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Digital Comics, Unfriendly Page Layouts, and Black Vortex

double_spreads_01I was recently reading some online posts about Thanos, Thane, Infinity, and Black Vortex…and realized that while I had STARTED reading Black Vortex, I never finished it.

I believe it was a 12-issue story…and you can download 12 issues to your device with Marvel Unlimited, and I’d done just that, intending to binge-read the story…and yet I never finished the story.

The reason?

Page layouts.

I enjoy digital well enough…but even turning a tablet sideways, it’s virtually impossible to actually make out the text–captions, speech bubbles, etc–on a 2-page spread shrunk to fit even on the sideways-turned-tablet.

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And in thinking about it, I’m certain that was what stopped me in my tracks: I just got so incredibly annoyed at CONSTANTLY having to turn the tablet and zoom in, because it seemed like every couple pages was a double-page layout!

While a "standard" single-page, vertical, is generally a decent read on a table, it then either is showing only half of the layout, or turn the device sideways and it’s reduced to a much smaller size.

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Sure, there are the various "zoom in to read" modes–Comixology has its "guided view," Marvel Unlimited has some sort of panel view, and I imagine other similar platforms have their own thing to allow you to basically zoom in or view just a given panel in lieu of an entire page.

But part of what drove me to get a tablet, looking forward to the digital comics side, was that the tablet in standard vertical orientation–a bit taller than wide–was roughly the size of a single page of a standard comic book.

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"Modern layouts" can be quite cool, and interesting, and presumably fun for designers, and allow artists to "experiment" and all that (and please believe me, I can totally appreciate that and see immense value and necessity for it) but it all rarely translates well to a digital screen, at least in my own opinion, for my own methods and purposes.

I can’t see "digital" ever totally replacing "print" for me, though I would not be entirely opposed to "switching" to "digital only" for single issues and collected volumes as my "print edition" or "archival copy" if I really dug something… though that’s largely its own topic and for some other post. But for newer comics with the constant full page panels and double-page splashes (already a "cheat" to my pagecount for $3.99 in many cases), it’s even more annoying to experience attempting to read digitally.

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And so–particularly with Marvel, as this specific example–as much as other elements are "barriers to entry, I’m already ok with reading some stuff digitally.

I just can’t stand the double-page spreads that seem to be far too common, recklessly used and even "abused" by way of throwing out pages for something being double-shipped or otherwise trying to make a deadline.

If I’m gonna have to fumble with something physical, do more than just a gentle "swipe" across a screen to read an entire page…I’m darned well gonna just stick with a print edition comic!

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Dipping Back Into Digital…Over Two Years Later

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It’s been over two years now since Comixology did away with in-app purchasing for Apple devices. Being an Apple guy (simply by way of having iPhone and iPad), that stopped me in my tracks as far as digital comics went.

back_to_digital_openscreen_marvelI wrote about the one-year mark last year… and not too long after, “discovered” Marvel Unlimited.

I’ve enjoyed Unlimited a great deal, and found it to be SUCH a great value that even doing the $10 month-to-month subscription (rather than lay out $70-80 in one go for the entire year), I have zero problem with going a month or months without using it yet still paying for it!

The six-month “delay” or “embargo” or whatever–the gap between what’s available without separate purchasing and whatever’s out this week–does not bother me at all. I’m so far behind on “current Marvel” in general anyway that it doesn’t much matter…and for the cost, any mattering there is is offset by reading relatively new stuff for such a small cost–given Marvel‘s $3.99+ price point, really all I have to do is average 3 comics read per month to ‘break even’ with anything else being total bonus. And for what I read just last summer, I’d mentally decided it more than covered over a year, and it’s not yet BEEN a full year since then, so I’m golden. It allows me to–should I choose–read up on a lotta stuff, catch up, etc at my relative leisure without laying out a lotta money (and while I may not like to admit it, keeps me tethered enough that I’m then going to be interested in buying other stuff as a result of things I read, whether newish issues, some collected volume(s), or just stuff from bargain-bins.

back_to_digital_openscreen_dcMaking the “purchase” one time, and being all set until I cancel my subscription and otherwise being free to browse and select and download at my leisure from the app–without constantly logging in or having to juggle multiple apps and interfaces for single-issue selections and such (i.e. purchasing through Comixology without in-app purchases) works extremely nicely!

Just about 3 weeks ago, heading toward DC Comics‘ big Rebirth issue, I’d gotten excited enough that I searched for and downloaded DC‘s digital-comics app to “check” on what a friend has told me a number of times…the individual companies’ apps still allow the inn-app purchases, even though Comixology‘s app itself does not. So, for the first time in over two years, I was all set not only to make “a” digital purchase…but was excited, anticipating, and ready/willing to pay full price digitally…just to satisfy the craving, the immediate gratification of getting to read an issue before work rather than have to wait until a late lunch break to go to the store to get the issue (which I’d already had a copy being held).

back_to_digital_2Taking advantage of a “sale” I had noticed, for a mere 99 cents, I bought the recent Superman Annual that I believe led into the final stuff just ahead of The Final Days of Superman with the titles big #50s and such.

EDITING 6/15/2016 to add: Can’t believe I forgot that I also dropped another $14 or so on an Annual and 12-13 or so issues of Batman for the “core” Zero Year story!

And then after so thoroughly enjoying the new Action Comics issue last week, just to “support” the title and legacy numbering and in-app purchasing and $2.99 price point in general, I bought a digital copy to just have it.

Which I’m sure–for me–may have opened the floodgates as I rediscovered the joy of the digital purchasing–being able to learn of something and/or just being flat-out “in the mood” to read it, and even if I’d consider its print edition nothing more than “a quarter book”–something I wouldn’t pay more than 25 cents for–I’ll pay the “convenience tax” for the digital access and get to read whatever issue(s) immediately and without it taking up a lot of physical space!

back_to_digital_openscreen_tmntCue, then, adding the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles app to my device–because darn it, the TMNT have always been a soft spot for me and an “exception” I’m willing to make to things I’ll otherwise completely avoid on principle…so might as well check that app out, and at the very least see if I can access old purchases I’d made of some of those books.

Much like the DC app, the TMNT app does indeed allow for in-app purchasing…which may well mean some trouble for me down the road, but I especially like that they have stuff priced well below print, at least on some of the collected volumes.

And much to my shared chagrin and enjoyment, there’s currently a sale going on…not just for a couple days or the week, but the entire month of June.

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So, I ‘bit.”

I was curious.

I had to check into the prices of the collected volumes…especially after realizing how far behind I am on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures volumes.

back_to_digital_3With the sale going on, the volumes were $3.99 apiece…and contain at least 4 issues each, if not 5.

For the price of one single Marvel issue that I’d read in a few minutes, I could buy a collection of issues I’ve been intending to re-read soon anyway and that I know I’ll enjoy.

So, utilizing the ease of in-app purchasing…I bought volume 10 for the Future Shark Trilogy story. And that included references to the Eye of Sarnath and such, so decided I might as well get the next volume as well, for the Black Hole Trilogy that I remembered quite enjoying.

Yet after reading the Future Shark stuff, I wanted to backtrack a bit…so got volume 9 for the United We Stand “crossover” story with the Mighty Mutanimals, and a couple more “key” issues I remember from back in the day.

And at this point, I’m honestly thinking that–while it’ll add up to the same thing either way–being able to spread the purchases out, I maybe completely backtrack on these volumes to take advantage of the $3.99/volume price, just for the ease of re-reading the issues on my tablet.

Ultimately, the point being: I was completely soured to digital comics, my interest (and weekly purchases of at least a handful of 99-cent issues) had been killed in its tracks. And I wasn’t just mouthing off or “complaining online” while still giving over my money–I stopped cold, and did not spend another cent, period, sum total on any digital comics from Comixology.

That lasted over two years, some 25 months.

While some of it is the re-“novelty” of the stuff and diving back in after some time away, I’m obviously somewhere in the audience for digital comics! And willing to (on impulse!) purchase digital comics if only to read one time and be done.

Just a drop in the bucket overall, but nearly $20 in just a couple weeks while planning on several more purchases (and who knows from there) on top of buying print editions…and Comixology itself lost out as I’m now going through the individual companies’ apps rather than theirs directly. Sure, they might get a cut, but I imagine it’s smaller than what they’d get if I was going through their app itself even with the “Apple tax,” and all the more significant across time.

More Fun Reading Marvel Digitally

I’ve been keeping track of the issue I’m reading on Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited.

And as of this typing, 27 days into my first $9.99/mo 1-month subscription (I assume I have 30 days), I’ve read 40 issues…which functionally makes these all like quarter-bin issues that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

Trial of Jean Grey (6 issues)
Silver Surfer 34-38 [Rebirth of Thanos] (5 issues)
Thanos Quest (2 issues)
Thanos Rising 1-5 (5 issues)
Infinity Gauntlet 1-6 (6 issues)
Wolverine (2014) 8-12 (5 issues)
Death of Wolverine 1-4 (4 issues)
Wolverine and the X-Men 10-11 (2 issues)
Death of Wolverine: Life After Logan 1 (1 issue)
Storm 4-5 (2 issues)
Death of Wolverine: Deadpool and Captain America 1 (1 issue)
Nightcrawler 7 (1 issue)

I plan to move into the Death of Wolverine: The Weapon X Project and Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy this weekend. I may backtrack through a couple of the earlier Wolverine volumes to the Killable stuff or whatever it was.

$10 and I finally got to read the Trial of Jean Grey without hunting singles or buying an oversized and overpriced hardcover; an overpriced Thanos Rising paperback, and overpriced Death of Wolverine volume. I’ve read some of the tie-in/aftermath to the Death of Wolverine, and quite enjoyed going back to early 1990s Silver Surfer and Thanos.

All this for little more than the price of two single issues. No variants, no waits between issues, no hassles.

This is the most fun I’ve had reading Marvel stuff in years, I think.

And I’m pretty sure this is going to be my primary source of "comics joy" for awhile, as I’ve become so disenchanted and put off by contemporary print stuff.

Now, if DC would do something like this, I think I’d be all over it as well!


[EDIT: 7/18/2015]

Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy 1-7 (7 issues)
Death of Wolverine: The Weapon X Project 1-5 (5 issues)

Read the first several issues of Logan Legacy Saturday morning…then issues 4-7 and all of Weapon X Project in a single sitting. This brings me up to about 52 issues read in my first month’s subscription.

Now next up looks to be a Captain America Annual from 1986 (Cap vs. Wolverine, as referenced in the Cap/Deadpool issue) and then catching up on where I left off to the end of the original Uncanny X-Force volume.

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