Do comic books belong on the iPad? I didn’t used to think so but now I’m a believer.
Growing up I loved to draw and I would go to the store and buy comic books just to copy what was inside. At first it didn’t matter what comic it was but as I bought more and more I found my favorites. Spider-Man had an easy victory over me and Wolverine was a favorite if for no other reason than I had his action figure and his comics were wonderfully brutal. Comics fostered my art and my art fostered my comic book collection. I even started collecting Marvel trading cards. I never had a complete set but did manage to get an “limited edition” hologram card of The Thing.
I loved them, then I left them
Comic books made quite an impact on me. I drew comics, I painted comics and they even led me to drawing on the computer. Let me tell you, using Paint to draw a Spider-Man cover pixel-by-pixel is a very time consuming process…if only I knew where that file ended up! I even painted a mural of my favorite characters on the basement wall and as of yet still remains unfinished some 20 years later. Comics came with me all through middle school and junior high, but once high school came around I had other things on my mind and comic books became too much of a hassle.
I remember one Spider-Man storyline that I got into where he was fighting The Vulture along with two robot armor guys. I went to the store each month to get the next issue but before too long I found myself having to buy other comics just to stay in the loop. The story jumped Spider-Man books as well as into other characters’ comics and I quickly started having to get comics I didn’t want just to get a few cells of storyline. It was frustrating enough to go around town trying to find the comic I needed let alone finding out it was a bait-n-switch. The whole thing just required too much effort so I gave up. Sometimes I would buy comic books that looked cool to draw but as far as actually paying attention to stories, I was done.
Since then comic books have gotten extremely popular and now you can’t sling your web in any direction without hitting a graphic novel. There are more comics out there now than you can possibly traverse, from the standards like Spider-Man and Superman to endless numbers of “indie” comics that are seemingly one-book specials targeting a very niche audience. There was a brief moment when I wanted to get back into comics but I found graphic novels to be too expensive. I spend enough on other hobbies that I just can’t justify dropping more cash on a graphic novel that will get read once and then put on the shelf. Comics are disposable entertainment in my mind (as are books in general). I read it once, will hopefully enjoy it and then the book just takes up space. I have enough clutter lying around the house, I don’t need another dust collector. Too much money, too much effort to collect and takes up too much space. Three strikes, you’re out.
iPad changed the game
I (very) casually pay attention to comics today. I read about what’s popular and what underdog comic is making an impact but I wasn’t buying anything…until now. I’ve had my iPad for a little over a month at this point and outside of web surfing I’ve spent most of my time buying and reading comics. I downloaded the Comixology app when I got my iPad just to see if it was cool and what comics would look like. I had my doubts that I would even like reading comics on the iPad because I don’t really like to read books on a screen. Not only does reading on a screen hurt my eyes but I do enjoy having a book that I can hold, fold and write in. I figured comic books would be in the same boat but it’s the exact opposite. Comic books look spectacular on the iPad and, to my surprise, are very easy to read.
Not long before I got my iPad, I had actually bought the first volume of classic GI Joe comics at the half off bookstore. It was a collection of 10 comics for $12 so I gave it a shot. I read it over two nights before bed and I loved it. I went back to the bookstore to see if they had Volume 2 but they didn’t and I was reminded why I gave up on comics in the first place…but then I got the iPad.
I downloaded a few freebie comics to test the waters and once I was sold on the iPad being a viable platform for comic books, I went shopping to see if the GI Joe Classics was offered and they were. Better yet, it was a little bit cheaper than I had paid at the half off store, but the price wasn’t really the win here, it was the convenience. Despite living in a digitally convenient world for the better part of a decade now, this was one of those times when I stepped back and considered just how wonderful it can be. Before me at the touch of a finger was every volume of GI Joe ever published from 1982 to the present. No longer would I have to scour bookstores or spend extra on Amazon and have it arrive in a week. Instant gratification as it should be.
And let me tell you that because of the iPad and the Comixology app, I’ve spent more on comic books in the past 60 days than I have ever before, even when I was a kid chasing down the next issue of Spider-Man. However, the real marvel here is that the comics don’t lose anything being on the iPad. I don’t miss the physical pages in my hand and more so I don’t miss the piles of comics left wasting away on my shelves when I’m done. Plus, I can now make good on being a better GI Joe fan by starting at the beginning rather than jumping halfway and only through cartoons…and let me tell you that it has changed how I think about the franchise.
I’m happy with my GI Joe right now and given the comic has several volumes available means I can be reading them for a while, but I’d like to look beyond my established comfort zone and find a new comic that I can enjoy. The marketplace is near-endless with options so it might take some trial-and-error to find one I can get into, but thankfully most single-issue comics sold through Comixology look to be about a $1, which is what you’d waste downloading the latest “with Friends” game.
Of all the things I expected an iPad to afford me, I never expected it to help me re-discover some of my nerd roots. I had given up on being a “comic book guy” a long time ago and never expected to come back. I was happy being “video game guy” and “Hot Wheels guy” but now it looks like I can work on being a better comic book fan too. And since I’ve been away for more than 20 years, there’s plenty out there to choose from. Read on, friends, read on.