Crap, Pirated Digital Comics Got It Right

Posted: December 2, 2011 in comic books, crotchety ranting, Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: , , , ,

Hm. Haven’t been able to write much. This is for three reasons:

1. Work stuff occupies work time

2. I just got a Playstation 3 and did you guys know that Batman is in a videogame?!

3. I don’t really have much to say about the news of the day that hasn’t already been covered perfectly well somewhere else (plus, it’s pretty hard to find a lot to say outside of “In case you didn’t know, Frank Miller’s out of his fucking mind”).

However, something came to my attention recently that bugged me enough that I feel the need to comment:

It turns out that pirated comic books are actually the best format to read digital comics in. 

I’ve managed to avoid exploring what’s available via torrent sites because I don’t want to support the practice. I like paying for the comics I’d like to own, ideally at a store (so I can support a local business), occasionally online (where I can at least vote with my dollar) or at least borrowing from a library (where I can at least encourage them to order more comics, and not just Geoff Johns stuff, you hear me tall clerk dude?!).

But after playing Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (I needed a break from all the Batman), I started wondering if Spider-Man 2099 was really any good, which reminded me that I’d stopped hunting for Warren Ellis’s Doom 2099 run years ago, and now that I think of it I have a lot of holes in the Peter David Aquaman run I’d been meaning to sit down with…

10 minutes later and I’ve got a bunch of stolen comics on my laptop.

Now, I’m not proud of it, but I am someone who likes figuring out how the comic book medium is best represented in a digital format. That’s part of why I spent all of September buying DC’s books through Comixology.

So we’re calling this research, and trying not to make a habit out of it.

Anyway, here’s something Comixology doesn’t offer – and it’s something so head-slappingly obvious that I kind of want to write them a letter or something. In all their bizarre “guided view” mechanics where you can zoom in and out of each panel, or view long horizontal strips of pages, or all the other ways you can maneuver your eyes across the digital page…it apparently didn’t occur to them to simply offer a “Rotate 90 degrees” button.

So that the whole page can be plainly read on the laptop screen. Like a comic – only even bigger and easier to see.

Like the ComicRack program lets you do.

Now, obviously this isn’t ideal for people who only have a desktop, and it’s irrelevant for tablet owners. But for people who primarily use laptops (which I’m assuming is a lot of people), it’s the easiest thing in the world to simply hold the laptop like a book, and read the screen like the left-hand side of a comic. And in the place of flipping a page, a simple click of the down arrow (where your right hand is likely sitting anyway) with your thumb.

Of course, if you own a tablet reader that can download comics, you can go ahead and ignore all this.

It’s actually kind of comforting. In September, I would’ve told you digital comics would never register the same way because sitting in your good reading chair while staring at your laptop is a different feeling than reading a comic. But the other night, I was perfectly happy reading the laptop like it was a book, only slightly heavier. It felt natural.

Like I said: it’s insanely obvious, and yet there is no way to do this to a comic file on Comixology (which I keep singling out since, with its Marvel and DC catalogues and its apps on the new Kindle and Nook, it’s pretty much the default digital reader). No way to manipulate a material you bought and now own.

Though calling what you have on Comixology a “file” is a little disingenuous, which brings me to the next best part of pirating comics that I hate is so good: YOU GET TO OWN THE FILES YOU PAID FOR.

The My Downloads folder has just become an easily accessible longbox.

But while the actual purchasing of comics through Comixology, and other digital sites is pretty damn easy, and accessing them later similarly so, if you lose web access you lose your collection. It’s the downside of cloud storage (the same one that keeps me making DVD backups of music files even though I store everything to Google Music) – access over ownership.

Some publishers are taking steps against this – Chris Sims’ Dracula The Unconquered, for example, very specifically addresses the two major problems (cost and format) with a $1 download available in both PDF and CBZ – but I’m still a little baffled how this is even a problem that needed correcting.

How is this not the standard way of doing business?

  1. John Jackson says:

    Tablets win out. Some laptops have gyroscopes that do reorient the image, don’t they? I know some desktop monitors do. But yeah, most viewing programs allow for rotation. And I think I can read my comics on the tablet without internet… Oh, no, I can’t. And now I need to dig around and find my Marvel account information. Great.

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    I was all set to buy a tablet when my bonus comes in, but now I’m enamored of having a full-size comic page, rather than shrinking it to fit the 7-inch tall tablet screen. Decisions, decisions.

    I’ve noticed Marvel selling individual issues on comixology (some good deals too – every issue of Ultimate Spider-Man for a dollar each? Good call), but are they offering their entire catalog that way, or still insisting on the monthly subscription model?

  3. John Jackson says:

    In the entire time I’ve used it (since July 2010), the Marvel iPad app was always issue by issue. Maybe they did it differently on non-Apple products because Apple took a share out of monthly subscriptions. Also, my iPad is 8 3/4 inches tall in screen space. Te black bezel is annoyingly big, but the only time I’ve felt that it’s too small for a comic is when I was using pirated comics and a non-zooming program. I do understand the point, but as I read all of Runaways in the Digest format, I guess I’m used to non-full-sized comic pages. Though if you’re looking into an iPad and not an ‘off-brand’ like Samsung, I’d suggest waiting at least until spring. There are many rumors about a retina display iPad 2 in January if not by Spring, and the iPad 3 in the fall. Unless I buy a trade paperback, I think all my comics purchases will be on the iPad, unless I splurge on oversize editions.

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    Those Runaways digest editions were fantastic, and the ideal size for tablet reading. I would HOPE Marvel and DC would start utilizing it a little more, but…that would be like hoping that they bring down prices on digital purchases to $.99 for all back issues, or increase digital-exclusive content. CRAZY TALK is what it is.

  5. John Jackson says:

    Well, Marvel does have different free issues about once a month, and they tend to be intros into back catalogue stories. I’ve gotten two Runaways backissues for free. But the next issue is still 1.99 or more. I’ve heard they’re doing ‘trades’ in digital format. I imagine that means 6 issue series for 12 instead of 18. Not sure how prevalent it is, the one time I saw it, it was a comic I wanted nothing to do with. They do have periodic sales, if you can bide your time to get the good ones.

  6. jbondsr says:

    Actually, in your graphic options, you have the ability to rotate the screen. Works for nvidia, ATI, and even intel integrated graphics.
    Usually, you can do by using Ctrl+Shift or Alt+Shift and an arrow key in the direction of how you want to rotate it.

  7. Jeff Holland says:


    Good work, jbondsr!

  8. Jeff Holland says:

    Ah, actually, that still doesn’t quite solve the problem – I’m looking for a way to stretch a SINGLE page onto the whole screen, but rotating the screen itself only gives you a chance to see both pages side by side. Hrm.

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