Digital Comics Resources: The End of Comics As We Know It - Or Not

This past week saw Marvel launch its own web store, About Comics abandon print for digital, Dark Horse expand its original digital comics library and two pundits weigh in with opposite predictions for the future of print comics.

Publishing: Marvel unveiled its digital web store this week, creating yet another way for readers to buy digital comics. The store is basically a comiXology storefont, and it syncs with the Marvel iOS and Android apps. This marks another step forward for Marvel, which at one time had five different mutually incompatible ways to buy comics; now readers who buy comics via their branded Marvel app, comiXology's Comics app, the Marvel web store or the chrome app can read their comics on any of the other platforms.

Publishing: Indy house About Comics is going to leave the direct market altogether to pursue a "zero-inventory" format, according to publisher Nat Gertler. That means going exclusively to digital and print-on-demand, two platforms that About Comics has been using for part of its line for years. The shift meant dropping one book, Steve Bissette's "Tales of the Uncanny: N-Man and Friends," but Gertler says "that project will still be coming out, just without the About Comics imprint." The publisher plans a "heavy push" into print-on-demand via Amazon, including several books of Charles Schulz's non-Peanuts cartoons, "Miss Caroline," a book of cartoons about a girl in the White House, first published in 1963; and "Jack Ooze," a new comic by Men in Black creator Lowell Cunningham.

Prognostication: The latest prediction of the end of the paper comic comes from filmmaker Morgan Spurlock: "I buy more comics now off of comiXology than I ever have because I don't even have to go to the store," he said at a screening of his documentary film about Comic-Con. "I can literally download them straight to my iPad and never leave my house -- never put on a pair of pants. It's like the greatest thing ever. And so for me, I think that it's still a very much alive art form, it's just transitioning into something else. And what's going to be interesting is to see what happens to these kind of paper comics." Spurlock's prediction is that paper comics will become limited-edition collectibles, with print runs of 500 or 1,000 catering to a specialized market.

Digital Comics: Dark Horse and TNT are partnering for a second digital comic based on the TNT series "Falling Skies." The new series, "Falling Skies: The Battle of Fitchburg," will be written by Paul Tobin, illustrated by Juan Ferreyra and released as free eight-page comics on a biweekly schedule.

Prognostication II: Ben Gilbert, on the other hand, begs to differ; he buys the first issue of a comic digitally to sample it, then waits to buy the trade, and he doesn't see digital supplanting print anytime soon: "Frankly, I don't see anyone using ComiXology to download a month's worth of comics that they would normally buy at an LCS, mostly because that would take more memory than most people with Macs or personal computers would likely be willing to devote solely to comic storage and would destroy the idea of comics as collectibles, which is the lifeblood of the Direct Market and the convention industry. Digital comics more than likely will help lead new readers to the medium and help new readers try out new books or catch up on issues they may have missed, but I doubt anyone will completely stop buying physical copies of their favorite books every Wednesday just because they could potentially get the same issues online."

Piracy: Rich Johnston interviews a retired comic book pirate. There are some fascinating insights in this article, about the number of scanners (about 100, the pirate estimates), where the bootlegs come from (digital comics have made it easier) and why scanners scan: "To all scanners, scanning is an addiction, whether they admit it or not. It's hard to stop once you start. I'm not using this as an excuse. I was an active participant. However, I didn't like the way I was feeling about it. It wasn't until after a long conversation with a comic creator for Vertigo that made me take a long look at what I was doing and why I was doing it. So I made the decision it was time to stop. I have, since I quit, relapsed on scanning twice. It really just convinced me that I have no desire to go back to it."

Manga: Melinda Beasi describes her work as an editor for the Digital Manga Guild. Members of the DMG work in groups of three or more to translate, edit, and letter manga that is published digitally by the publisher Digital Manga Inc. Because the process is so decentralized, she doesn't have a managing editor to supervise her work or answer her questions, although DMI representative Ben Applegate notes at MangaBlog that the work is reviewed by a managing editor and a proofreader after it is submitted. Beasi's point still stands, though: "no matter how much extra work and research I was willing to put in (and this was a lot), there was no real way for me to know if I was doing right by the series, because I simply am not qualified to do so."

Digital Comics: The British publisher ROK Comics has married sound with pictures in its latest comic, "Team M.O.B.I.L.E.," a standalone iPad comic that comes complete with audio soundtrack and its own theme tune.

Digital Comics: Todd Allen of Publishers Weekly talks to Paul Kaminski, the editor of the New Crusaders series, Archie Comics' latest relaunch of its Red Circle characters. The format is straightforward: "Episodes will premiere monthly, with each episode of the new Crusaders series broken into 4 acts released about once one a week. Subscribers will have access to all new content as it becomes available, along with the backlog of Mighty Crusaders stories that will enhance the experience of New Crusaders." As Allen notes, this latest relaunch comes just a year after DC's last attempt to revive the characters; perhaps the digital format will help them find their audience.

Digital Comics: "Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard-Boiled Shaman," is now available as a downloadable PDF. Terry LaBan's mashup of noir crime novels and traditional cultures is an entertaining read, and now you don't have to be online to read it.

Apps: Indie comics app Cloud 9 Comix is now available for Android as well as iOS. The Cloud 9 lineup includes publishers and individual creators from six continents.

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