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After months without my iPhone (long story) I finally received my new iPhone 4. It is so nice to have it back, but trying to remember what apps I had is kind of difficult (I lost my mac the same week I lost my iPhone). While going through the multitude of apps, I decided download the free comic book apps: Marvel, DC, Image and Comixology. I wasn’t going to; I wanted to read my first digital comic on the iPad, but I was bored the other night so I decided to read a free comic off of Comixology’s free app. I didn’t want to read any old comic, i wanted something new, fresh and a first issue, so I picked Chew #1 by John Layman and Rob Guillory.
Before I get into the digital aspect of this comic, I want to talk about the comic itself really quickly. This comic is all kinds of crazy. It has a wild premises; Detective Tony Chu can see the psychic remnants of the food he eats, except beets. The catch is that Tony will eat the flesh of the dead to see how they died. Ya, crazy. It’s a really well written comic with some great art by Guillory. I think I will pick this up in trades cause it was the fun. Now on to the digital aspect of this comic.
My initial reaction was amazement. I love comics, but one of my biggest issues with them have been that I am able to see the coming panels before i read them, and sometimes that can play spoiler. It doesn’t happen often, and i haven’t been really spoiled in a long time, but it still has happened and will probably happen again. When viewing a comic in an app like comixology’s, you view it panel by panel; just swipe your finger to the right and you get to the next panel. It was great to read the comic like this, giving me a feeling of unexpectedness, which would work really great in some genres: thriller, detective, horror. But there was one issue with this; larger panels were broken down segments of word balloons. This gives you another dimension of unexpectedness, as you can’t see what sentence is next, but what it also did was not allow you to see the panel in its entirety, and i didn’t like that, as viewing a full panel obviously is apart of the story telling. At this point I’ve only read one comic and haven’t been through the options so I could very well change aspects of how to view any comic, but this is about my initial reaction to reading a comic on a digital app.
I will definitely read another comic on one of the apps I have; probably the free ones for now. I need to see what comics are for sale and see if anything is something I need to, or have been looking forward to reading. This has gotten me thinking about the future of digital comics, and more than likely the future of comics in general. Right now almost every comic that you can get off these apps are comics that have been out for at least 6 months, hardly any are day and date. Marvel is playing with day and date releases with their Ultimate Thor mini series, and I believe Robert Kirkman and Image are doing something similar with The Walking Dead. Ultimately what some fans want is to have all their comics day and date instead of going into their local comic shop and purchasing hard copies. I can certainly see the attraction; you can sit on your couch, press download, read and when your done just hit the close button. You don’t have to store your physical copy anywhere, and your girlfriend won’t get mad at you for leaving them around. The flip side of this is that the direct market and LCS will lose money because customers just aren’t coming in. But nothing is as simple as it seems.
Companies like Marvel and DC don’t want to lose money on producing day and date if enough people aren’t going to purchase them, and there is faithfulness to the direct market who have been selling their product since spinner racks have become a thing of the past. With the addition of products like the iPad, iPhone, netbooks and droid phones there is an untapped market who may want to jump into comics given the opportunity. It’s still early in the digital game, both in software/viewing and distribution and the big players need to do something to really test the waters. If you want to see what people are willing to buy, make a comic only available digitally. make that day and date, market it like crazy, and see what happens. Technology is moving fast and if these companies don’t move with it someone else is going to offer a product that is far better than theres.
lately it feels like comics have taken a big step towards the grave; as a fan and would be contributor it saddens me to see this. there is hope out there, it better get here soon though.