Category Archives: digital comics

News: Amazon buys Comixology

Hat tip to Morgan Wick via Twitter: Amazon buys Comixology.

Amazon has just announced that they will acquire comiXology, a service that offers digital versions of comics from Marvel, DC, and many others.

To date, Comixology offers upwards of 50,000 comics for sale. In 2013, the company launched a self-publishing platform for comics that allows comic creators to upload and sell their own work — a strategy which fits hand-in-hand with Amazon’s own self-publishing efforts for books.

It’s a boost of confidence, I think, that online comics are now considered a profitable medium. Comixology has indeed been doing good business, and the acquisition is a pretty interesting wrinkle in Amazon’s continued quest to expand to the field of entertainment media (what with the Instant Video aspect getting way more press).

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Digital Comic Overlook #5: Batman ’66 #1-9

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So, kids, once upon a time there was this TV show in 1966. It featured a somewhat pudgy guy in a Batman outfit and a teen sidekick in short pants. He was such a great detective that one time he foiled a sea crime, and deduced that because it took place in the “sea”, it was a clue to the letter “C”, which means one of the culprits was “Catwoman.” Giant letters like “POW!” and “BAM!” would show up on the screen during fights, there was a catchy as hell theme song, and Gotham was sunny Santa Barbara, California, for some reason.

I am talking, of course, about Electro Woman and Dyna Girl.

No… wait! I mean Batman. Despite repeated attempts over the last three decades to turn the Dynamic Duo into a grim Dark Knight, and despite the show not being available on DVD due to entangled rights issues, no one has ever been able to fully erase the goofy fun and colorful campiness of the megapopular 1960’s TV show. I wasn’t around back then, obviously. Guys, I’m old… just not that old. However, I did catch whole runs of the show back when it was on FX. (This back in the day when that channel was promoting itself as an upscale lifestyle network and not a gritty drama network. It’s… a weird fit either way.) In my opinion, the show got a lot right. It had the best ever live-action depictions of both the Riddler and the Penguin, and it captured the wacky Silver Age feel that comic creators are desperate to recreate these days.

The show’s spirit shows up every so often, partly because a lot of comic professionals are secretly in love with it. From time to time, characters created for the show, such as King Tut, reappear in the comics. (In fact, the Riddler would haved been a forgotten minor character if not for his prominence on the show.) Batman: Brave and the Bold was essentially an animated sequel to the show. And now there’s this: Batman ’66, an digital comic on the DC2 imprint featuring the new adventures of the Dynamic Duo.

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Digital Comic Overlook #4: Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite #1-4

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Click, click, click.

This is the sound of the future of digital comics, as the pundits say. Though, in my case, it was swipe, swipe, swipe.

There’s been some talk about how the “powerpoint” style of comics is going to become the next big thing for digital comics in the future. Now, I know we’ve heard the talk before, and a lot of us are plenty skeptical. The reality, though, is that the big boys, Marvel and DC, are both rarin’ to try it out. Over in their corner, Marvel’s been trying the technique out in their newly launched “Infinite” brand, which is digital only and available on the Marvel app; most are not currently on the Comixology app.

Aside: the awkwardly titled Ultimate Spider-Man Infinite IS available on Comixology for free. I would suggest not getting that one. It’s … pretty horrible. I know, it’s aimed for kids, but man, even if I was part of the intended age bracket I’d feel cheated by such a lightweight story with parts where Spider-Man goes super-deformed for some reason. Seriously, the Spidey Super Stories were less pandering. Also, for a title that includes “Ultimate” in it, it’s a comic about Peter Parker, and not Miles Morales, the current Spider-Man in the Ultimate titles. In fact, pretty much none of it, save maybe the Sam Jackson Nick Fury, seems to be set in the Ultimate Marvel Universe. (And even then, the Sam Jackson Fury is the current one in the baseline series.) Why even use “Ultimate”? Why? Why do you have to make things so hard, Marvel?!?!?!

So anyway, back to Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite #1-4, which are currently free to download on the Marvel app.

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Robot 6: digital comics are reaching the next stage of evolution

Over at Robot 6, Corey Blake looks at the latest innovations from Marvel and DC in the field of digital comics. He gives a brief synopsis of the evolution of digital comics, mulling over the innovations that have gotten things to this point:

… it’s becoming clear that after years of digital and webcomics primarily mimicking print comic books and comic strips, a new kind of comic is emerging, one that is changing how they’re made and read.

These current platforms were far from the first to experiment with digital. Artists like Cayetano Garza Jr. began experimenting with limited effects and layout as early as 1998. Scott McCloud’s infinite canvas theory, in which digital could break free of the confines of the limited dimensions of a page, was proposed in 2000, ironically in the pages of his print book Reinventing Comics. Experiments with using an infinite canvas followed, but it never grabbed hold as a standard format. Mostly, webcomics have echoed the structure and dimensions of daily newspaper strips with the occasional experimentation.

Which leads us to the new innovations at Marvel Infinite and DC2. Blake is ecstatic over the new possibilities. He points to Yves Bigerel’s experimental techniques, which are up at DeviantArt.

The simplistic brilliance of Bigerel’s concept is that instead of spreading panels out across an infinite canvas, he stacked them up on each other like animation cells. It’s essentially a PowerPoint slideshow using comics. And most importantly, the reader controls when the next slide comes up.

While this simple change retains the language of comics, it fundamentally alters how the comics read and how they’re created. The writers, and probably more so the artists, have to re-think how they approach their storytelling techniques. There are benefits. Surprises can be controlled better because there’s no risk of a reader’s eye scanning over the opposite page and seeing the reveal of the big monster. Page breaks become clicks. Layering is one of the biggest advantages. Instead of a sequence taking place from left to right, it can happen in the same spot, with additions to the image adding more information with each click. For the letterer, the reading order of dialogue can be controlled more. There’s less chance of confusing the reader over what to read next when you can have the dialogue become visible in the correct order.

So what do you think? Is there a significant paradigm shift coming ahead? Or will this kinda fizzle out like the whole infinite canvas thing?

DC2 means “choices” for you

Comics Alliance reports that DC Comics is dipping its toes in the digital world with the illusion of choice.

DC Comics announced two brand new digital comics formats Tuesday evening, one that might look somewhat familiar to readers of Marvel’s Infinite Comics, the other which puts a new spin on the classic “choose your own adventure” book.

DC2, which will feature actions such as word balloons and sound effects popping up when readers swipe their screens, will debut in writer Jeff Parker and artist Jonathan Case’s Batman ’66 series later this summer. DC2 Multiverse, which enables readers to choose different paths through a comic story, will first appear in a Batman: Arkham Origins video game tie-in comic.

DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee told Variety that the DC2 Multiverse format is meant to mirror what video gaming is about: choices.

The pop-up word balloon and sound effect format has been tried in webcomics before, though I’m hard-pressed to remember exactly who did it. (My personal opinion: it’s way too gimmicky and distracting to be any sort of legitimate artistic choice. Sure, you can make an argument that the entire piece of art is worth enjoying … but that’s what blog posts are for.)

As for the “Choose Your Own Adventure” thing… I’m pretty sure a webcomic creator has tried that before. Andrew Hussie tried to put an early MS Paint Adventures called Bard Quest… probably because all the work in doing a branching narrative doesn’t beat a solidly told story.

Besides, choice in this thing is always meaningless. I know that Comics Alliance brought up video games, but how many endings do you get in those things, anyway? And there’s always one “true” ending, which gets followed through when the sequel comes out.

Even so, “Choose Your Own Adventure” books were still kinda fun, even if they were disposable and a little unmemorable. (The only one I remember was the one where I was on trial in England. Lying meant you get get to stay. Telling the truth meant getting deported to Australia. Oh, “Choose Your Own Adventures” and your cynical view of the justice system!)

Digital Comic Overlook #3: Ame-comi Girls #1-6

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Jimmy Palmiotti has done many things. He is probably best known for his highly acclaimed run on the Jonah Hex title. He once formed a publishing company with Joe Quesada, the former Editor In Chief of Marvel Comics. He co-created Painkiller Jane, which became a show on the Sci-Fi Network.

He also writes DC’s Digital First comic,Ame-Comi Girls.

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Digital Comic Overlook #2: Bandette #1

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The tour of Eisner-nominated titles for Best Digital Comic continues with Bandette, by writer Paul Tobin and his wife, artist Colleen Coover. Best Digital Comic is not, incidentally, the only award associated with Bandette. Ms. Coover is also a nominee for the Best Inker/Penciller Award. Fantastic news, as I am — above all — easily swayed by pretty pictures. Talk about setting me up with ridiculously high expectations!

Bandette may also be the first nominee that isn’t a “webcomic”, per se. The comic falls on the “digital comic” side of things. Bandette is downloadable through Comixology, which means that you gotta shell out a dollar an issue. Being not made of money (or a measly $3, which I then turned around and reinvested in the latest issue of IDW’s Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye), I did this review based on the first issue (which is currently free) and on the three page previews of the subsequent issues.

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Digital Comic Overlook #1: Adventures of Superman #1-3

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All it took for me was one drawing by Chris Samnee.

Not too long ago, Chris Arrant at Robot 6 wrote a piece entitled “DC Digital: Best Kept Secret or Worst Covered Gem?” While all the press has been on the New 52’s same-day-digital initiative, the DC Digital brand has silently be cultivating some interesting titles. It started when they launched Smallville Season 11, the follow up to the popular TV show. (Some fans attest it’s better than the mainline Superman titles. I’ve only read one Smallville issue, but from what I’ve seen of the New 52 Superman, I don’t find it hard to believe.) While New 52 remain controversial, dropping and adding titles on a regular basis, the DC Digital titles have been steadily building up. Batman Beyond Unlimited. Legends of the Dark Knight. Arrow. And, um … Ame-Comi Girls. (Which is… written by Jonah Hex‘s Jimmy Palmiotti. Oh, Jimmy.)

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But let’s get back to that Chris Samnee image! That’s all I needed to download the first three issues of Adventures of Superman. Look at that glorious thing. Is there any current artist out there who’s perfect for illustrating Superman than Chris Samnee? Before the New 52, I mean? I mean, he can just draw him and I’m all, “Yes. YES. That is Superman… not some impostor running around wearing red and blue tights.” Here is a man that makes you want to go “Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!” every time you lay your eyes on him.

Well, it turns out only the first issue is illustrated by Mr. Samnee. (And it’s written by Jeff Parker.) Adventures of Superman is an anthology series… a bunch of short, low impact stories. Superman tries to talk a guy down from causing mayhem, two kids play around in the yard, and Superman deals with Bizarro.

Very few punches are thrown.

If you want to read about Darkseid’s ongoing plan to rule the world, this is probably not the comic for you. But you see… I love those stories. One of the best things about Superman from the Silver Age was how it was more focused on character relationships and wonder at the world than, say, Superman punching out the latest supervillain. It’s something that the previous incarnation of Superman really got wrong. Throughout the 80’s and the 90’s, it was about Superman beating up on villain after another. (Culminating in the best selling issue where he dies after being punched to death by Doomsday.)

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