A review because the Lord willed it

Guest Post by Jason Tudor:

Woven from the ethereal relationship loom that is Twitter, this column is brought to you courtesy of the Lord. Yes, the Lord taketh. However, today the Lord giveth away. That said, with bountiful harvest scraped from the carcasses of techno-Guinea pigs slaughtered and left rotting on roads from Santa Monica to Stoke-on-Trent to Sydney, I slog in to offer you a review of comic-reading technology.

Now, this is not the sort of technology that will grow your ink pen six inches. It will not provide the sort of swagger that comes with a decent Jim Lee, Howard Chaykin or Jim Steranko night of freeballing a smooth piece of art board (and God knows, if we had that technology, we would never leave the house, always be covered in Cheetos crumbs and smell of day-old Budweiser). Rather, something smaller: an iPhone application that allows you to read hundreds of works in the confines of your palms.

“Comics” from Comixology.com (http://www.comixology.com/iphoneapp/) brings a wealth of independent and mainstream works right to your iPhone. It costs $0.99. There are plenty of free items to view and, once you get used to the interface, you’ll find the viewing enjoyable. Some actionable statistics you can use:

— I mentioned the price. Also, most of the comics you’ll download are that price. The free stuff is good quality. I read the first issue of Matt Wagner’s “Mage” again and, of course, enjoyed it again (Damn the Grackleflints!). Subsequent issues were 99 cents.

— Navigation is simple and follows iPhone rules. You can browse featured items, free stuff, the Top 25 or perform general browsing. The Top 25 can break down a number of ways. I chose by genre so I could find the ‘adult’ books with nudity the fastest (I kid). I did, however, find a fantastic title “Fearless Dawn” that I’ll be following.

— Speaking of navigation, actually reading the comics is a new test. Not a “Take the One Ring to Mordor” sort of test. However, still, a test of your patience and willingness to adapt to something different. The pages are divided by panels and/or hot spots. And, “Comics” offers a tutorial before you start to ensure you don’t screw up your reading experience along the way. The part I found irritating? Having to rotate my phone for horizontal and vertical panels. Jetson-like annoyance? Sure. But annoying? Like Greedo shooting first. And the aforementioned “Mage” makes use of dynamic Vert and Horz panels. That nuisance aside, I enjoyed the experience.

The app also links you to local comic stores using the iPhone locator system ( I live in Europe, so not a huge help there). You can send feedback and run the tutorial again should your head explode as you strive to figure it out (there’s a tutorial on the Web site, too). Further, “Comics” keeps track of your iPhone disk-space usage and offers a few ways to tweak the experience based on your whims.

My concern: who’s deciding on the hotspots and focusing the experience for the user? When the comic book is read, the user gets the raw materials – pages and panels – and has the opportunity to scan, review and revise his vision. With this, the experience is guided along – like a film. So, unless the creators are onboard with how the medium is shared, this could cause a backlash (e.g., Alan Moore hating his stuff being turned into film).

I enjoy “Comics” immensely. Admittedly, I’m also waiting for Longbox to debut (Full disclosure: I’ll be participating in the beta). However, as “convergence” pushes up on comic makers like Galacticus hovering over a savory, juicy morsel of a planet, I wonder how technology will affect future presentation in the medium and how we, as creators, will respond? More importantly, how will readers respond with their wallets and loyalties? That remains to be seen.

So, collect the bloody husks of beta-worn basement dwellers, Comixology. Those losses were not in vain. You’ve succeeded in creating something good. And I return, back to the ether, because that is the Lord’s will.

(Jason Tudor is the writer and illustrator of the Webcomic “Brothers in Virtual Arms,” http://bva.jasontudor.com)

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