BLOG Why I get my comics digitally now

The iPad has revolutionised comics, right? Blogger Lee Harris discovers that this is great for independent publishers

I’ve been reading comics for as long as I can remember. During the ’70s it was The Beano, Whizzer & Chips, 2000 AD and Starlord. In the ’80s I was a DC child – The Flash, Batman, JLA/JLE (Giffen and DeMatteis, naturally), The Sandman, Hellblazer, Swamp Thing and Animal Man. Hell, even Dr Fate! In the ’90s I wasn’t faithful: I read some DC, some Marvel. Hey, I never said the thing I had going with DC was an exclusive deal – I was free to read around, DC was free to be read by other parties. It was a sweet deal. In the ’00s, and up until May of this year, I was almost exclusively a Marvel boy.

But in May something happened that has changed my comic reading habits drastically. I bought an iPad.

I’ve always been a bit of a gadget fiend and when the iPad was announced there was absolutely no way I was not going to get one. As the UK launch was delayed due to high demand in the US, I imported one instead.

The first app I downloaded was the Marvel Comics app. It had been available on the iPhone/iPod Touch for a while, but the screen size put me off. With the advent of the iPad screen size was no longer an issue.

It took me all of two minutes to become a convert and despite the reading habits of more years than I care to admit in a public forum, it became clear to me that this was the way comics should be read. I genuinely believe that it is a more pleasurable, more satisfying experience to read a comic on a tablet, than to sit holding a traditional paper comic.

So I downloaded some Iron Man, some Hulk and a few others, and pretty soon I noticed that there were a few other comic applications available; these opened up a whole new area for me – indies.

Stacey Whittle often waxes lyrical on the SFX blog about the better independent comics (as well as through the excellent Small Press, Big Mouth podcast), but I’d almost always resisted the call. Until the iPad.

Why did a piece of tech convince me to try something new? Simple: price. Whereas most of the Marvel comics were priced at $2.99 (for various reasons, my iTunes account is registered in the US, so I pay in dollars), many of the indies were priced at 99c. That’s an attractive price point. 60 pence for a whole comic? Well, if it’s no good, I’ve wasted the price of a packet of crisps (and it wouldn’t hurt me to lose a few pounds).

So, I chose a few titles and I sampled them. And enjoyed them. And bought more in the series, until I’d read every issue of my chosen titles. So I went looking for more, and found some, and discovered a love for independent comics. In fact, due to the convenience and immediacy of purchase, combined with the attractive price points, I’ve spent more on comics in the last six months than in the previous six years – and 80% of that has been on comics published by independent publishers. Technology has made the distribution of electronic content a great leveller; the smaller houses can now compete with the big two – particularly on backlist titles. I think the ’10s will be the decade of the indies for me.

This is a personal blog by Lee Harris. To read other blogs in the series click here. Are you enjoying comics on your portable device? How are you finding the experience – and have you got any comics recommendations for us? Hit us in the thread below or on our forum.