Comic Books: Going Digital, Going Under

Despite the fact that I’m a journalism major and declarations of print-implosion are in vogue, I try not to overextend myself to take part in any sort of debate as to whether or not CNN’s Twitter is a harbinger of the industry’s doom, or that The New York Times’ iPod application is, like, totally the worst thing. I know that journalism is going to exist in one form or another, barring some global takeover by a totalitarian alien force, and my ability to get a news brief on my phone doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t also want long, thick, juicy (mm) investigative pieces like Michael Moss’ recent expose on the meat industry. These things have ups and downs, and it’s just not productive to speculate. The wheels are turning anyway!

But. Those pro-digital fuckers just got to my comic books. And we have a problem now.

Observe above the diarrheal interface to PanelFly, a new iPod Touch and iPhone application that seeks to “revolutionize mobile comics,” whatever the fuck that means. After receiving news that Marvel would begin to feature titles on the free app (at ninety nine cents per issue), I decided to check it out. They’re the industry juggernaut, so their move could ultimately prompt a response from companies that are actually, you know, good (like DC!), so I had to see for myself: is the idea of comics on an iPod as horrible as it sounds?

Yes, it fucking is. The screen is 4.3 inches long, 2.4 inches wide. The New York Times? That works on my iPod because it’s all fucking text. Frankly, having to zoom in on specific points of individual panels just to see what Kitty Pryde has to say in Astonishing X-Men is dumb. It is dumb and stupid. It ruins the entire point of comic books and graphic novels. The entire point being, of course, the seamless integration of text and image to create a narrative unlike a movie, unlike a book, but some sweet, sweet point between the two. This is pretty much why even the best of the recent trend of “motion comics” are essentially a waste of time, no matter how entertaining they may ultimately prove to be. Turning comic books into a mini TV shows is a waste of time. It’s redundant. It’s why the Watchmen movie was watered-down piss. As they stand, on this PanelFly trash or whichever of the similar applications you choose, comics are kind of like wonky picture books, where the text is on an otherwise blank white page and the image is on the next. Christ, can you image We3 on your iPod? Horrible.

Listen, some might view me as a bit particular when it comes to these things. In Prague, we don’t have comic books stores. We just don’t. So I’ve had to resort to (it pains me to say this) illegitimate means of viewing weekly superheroics on my computer. But you know what I’ve done? I’ve ordered every comic book I’ve read on my MacBook (which, incidentally, is a huge improvement on an iPod, by virtue of the fact that you can view a two-page spread with legible text, avoiding the need to zoom in on specific nooks and crannies of the page), officially bought them all, so they’re waiting for me when I get home. I don’t think I’m so strange when it comes to comic book fans. We’re a pretty hardcore bunch. We feel very strongly about our hobby, you see. TV Shows or movies? Look the same on your computer, so why spend the money? Music? Sounds the same. Comic books, though? That’s a completely different story. You need to hold that shit.

It always astounds me how little respect comic book company execs or marketing directors or editors or whoever have for their core fanbase. You know, those people that give them money every week. I know we are, by and large, obese, greasy, four-eyed virgin pedophiles that baste mommy’s basement with our fluids day in and day out, whimpering like retarded babies whenever something like One More Day happens, but come on.

I mean, listen, it’s hard to completely knock the idea of digital comics. They’re cheaper, eliminate the need for bullshit Diamond Distributors, theoretically put more dime in the pockets of the creators, etcetera etcetera. But this is jumping the gun, certainly. Certainly! Wait for the Kindle 3, perhaps.

And that, friends, is my 3:00 am rant.

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