During the mid ’90s, some of my fondest memories took place at a nearby comic store about a mile away from my home. The bike ride out to the shop usually took a while, but even in the heat of a Texas summer, the reward of being able to check out the latest adventures of my favorite superhero made the trek well worth the effort. My allowance was roughly $20 per week on weekends that included mowing the front and back lawns, and the majority of that money was handed directly over to the shop in exchange for the latest editions of Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Savage Dragon, and any first edition book that I could get my hands on. Even trading cards became a bit of an obsession. Don’t even get me started on Magic: The Gathering.
When I started driving, my allowance and early income began finding its way into the gas tank of my car. It wasn’t until the iPad came out that I rediscovered these old books once again. Today, I’m happy to enjoy the occasional comic or graphic novel thanks to this thin marvel (pun intended) of technology.
Here are my five favorite comic apps for the iPad.
Perhaps one of the best-known companies behind comic books is Marvel. Whether you’re into Iron Man, Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, or any number of other characters, Marvel is a name that is synonymous with some of the best-known superheroes in the industry. Stan Lee, arguably the most well known name in the comic world, helped build Marvel into the comic giant it is today.
The app itself is quite easy to navigate. If you find a comic you like, you can preview it before purchasing with a simple tap of the screen. Purchases are downloaded right away, and you can begin reading almost instantly. Purchases are handled in-app through the iTunes App Store, meaning that you don’t have to hand your credit card over to yet another company. Your account is synced across multiple devices so you don’t have to worry about not having access to your favorite books on your iPhone as well.
I did see a few downsides to this app as it presently exists. While it’s easy to view back issues and read older editions of your favorite book, newer material is either not present or harder to get to. I’d also like to see a reduction in the per-issue price for older comics as you’re not actually getting a physical book but a license to read a digital copy. Not being able to trade or otherwise collect these books is a disappointment. I had hoped for a better deal.
Simply called Comics in the app store, this app by ComiXology is pretty awesome. Not only are books made available from both Marvel and DC, but a multitude of other publishing houses including Image, BOOM, Dynamite Entertainment, Red 5, Zenescope, Evil Twin, and more. I’ve been amazed at exactly what I’ve been able to find on this app.
Navigation is simple and easy, and I’m a huge fan of how ComiXology designed the UI. Guided reading is a great feature (also found on Marvel’s app) that works incredibly well to make reading panel-by-panel even easier.
In short, I believe ComiXology hit a home run with this app. It serves as a one-stop-shop for virtually any comic lover. Whether you are in to Dark Horse or other, more independent publishers, this is one app you should seriously consider picking up.
Comic Zeal is one of those comic apps that belongs in a category all its own. Imagine being able to duplicate, sort, and manage multiple digital boxes with a single finger. Comic Zeal by Biolithic does just this in a way that stands apart from virtually all the other comic book apps out there.
You can sort your comics in as many ways as you can imagine, set the brightness and background color, and enjoy your collection of CBZ, CBR, RAR, ZIP, and PDF comic files with a single app. Comic Zeal isn’t so much about selling the books as it is managing your existing collection. With this app, you can take your pre-formatted comic books and import them to your iPad without having to buy them on your app of choice all over again. Even with this somewhat open format, Comic Zeal allows you to enjoy full screen and assisted panning, which is a hallmark of any quality comic app for the platform.
The one big downside to Comic Zeal is that it isn’t free. Since Comic Zeal doesn’t rely on in-app sales of individual titles to make a profit, you’re going to have to cough up $7.99, which gives you a universal binary compatible with both the iPhone and iPad. In my opinion, it’s well worth it if you have a large collection you’d like to transfer over to the iPad.
Digital Comics by Madcap Studios
Not everyone is in to mainstream comics. Occasionally, you want a look at what some independent publishers have to offer. While ComiXology’s Comics app may have a ton of great independent publishers, it may not have an interface that’s fit for everyone.
Enter Digital Comics by Madcap Studios. This app has a little something you don’t see anywhere else. You can actually set it to switch from panel to panel automatically on a timer, allowing you to literally kick back and read the book without having to so much as touch your screen. Not only that, but there’s a sleep timer so you can leave it running for a set amount of time as more of a decorative piece.
Key moments in the comic will actually set off special effects such as screen shaking and vibration (iPhone). This is a great alternative to the average comic reader app.
Currently, Digital Comics supports titles from Top Cow, Antarctic Press, Indy, and more are promised in the future.
ComicBookLover by Bitcartel
This one comes recommended by a member of the LockerGnome community, XenaDeb. ComicBookLover is a free app that allows you to transfer over your CBZ and CBR formatted comics and read them from your iPad or iPhone. ComicBookLover has a clean interface that reminds me a lot of the Zune. I like it, though I found reading to be a little less fluid and panel-by-panel friendly as some of the other apps out there.
What I liked about ComicBookLover is that it interacts with a desktop client for OS X. The client is fairly easy to use and works like an iTunes for your collection. I’m a huge fan of the process, though it can save you $7.99 over Comic Zeal.
Over all, reading digital comics shouldn’t be a hassle. Determining which app is best for you depends on what you like to read and how you prefer to experience it. I’m personally a big fan of Comics by ComiXology and publisher-specific apps by Marvel, Image, and others. Comic Zeal impressed me quite a bit, and would undoubtedly be my personal choice for books purchased on other platforms. I enjoy the ability to buy my favorite books within the app itself, though, again, every user has their own preferences and no one is right or wrong.
So, what comic app do you use? Is there one you’d prefer over the ones listed here?