Digital ComicsAlliance 05/20/11: Free Comics, Everybody!
Welcome to 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. This week, we're doing something different. Our recommendations are free, and in varying states of completion.
1. Name: Rival Schools
Creative Team: Corey Lewis (story & art), Erik Ko (story), James Stokoe (art), Alejandro Fuentes (art)
Format: Four issues! Over 160 DRM-Free JPEGs!
Why: Corey Lewis is an art monster. Remember Sharknife? Peng? This guy's done some of the most fun fight comics you'll ever read, and odds are good that you missed out on his Rival Schools adaptation. He's joined by James Stokoe of Orc Stain, Murderbullets (there's 100 free pages in there, too), and Wonton Soup fame. Together, they're turning the best fighting game you ever forgot existed into a fun comic about high school, kidnappings, evil secret societies, youth gangs, and getting the stuffing beaten out of you by your gym teacher. Rival Schools features the kind of plot that's perfectly suited to Lewis's strengths. Things are happening, evil is on the move, and somebody has to punch it in the face. Grab this.
Creative Team: Kou Yaginuma
Format: One chapter's worth of JPEGs!
Why: Twin Spica is delightful. That's by far the best word for it: delightful. This story of a young girl who wants to be an astronaut, and her friends in space school, is alternately fantastic, touching, funny, and informative. If you had any interest in outer space when you were a kid, whether from an astronomical perspective or just liking to look at the planets and imagine what other solar systems are like. Yaginuma's story does a great job of capturing the thrills that thinking of space can give you, and he manages to layer in enough relatable drama and funny comedy to keep it interesting.
Creative Team: Various
Why: This one's a little different, as it isn't a direct recommendation, but you should absolutely pay attention here. Vertigo has some of the most appealing works in comics, for fans of mainstream comics and newcomers both. Vertigo publishes comics about magic, war, sex, crime, myths, fables, politics, and who knows what else. I rarely see it mentioned, but you can download the first issue of THIRTY-EIGHT Vertigo series for free. Simply click the title of the series you're looking at to be taken to a page to download the PDF. If you need a nudge, I recommend Peter Milligan, Edvin Biukovic, and Javier Pulido's Human Target (a story of fluid identities and great violence), Grant Morrison and Richard Case's Doom Patrol (people say that Morrison's recent work is weird or esoteric, but it isn't. this is, and it's wonderful.), or Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo's Shade the Changing Man (She's a normal gal. He's an otherdimensional explorer trapped in the body of the serial killer who killed her parents. You know what that means: road trip!). There's an embarrassment of riches on that site, so click through and get reading. It's free, and you'll almost definitely find something you like.
-Amazon's Kindle is a pretty big deal, then, yeah?: This isn't strictly digital comics, but it's pretty important, I think. Amazon is officially selling more Kindle books than they are print books, whether those printed books are paperback or hardcover. As far as booksellers go, Amazon is enormous and wields a lot of power. eBooks outpacing print books is something I think may eventually happen in comics, as well. Four bucks for a floppy is pretty ridiculous, and the cost-cutting measures of jettisoning two story pages and selling shorter comics for $2.99 is not much better. Digital comics at $0.99, though. Doesn't that sound attractive? It took Amazon four years to reach this point. We'll see how long it takes comics.
-Old media, old ideas?: Top Cow has teamed up with digital comics distributor Wowio to offer a free digital copy of Witchblade #144 with purchase of the print comic. Basically, you go to your comics shop, pay five bucks for 48 pages of comic (the PR is unclear as to whether that's 48 story pages or 48 pages total), and then you get a free download card that you can redeem online. I'm skeptical of this approach, to be honest. Setting aside the price, does the digital comic count as a bonus? It's going to have the same content as the print comic, I assume. This only serves the Direct Market audience, though. Shouldn't this sort of promotion be aimed outside of the people who are already buying Witchblade?
-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.
-Two From Dark Horse: Dark Horse Digital has passed 70,000 downloads and digital comics look best on the iPad. The latter one is a no-brainer (look at the size, aspect ratio, and resolution of the iPad), and the first is interesting. Whether or not those are 70,000 paid downloads is unclear. A few months from now, once the brand new shine has worn off Dark Horse Digital, it may be worth checking out how they're doing. I think they have a strong platform and reader, in addition to such a wide variety of content that newcomers to comics may get pulled in, too.
"It's more accessible now because of e-readers-the Kobo, Kindle, and iPad-but before it wasn't really the case, it was clunky: the best we had for getting digital comics or things not for print were web comics, which are sort of their own beast," says Rivers. Now, a digital release "is so easy and cheap as long as you have the technical know-how or just have the gumption to do it. Why worry about a bunch of boxes of books that maybe won't sell when I could reach ten times the people with digital release?"
-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 offering two volumes of Takehiko Inoue's Smile: pray for japan on their app. After the disastrous tsunami in Japan a few months ago, Inoue (creator of Vagabond, Real, Slam Dunk, and more) took his iPad and began drawing people smiling. He drew children, the elderly, and everyone in-between with a smile. It's touching, and seeing an enormous talent like Inoue dedicate his time to such a specific subject is enormously gratifying. All of Viz's proceeds from these two volumes are being donated to charity, as well, so buy this and then know that you did a good thing for someone else.
-Dark Horse's sale on Serenity didn't quite happen last weekend, so they're giving it another try this weekend. Once again: "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."
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)
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.