Digital Comics are enjoying unparalleled growth, due to the proliferation of e-readers, tablets, and new markets opening up on the world stage. Many traditional comic book companies are going into Overdrive, offering many new features and enhancements to lure customers to their platform.
comiXology is currently one of the biggest comics distribution platforms in the world. Marvel, DC, GI.Joe, Archie, and many other top publications offer their digital franchises through the app. Not only does comiXology have all of these companies’ comics in its own app, but the company also builds singular apps for these companies. So when you download the official Marvel app for Android, it is powered by comiXology.
Not only can you find mainstream comics, but the company has recently unveiled its self-publishing platform, comiXology Submit. This allows indie comic artists and authors to submit its own single issues and graphic novels. These comics can be found side by side with all the normal best sellers, which helps with the discovery of hot new writers.
There are currently 6,000 digital comics and over 700 free comics available. One of the big hyping factors behind its platform is its proprietary “Guided View” technology. It allows you isolate each frame as a singular entity, negating the constant need to pinch and zoom.
Marvel Comics is one of the largest comic book publishing companies in the world and offers thousands of back issues and first run comics. The company has been doing a tremendous job over the last year with releasing the digital editions the same day as print.
Marvel is pioneering new technologies into its platform, such as Augmented Reality, Project Gamma, and Infinite Comics. The Disney owned company is tapping into the vast resources at its disposal to offer innovative new ways to read comics.
Infinite Comics are something Marvel introduced last year and are mainly comics that eschew the traditional page turns. Instead, a swipe may bring in new word balloons, a new panel, or a change in focus. Up until now, the program has been one-offs tied in to print storylines, but now Marvel plans four 13-issue story arcs, starting with Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted, which will debut on July 9th. Marvel CEO Axel Alonso told CBR, “What we’re trying to do is deliver a comic book that first counts for the long term fan and they’ll understand how it’s woven into the continuity, and secondarily is exciting to the new or lapsed reader. We want to make sure we use all the bells and whistles and props available on this new canvass to excite people… At the end of the day, you’re left with a very cinematic comics experience. There’s a sense of motion that the new technology allows for that makes for a completely different experience, but the reader still controls the pace of that experience.”
Project Gamma will provide audio enhancements to Marvel comics in the form of a soundtrack or other audio cues and will only be available for select comics; in the CBR interview, Alonso allows that he was skeptical at first, but added, “Who out there hasn’t had that moment when you’ve been reading a comic book with your iPod on or the radio on, and you found that the music has changed your reading experience?” He called it an “adaptive experience” that will vary depending not only on the story but also the reader’s pace and other factors.
Marvels Augmented Reality program really blends physical comics with the digital variants. The main premise of this new program is to bring the social aspect to another level within comic books. Select comic books will have the AR on the cover of the book, and if you scan it with your phone or tablet you can get a plethora of new content via its free app. These new apps will be available on Android and the iOS platform in the next few weeks. The content varies from comic to comic. In some cases, you may get the editor giving you a rundown of what a particular story-arc is all about, or even videos by the writers. For now, Marvel AR is only in the printed comics and the company intends to gauge the success to see if a digital followup is warranted.
The essence of Marvel AR is to stimulate sales and bring the sociological aspect to another level. In most graphic novels these days issued by the company, you see a number of features towards the end of the book. The writers, editors, and artists often comment on the main aspects of the book, and even have a scene by scene breakdown. The new digital aspect will save room on the printed version and give people a way to access the content online.
A Comic Viewer was formerly known as Droid Comic Viewer by Robot Comics. It is hands-down the best comic-viewing app for any Android user. The app is quite powerful and is compatible with CBZ/ZIP, ACV, CBR/RAR (beta), JPEG, PNG, BMP & image folders. The Droid Comic Viewer has a number of options to properly tailor your comic experience and supports a wide array of multi-touch options. You can use gestures to zoom in on specific panels and jump from page to page. One of the things I liked was the auto bookmark feature that brings you back to the page you left off on when you exit the application and then open it again at a later date. Over 250,000 users have downloaded this application and it is the reader of choice when it comes to reading comics and manga on your tablet.
This is another one of the top Android comic reading applications and has a simple interface to browse your SD card or internals of your tablet. You can create your own bookshelves and create bookmarks to pick up where you left off. It reads many formats that are quite common in comics downloaded from various websites. It currently reads BZ/ZIP,CBR/RAR,7Z/CB7(No solid mode), LZH, and JPEG,PNG,GIF,BMP. What probably sets this app apart from other Android comic viewers, like the Droid Comic Viewer, is the sheer amount of options that would make many comic viewers happy. It has over 5 view modes, various smooth filters, full choice of page start positions, a bookshelf feature, bookmarking, favorites, and a “set as” wallpaper option. The option I liked the most was the ability to switch between landscape and portrait mode within the program. You then have a dedicated series of new options for each orientation.
Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse is well known in the geek circles for its niche library of comics. One of the most popular franchises it owns is the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, which is based on the television show and features the expanded universe. Dark Horse also prints a copious amount of Star Wars content, pumping out six different series a month. Finally, it has manga, anime, and things like Hellboy, Sin City, The Goon, Criminal Macabre, and Empowered.
The company started its same day digital comics initiative in 2011, where it releases the digital version the same day as the printed variants. Its Android app has undergone a ton of revisions during the last few months, which pushed it onto our top 5 list. Anything you download can be stored in the cloud and accessed via the web, or the company’s Android, iOS, Windows 8, or other apps.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.