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Digital Comic Books

I was, in my youth, and continuing into early adulthood, an obsessive comic book buff…but, as priorities changed, and time became more of a luxury, that interest waned. As a result, I lost touch with the world of comics. However, after reading a recent article in the local paper, and an online review, I became curious about a new twist in DC Comics called The New 52 [1].

In an effort to boost revenue, during a time of steadily declining comic sales, DC decided to revamp their characters, launch new titles, and enhance their online presence through something known as day-and-date digital distribution; meaning their comics have become available for digital devices simultaneous to their hard copy release. For those unfamiliar with comic books, DC Comics [2] is home to Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and dozens of other well-known comic book heroes.


At the risk of sounding like the doddering old fossil that I am, I remember when Spider-Man was introduced in Amazing Fantasy #15, and when I, along with my brother, purchased many of the first issues of Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The X Men, etc.; characters created by the writers and artists at Marvel [3] comics. Looking into the DC story piqued my interest in online comics, so I started looking around for other entries (primarily some of those old favorites that had so long ago disappeared from our collection). As it turns out, Marvel also makes online comics available, including numerous classics. Head over to Marvel Digital Comics [4] for a free look at excerpts from the Marvel classics, or from newly published material (there is a charge to read an entire issue).


Screenshot of an online sample from The Amazing Spider-Man #33 [5]

ComiXology is the primary online distributor of comics in the Marvel and DC lines (along with others)  where they’ve been, “…developing the technological infrastructure to bring comics into the digital mainstream and expose new audiences to the rich history and culture of the industry.”

The ability to read these comics on mobile devices is a key element in the DC promotional package, with Marvel also engaged in the battle over the mobile market, and both have apps available for smartphones and tablets. You can find the official DC Comics iPhone app here [6] and the Android app here [7]. The official Marvel Comics iPhone app can be downloaded here [8].

I don’t own a smartphone, so I haven’t had the opportunity to test these apps. But, in those early days, as I devoured the latest graphic masterpieces by Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man) and Jack Kirby (co-creator of almost everything else at Marvel), I remember thinking, “Gee, I wish these beautiful illustrations could be reduced to a size that could be viewed on my phone.” Of course, the image below is what I probably would have imagined.


On the bright–and more practical–side, many of these comics can also be stored in computers and viewed on their larger screens.

If your budget doesn’t allow for the membership premiums or per-issue cost at DC or Marvel (and if you’re not that fussy about quality) The Digital Comic Museum [9] offers a free online look at comics in the public domain.


So, are paper and ink comics becoming another casualty of the digital revolution? I certainly hope not, but there are some advantages to digital; convenience, storage, the way an image pops off a lighted screen, etc. On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like the feel of the paper copy in your hands (just as reading the news on a screen isn’t quite as satisfying as the feel of newsprint). Of course this could just be an example of this old fossil clinging to a sedimentary remnant of his past. Hopefully, both versions can find room to coexist in today’s world.

Since I’ve been out of touch with comics for quite some time and, since personal favorites were featured here, many comics were excluded. If your favorites were overlooked, I apologize. Please let us know if there are some titles or features you’d like to see mentioned in the future.