With mobile devices becoming how we fill our time more and more, why does it seem unnatural for comics to head that direction? I love holding a comic book in my hands. Feeling the paper and turning the pages is something that you cannot obtain from an iPad. However, we do not seem to have much choice in that matter. The digital age is where we live and Marvel is leading the way.
A digital subscription from Marvel.com runs $59.88 for a whole year. Not a bad investment considering they are adding to the list of back comics continuously. DCcomics.com only recently joined in with digital comics. What DC really has up right now are .pdf previews. Not a whole lot for someone looking to get their Batman fix online. But DC has only recently started. Marvel’s web presence has been established and they seem to have no intention of stopping. Even the web editor for Marvel has become a web star of sorts. With over a million twitter followers, @Agent_M is a good example of Marvel’s influence and what the web can do. They have been pushing their digital comics subscriptions, but if reading from a PC was ever going to be the only way, then the Kindle would have never taken off. Marvel now has an iPhone app, but what about the rest of phone users? Not to mention we are to have more tablets like the iPad this year. So what to do? I do not have the answers, but I do have some questions. So does the ebook community. Here is a great post with some interesting ideas from digitalbookworld.com. Clearly a few things need to be decided upon.
What file format? Flash has not been playing well with phones and HTML5 still has yet to get going really, so how will comics get themselves out there? .cbr files have been out on the torrent scene for some time, but I doubt companies want to release anything so easily copied and shared. The one thing that they might want to shoot for – compatibility. Currently you use your iPhone or web browser to view online. Leaving a quickly growing Android market out and without an official app. Even the web editor for Marvel.com is a big Android lover, yet no app. DC has a .pdf preview, but that leaves us going straight down the document and having to zoom in some cases. Not to mention with a .pdf or a .cbr you get only images. There is room in the files for more data that could be used to enhance the reading experience. The article at digitalbookworld.com suggests adding meta data to the comic file.
Screen size? In print, all major comics are the same size. On a laptop or phone this is not the case at all. I have been reading comics on my phone for awhile now and each PC or phone feels a little different because of the size of the screen. The flash based Marvel.com feels clunky to navigate, but having a huge screen makes for a pretty read. The phone is the opposite. Sliding my finger across the screen feels natural but zooming in and out is annoying. Tablets like the iPad could be the answer, but that still leaves the phone market out.
Not to mention game consoles, e-readers, even digital picture frames today could be used as a comic readers. But with phones and apps as huge as they are and should continue to be, I do not see how it would be wise to ignore it. All these have different sized screens and different interfaces.
Story formatting for mobile? How will a comic being on a mobile phone or pad change the look of the comic? Less text? Fewer panels? More pages? With less space to tell your story how will artists and writers react? Would it be easier to adjust how the comic is written and drawn, rather than create software to accommodate? What is the attention span of someone on something mobile? All of these things are up in the air. Way up there.
Most importantly, what do we the fans even want?
Do we want to read comics on our phones? Or anywhere else? Do we even want to have static images anymore? Marvel’s Motion Comics might be a compromise. You can watch Astonishing X-Men at Marvel.com, Hulu, X-Box Live, Playstation network, or even download from iTunes or to your Zune. The movie is less of a movie but more than a comic. There are pans and zooms, along with some form of animation for talking and some action. It feels awkward at first to watch, but is an interesting idea form Marvel. Take a look at Spider-Woman Agent of Sword.
Marvel is trying to find the way. The way to a medium that will carry comics on forward in a monthly installment fashion. Print is going through something similar to what CDs went through. Slowing the internet is where those purchases are made. I think there will be print comics always. Not unlike records, they will be a market for fans of a gone by time. In the digital world fans have not waited for publishers to make up their minds. Many digitized comic book readers have a language they use for meta data. Much less the growing number of devices that can display digital comic books. It seems clear we as fans want digital comics of some kind. It is up to us to tell the publishers what works.