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Wed, June 23rd, 2010 at 12:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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DC GOES DIGITAL, AT LAST

Launch the App with the iPad in a horizontal position and Green Lantern joins DC's trinity

The DC app is now available for the iPhone and iPad. I've been playing with the iPhone version of the app a little bit to get a feel for things. While I find comics tedious to read on the iPhone's small screen, it's worth exploring for research purposes. When I get an iPad someday, I can actually sit down and read comics for fun.

Some first thoughts:

DC's Smartest Move with the App Store: Free "Batman: Black and White" stories. Shorter stories in black and white means smaller file sizes, quicker downloads, and less server stress. These are stories by top notch big name talent. Free! Great way to expose great stories by great creators to the people who might be perusing just for the novelty of it.

DC's Second Smartest Move, the One Fraught With Most Peril: "Justice League: Generation Lost" is day-and-date. Heck, this week's issue is available via the app before your local comic shop opens. Marvel took some heat for announcing their day-and-date experiment so close to the Final Order Cut-Off Date. Notoriously retailer-friendly DC just obliterated that line completely. If "Invincible Iron Man" was a hand grenade tossed into the Direct Market, DC just dropped dropped a cluster bomb. Good for them!

The other possible peril: Back issues are $.99 - 1.99. The new day-and-date issue is $2.99, same as print. I'm hoping their plan is to drop the price down to $1.99 when the new issue comes out. If that's the plan, it's a compromise I think I could get behind, particularly with a twice-monthly series. Retailers hate stocking all that material on their shelves at the same time. Readers don't want to miss a month and fall two issues behind. This is a great business model to use with weekly or bi-monthly series. I hope Marvel mimics it with "Amazing Spider-Man."

I still don't think there's any reason for a digital comic to be the same price as a print comic, but if we need to have a compromise for a bit until we can get there, this it the least odious one I've seen.

Bonus: "Generation Lost" is on my list of comics I'd try if it was available digitally, at least for a few issues before waiting on a trade or hardcover.

DC's Third Smartest Move: "Sandman" #1 is there. That's a comic that will get out to more than just the Wednesday Crowd. Likely, lots of people who discovered it in college but haven't read comics in years can be tempted back to this app years later (now that they have jobs and disposable income) just for kicks. Maybe they find more to read and explore.

Day and date digital releases have arrived with "Justice League: Generation Lost"

The thing I get back to with all of this, though, is the concern that my money is going to be locked up in a single app. Even if the comic I buy on the iPhone can be read on the web or on the comiXology iPad app, I'm concerned that I can't take the files I'm theoretically buying and read them in any app I want. There's no portability. PDFs are ultra-portable. My collection of those is easily backed up. I can see the files. I can open them in the Comic Book Lover app, or Adobe Reader, or Apple's Preview. comiXology comics can be read in comiXology apps. That's it. Kinda scary to put all of my eggs in one basket like that. Right now, that's my only hesitation with this business model.

Nits to pick: I wish "Tiny Titans" was 99 cents, not $1.99. That's not a knock against the perceived value of the creators' work. I just like the idea of comics aimed directly at the younger set being cheaper. Let them get more for their allowance or stolen lunch money that way.

Some navigation issues:

When looking at a single issue, I can touch the left and right arrows to go through the series that's available. But there's no link to view a complete list of issues available in that particular series. If I'm looking at "Superman/Batman" #10, for example, but I want to buy issue #1, I have to touch the left arrow at the top of the screen nine times to get there. That's odd. You can browse by series to get that list, but if I'm getting to that issue from somewhere else, I have to back out and go back in to another section. This isn't a show stopper, but it is an annoyance.

Credits are curious. They only show the writer, and then you have to click on a down arrow to drill down on the rest of the creative team. At the least, you'd think the writer and artist should be available without touching anything else. Also, the creator lists aren't linked to the creator's available comics. That's available, but again separately.

These are relatively easy things to correct. I hope they are in future updates.

Out of the gate, the DC app follows the pattern of digital comics publishing admirably. Their selection is an interesting modern cross-section of popular titles, particularly ones related to recent movies ("Jonah Hex" and "The Losers" are both in there). There's nothing out of the deep back catalog here, but the inclusion of a day-and-date series is exciting and more palatable than the one Marvel is offering in coming weeks. It's a good start.

With both DC and Marvel now in the game, let's hope the low bar they've set continues to be raised quickly as each tries to outdo the other. This could be fun!

TAGS:  pipeline, digital comics, dc comics

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