Now that I’ve had to upgrade my iPod to a shiny new iPod touch, one of the first things I did was download all the free comics offered by iVerse Media via Apple’s App Store. A friend showed me a few of them on his iPhone a few weeks back, and I hadn’t realized anyone actually ported comics over just yet (though I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose).
There are a few others out there, but I started with iVerse’s offerings. Each comic is a stand-alone app, and the comics are broken down into single panels (or sets of panels) that appear on the screen one at a time. A simple swipe turns the virtual pages. I was surprised how easy they were to read, and at 99 cents a pop, I can see even casual comics readers downloading a few titles. I showed Atomic Robo to my sons, and they instantly picked up on how to navigate the pages. My seven year old can even change the preferences in the comic so the panels will slide instead of curl (he likes the former transition, I prefer the latter), he can use the slider to find the page he left off on after daddy “messed it up,” and he can even open and close the app himself.
In all, it makes an incredible little package.
There is a downside, of course. Some of the comics aren’t so easily broken down into the iPod’s screen dimensions. For example, a couple of the panels were obviously one larger panel cut into two or three screen pages. Half a character isn’t so bad when you’ve got the top half, but when you turn the page to get only legs, it’s kind of strange. I suspect some of this may have been lazy (or cheap) remixing, as not every comic had this problem. It can also be chalked up to the newness of the technology: artists aren’t thinking about the iPod yet, they’re concentrating on the printed page. Why would anyone want to cut up their beautiful art?
The other downside is a device problem. I took it outside and, even standing in the shade, I had a tough time making out some of the panels. Bright panels with a lot of contrast were readable but washed out, and dark panels turned to blobs of shadows and silhouettes. Laptops aren’t much better, so I’m curious to see how new screen technologies from Fujitsu and Ricoh turn out (once they become widely available for an affordable price, that is).
If I could offer one iVerse-specific criticism, I’d like to see them have a universal setting for the apps. I have no idea if this is even possible, but if there were a function call to a central app setting that determined the preferred page transition across all the comics, that would be great. As it is, I find myself having to drop into the settings of each app to make the switch.
Still, it was very cool sitting at my desk at work and burning through a comic book while waiting on some file transfers. If someone were willing to whip out a Kindle to download a book while sitting in a doctor’s waiting room or at an airport terminal, they could just as easily download a comic on their iPhone or iPod touch.
Is it the future of comics? I don’t know about that, but it certainly seems a viable future. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go download Atomic Robo #2 for the Midget and I.