Star Trek Countdown is the official movie prequel series, released by IDW, and what a company called (I think) IVerse Media have done, is port them into an iPhone/iPod Touch friendly format.
This is interesting for a couple of reasons. Number one, these comics were really hard to get here. I think I saw issue 2 once, and that was it. Making them available in this way means everyone can get a copy. Secondly however, its interesting because they were only 59p each. That’s a heck of a good price compared to the £3+ you pay in the comic shop (who didn’t get them in anyway).
Of course, you’re not getting the issues as they were intended, and things like splash pages lose their impact in this format, but for a cheap, mass-market alternative to the proper comics, I think its great. I’ve also picked up Farscape #1 from the same company.
This got me thinking about digital comics on the whole. Now Marvel have made moves into this area, with their Digital Comics Unlimited service (that I blogged about here) and also their collections of older comics available on DVD (I know they did something like 40 years of Amazing Spider-Man available on a DVD at a bargain price and I’m sure a few others as well). DC however seem pretty unsure about the idea of making their comics available digitally.
While I would never say digital comics will or should replace proper comics (or at least trades – I feel the same about eBooks and books) I really like the “mass-market” idea digital comics could bring. Its been something widely commented on for a while, that sales of comics have been badly affected since they moved off of news stands in the States and became the almost sole domain of the specialist comic shops. It occurs to me that making more comics available via a digitial medium (and given the undeniable success of the iPhone, the app store is a good starting point) could surely only be a good thing. It wouldn’t even have to be the newest releases. They could lag a few months behind, meaning if you wanted to be up to date, you could still go to the comic shop. Heck, even the pricing could be raised a bit. 59p is outstanding value, but given how much the paper copies go for, you could double that easily and it’d still be good value.
With both DC and Marvel courting the mainstream press for attention (Marvel more successfully), why not bolster that with electronic versions of comics. Imagine DC talking to the press about Blackest Night, and being able to back it up by saying that you can buy Rebirth and Sinestro Corps War for cheap on the App Store, or off their web site or something.
Digital piracy is a problem for comics like every other medium. However, while music has iTunes, Amazon etc providing legal sources, TV and movies also have iTunes, and services like Hulu and the iPlayer, comics seem to be stumbling a lot more with embracing the medium, and all that does is make piracy the only option to people who want their comics digitally. I’m not condoning it, just saying that’s the case.
Think about the changes coming with the iPhone v3.0 software. Companies could make an comic book reader app that would allow you to purchase more comics and download them from within the app, or set up a regular subscription to certain titles. That’d be very cool. And with other manufacturers providing their own App Stores (Blackberry’s App World, Android Marketplace etc), companies could provide readers for a variety of handsets that would download the comics in some standard format and display them, with the reader handling the hardware-specific stuff.
Just a brief thought/rant on digital comics. I would definitely like to see more in this field, especially from DC (I’d love to have some GL comics stored on my iPod Touch for reading on the train be it any of the 4 volumes so far). I can definitely see me buying more for my iPod Touch, especially if more Farscape issues turn up.