Hiro Mashima (cartoonist)
Platform: Kodansha Comics (iOS
Price: $2.99 each for a limited time, $4.99 thereafter
Format: Graphic novels
Why: If you're anything like me, a sale on comics is hard to resist. Throw something in a quarter bin and I am there. Kodansha Comics finally launched a digital comics app this past weekend, and it came with a sale on Fairy Tail, a manga I've heard about but hesitated to pick up for whatever reason. Well, I realized that I could grab three digital volumes for the price of one print volume, so I grabbed the first three on Friday night, scant minutes after the app went live. It was pretty okay at first. A very goofy story about wizards, the guilds they belong to, and the hijinks they get caught up in. Pretty okay, but not great. But, I kept reading, and I got hooked. I'm up to volume ten.
This is a very simple series, sort of the shonen manga equivalent of comfort food. You'll recognize a lot of the various character types, and even some of the plots, but they're presented in such a way that you don't particularly mind. The goofiness is amped up pretty high, with almost every cast member being some flavor of idiot as the story requires, but Fairy Tail never stops being pretty endearing. I like it, and I'm glad I took a chance on the series. At three bucks for a couple hundred pages, of course, taking chances is easy.
Creative Team: Stan Sakai (cartoonist)
Platform: Dark Horse (iOS/web)
Format: Graphic novel
Why: Usagi Yojimbo is great, but there's an educational aspect to it that often goes overlooked. Stan Sakai, in addition to being a master writer, artist, and letterer, does great work with research. Every once and a while, he'll drop a story into the series that has a direct link to Japanese culture. A particularly good example is when Sakai told the story of a kite creator. It discussed actual methods of kite creation and kite culture in feudal Japan. It was fascinating, but most importantly, it was entertaining. Sakai uses his research to enhance his stories, turning them from simple, but valued, entertainment into informative entertainment.
If you like the story, you can continue to explore the subject of the story at your leisure. Usagi Yojimbo: Yokai, the first Usagi graphic novel, is another great example. Usagi trips over a gathering of demons and has to fight his way through the crowd alongside an ally. Along the way, we're introduced to a bunch of Japanese demons, such as the nurikabe, a sentient wall that will do its best to get you lost. It's very cool to see Sakai's rendering of these creatures, and learning about the folklore of other cultures is always a fascinating experience. And, of course, Yokai is up to the usual high quality of Sakai's work, with the added bonus of being completely in color.
-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])
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])
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)
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.