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Wednesday, 6 December 2006

DRM free e-comics for sale

Couple of interesting links sourced via BoingBoing: Pullbox Online ( is a new site selling downloadable comics, like the print version of 'Family Guy'. Unusually, instead of offering a Digitally Rights Managed ebook format, they're supporting the CBR format, and PDF. $0.99 a pop.

The No Sheep blog offers some interesting but probably controversial points on CBR and how the comics industry shouldn't worry about it here and here, arguing comics should take the plunge and go digital, which some publishers are already doing.

Slave Labor Graphics, publisher of very cool indy comics for example, has made PDF and CBZ versions available on their site for several months now. Issues are $0.89 or less. On the site are the first three collections of Andi Watson's "Skeleton Key" (a total of 23 issues) for just $5. Also look for two series, 'Whistles' and 'Byron,' being published exclusively in digital downloadable format.

I like CBR -- I use Comic Book Lover for Mac to view the format, which is regularly being tweaked and improved. There's a review of it here on Mac360.

CBR is still in its infancy. Over at the Mutant Liberation Front there's some interesting techie stuff about extending the format to make it even more open source. And make CBRs more search-friendly. I don't pretend to understand it for a moment, but it's worth a look if you're so inclined.

Mobile Comics

I'm experimenting with formats for mobile comics again. Issues continue to be: size (480 x 480 is pretty much a good standard to start with, but it won't work on all models of phone), font sizes and the obvious issue -- is this comics or just simple animation?

One of the best things about reading a comic or book is that the reader controls the speed at which they read it. With the sample above (I think you may have to click on it to view the animation), they don't have that option. As the creator, I've set the timings, transitions etc.

One option is to deliver the comics via WAP, where readers would move from frame to frame at their own speed. I'm not convinced that the java route -- using a java program to run the comics -- is an option (although it has been used by others) simply because unless that is pre-installed on your mobile, users won't bother to download it (unless it's very easy to do).

Lots of questions and thoughts buzzing around but no hard answers!

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Go West

Quick plug, especially as I have known artist Tim Keable's work for years, since back in my days of editing Doctor Who Magazine, and West: Texas Drama sounds like a gem of an indie title well worth tracking down...

  • Texas, 1887. West dislikes Texas, where everything always seems to be more complicated than it ought to be. While transporting a coffin to the backwater town of Big Creek, West finds himself the solution to someone else's problem. If, that is, he can manage to stay alive long enough to realise what that problem seems to be...

The creation of Andrew Cheverton and Tim Keable, West: Texas Drama costs £2 and is also available in a signed and numbered Limited Edition of 25, with an alternate, full colour cover, priced at £3.

Cover art of both these comics, as well as a Paypal store, can be found at

Birmingham International Comics Show - more details online

The full events program and floorplans for the First Birmingham International Comics Show are now available online at:

Monday, 4 December 2006

New Dogbreath on sale soon

Available to pre-order from The FQP Shop, Dogbreath #15 is 48 pages of UK indie comics action featuring strips and features by some of the finest talent in the small press.

Also featuring contributions from Nigel Dobbyn and Boo Cook, Dogbreath #15 is surely a must have for fans of Strontium Dog... and as if the above isn't enough, the whole thing comes wrapped in a new cover by the soon-to-be-legendary Rufus Dayglo!

Beer Run Goes Bad

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Comic Cuts no laughing matter

I thought that unlike some British newspapers, US papers gave comic strips quite a good deal, but it appears, sadly, it just ain't true. Economics and ignorant editorial decisions (like the ones behind the Guardian's idiot-but-quickly-reversed decision to drop Doonesbury on going 'Berliner') are threatening many of them, as an article syndicated from the Los Angeles Times by Joshua Fruhlinger, webmaster of reveals.

( regularly analyzes, deconstructs and mocks comic strips, a site Fruhlinger thought would merely entertain my close and indulgent friends, it now receives about 13,000 visitors and 200 reader comments every day).

Fruhlinger says that despite comic fans' enthusiasm for their favourite strips, "the only place you won't find this kind of enthusiasm is in most newspaper comics pages themselves.

"Rather than nurturing a section of the paper that has a built-in and long-lived fan base, most papers across the country continue to dishearten fans by cramming fewer strips into ever-shrinking spaces," he reveals. "Many comics aficionados have begun to sour on the whole newsprint experience."

Papers such as the Houston Chronicle in Texas are, it seems, an increasing rarity. The Chronicle offers some 103 strips online (although 66 appear in the print edition) and its web site is a haven for comics fans and a justified source of pride for the paper. "If we like a strip, we keep it, and I hope we continue doing that," Mike Read, the Chronicle's web operations and development editor told Fruhlinger.

Fruhlinger also makes the interesting point that many cartoonists are increasingly discovering a more reliable way of reaching their fans is via the internet. This isn't new to comics fans, online comics are huge, but in terms of monetizing their creations Doonesbury's web site is obviously a clear example of some success. I'm sure anyone reading this will have their own online favs, be they subscription-only, such as Michael Jantze's brilliant The Norm - once a syndicated strip it can now only be read on the Web - or Britain's very own and totally free and totally wonderful Beaver and Steve.

But there's also the vaild comment that comics are a significant and under-appreciated part of a mix that offers continued reader loyalty to print editions of newspapers in the 'Internet Age' -- and reader outcry when they disappear from a paper surely proves this. Fruhlinger argues that before the print news medium gives up on new readers, maybe it's time to "double down on the comics, to make the funny papers a selling point again. Give the comics an extra page. Move the funnies out of the entertainment-section ghetto and into the A section or Sports.

"Better yet," he opines, "run the daily strips in a stand-alone insert — not just Sundays. Get the advertising staff to start selling against the comics section (why should TV be getting all the ads for sugary cereals and action figures?). Do something, do anything, to make the funny pages interesting."

Newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic could also learn from what cartoonists and the syndicates are doing online with comics: offering collections and tie-in merchandise, even high quality prints of strips and one frame cartoons, just as papers offer discounts on books and other media they review via their dedicated shops.

Whatever the future of comics, I'm still of the opinion that it's still some years before the Internet, mobile and other future delivery methods totally supplant the tactile pleasure of reading something on paper.

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