It’s no secret that we love digital comics here at Pipedream Comics and we hope that comes across in every post we put on the site. But what about the rest of the comics world? Well, this week we are set to launch a fantastic new series of guest columns where  some of the finest writers and artist from the world of digital comics tell us just why they love them. We’re going to start this off with a true digital pioneer, publisher of Aces Weekly the ‘world’s only digital art comic’David Lloyd. A writer, artist and digital publisher, he also happens to have worked on a little book called V For Vendetta back in the 1980s, so knows a thing or two about the whole world of print too, but what is it about the world of digital that he loves so much?

Melksham03What do you get if you combine Captain Jack Sparrow, Darth Vader and one of Despicable Me’s Minions with a sleepy Wiltshire market town and a sunny Saturday afternoon – why its the Melksham Comic Convention of course! We were there along with over 600 other eager geeks from all across the UK, so here’s our report on what went down.

To celebrate their first year we thought we’d do a quick rundown of 10 favourite MonkeyBrain Comics. They’re all available via ComiXology so why not give them a try and let us know what you think on our Facebook page.

According to writer Ben Abernathy, Madefire‘s new series The Heroes Club is packed full of insider jokes and subtle references to the Madefire world, but what (or rather who) on earth could this bully be referring to when confronting Captain Stone?

HeroesClub_pipedream

Download the whole of The Heroes Club #1 now via the Madefire app

 

It’s been a milestone week this week as Image Comics celebrated their 20th anniversary. As a comics fan growing up in the early 1990s, I was a massive fan of all things Image and so it fills me with a great sense of pride and nostalgia to look back on what they meant to the comics industry and to me personally. As a kid my heroes weren’t sportsmen or movie stars, they were comic artists. I worshipped every pen and ink stroke of Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen and Rob Liefeld. I knew every panel of early issues of Spawn, Savage Dragon and Youngblood and still do to this day.

So when these three super-artists left Marvel in 1992 to form a new company alongside Jim Lee, Jim Valentino and While Portacio I had no idea what the significance was, or why there were doing it, just so long as I could get new and exciting books from my heroes – and what could better than them writing and drawing their own titles? I didn’t understand that they had left Marvel to pursue creative autonomy and would shape the future of modern comics by putting the emphasis on the creator rather than the corporation, I was more interested in searching high and low for every new Image release I could get my hands on.

Apple's NewssatdnThis week saw the release of Apple’s new iOS5 operating system for iPad and iPhone. You might have missed it as it got somewhat lost amongst the tragic news of Steve Jobs passing and the internet backlash against the iPhone 4S, but it is probably the most exciting thing that will happen to digital publishing this year.

After all the weeks and months of talk, it’s finally here. The DC52 relaunch has happened. Whether you agree with their tactics or not there’s no denying they have created a buzz about the comics industry that we haven’t seen in years. Forget Civil Wars, Secret Invasion, or the death of Steve Rogers, Bruce Wayne et. al., this is the most excited I’ve been about a mainstream comic since 1991. Back then I was a wide-eyed 13 year-old and Marvel released Jim Lee’s X-Men #1, now here he is again changing the world of comics, but will it be for better or for worse?

Back in 1991 with the launch of X-Men#1 the comics industry was at the peak of the 90s boom. X-Men #1 sold over a million copies thanks to multiple variant covers in foils and bags and was (And still is) the most successful comic of all time. The aftermath of this was a few more years of boom for Marvel, but would quickly be followed by bust as the bottom fell out of market as a result of over exposure to variant collectors editions. However for Lee himself it would be the catalyst for the formation of Image Comics and a new generation of creator owned titles via his Wildstorm studios.

Fast forward 20 years and Lee is top dog at DC, and he is again relaunching one of the comics world’s top titles in Justice League. But this time, instead of pushing the multiple variants of print editions it’s all about the power of digital. Justice League will not only be a huge selling print title thanks to it’s big name creative team but it is being released and pushed heavily via the DC Comics app and via ComiXology’s Comics. There is no doubt that this will be the best selling digital comic of all time within 24 hours of it’s release and it’s effect on the potential digital market is huge. Lee, a self confessed Apple geek, has clearly learned something from the Cupertino computer giant with his strategy of midnight opening at comic shops, but he is also keenly aware of the impact that digital is going to have on the future of comics.

A lot of industry analysts scoffed when the pricing structure was released and we learnt that the issue 1s would be $3.99 compared to a standard $2.99 for future, but just as Apple don’t compromise on price, neither does DC. Lee, Geoff Johns and co are making hay while the sun is shining and making money from their cash cows while they can, however they are also maximizing the influence their major titles can have in order to create a trickle down effect for the entire comics market. This price won’t deter the hardened comics fans who will buy both print and digital edition and won’t stop Justice League and the others from being the best-selling books of the year. But thanks to the ease of digital purchase, it may just encourage readers to buy other titles from this relaunch once they experience the simplicity and quality that comes from buying Justuce League. Once readers see how easy it is to simply click on Action Comics, Batman or Booster Gold while browsing through the comics app then DC will rely on these readers looking to do the same thing again in 4 weeks time (or when they receieve push notifications from the app to remind them of just how easy it was to buy that initial title) Gone is the need to go into a comic store on release and day and pay with real money, with an app and micro payments a reader can buy every book they want and the bill will magically appear a few days later. This is the tipping point for print and digital and just as Lee was a central figure in the last shift in the business in the late 90s, so here he is a again in 2011. Let’s hope this is the start of a new golden age, not the pinnacle of another boom.

One final question remains though, as a comic is it any good? Quite simply, it’s superb! I’m prepared to concede I am not a massive DC reader, but it is casual readers like me who haven’t read DC titles in years (if at all) who this relaunch is aiming at. Just as Ultimates refreshed the Marvel line up in 2000, so this will refresh and bring in new readers by updating continuity and re-telling, not just origin stories, but early tales of how character met and formed bonds before they had 30 years of back story to muddy the water. As always, Lee’s artwork is bristling with finely honed detail and stunning characters and settings. His Batman still bristles with the grit and edge of his Hush artwork, but it is Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern that is the real star of the book with Jim’s over active imagination crafting amazingly complex backgrounds out of Hal’s super powered creations. But it is also Geoff Johns’ script that is a winner. Mixing humour and character and crafting a fantastic revised DC Universe uncluttered by multiverses and extraneous characters, this is good old fashioned comic book story-telling but with a true 21st century look and feel. Well worth investing your time and money in.

While hunting around in my parents loft the other weekend I came across a box of old comics from my childhood and in there was the first comic I ever bought! It was a Marvel UK reprint of Secret Wars #2 (although confusingly it was numbered #3 as it was fortnightly and split the individual issues in two). I can vividly remember buying this on holiday in Cornwall at the age of 7 after seeing an advert for Secret Wars toys on TV and nagging my parents into getting me something with superheros in. Seeing all those fantastic characters like Spider-man, Captain America and the Fantastic Four in one place blew my mind – not to mention all the crazy villains like Dr Octopus and Absorbing Man.  Because it was a Marvel UK reprint it even featured a back-up tale featuring Alpha Flight which gave me twice the superhero action for my 27p!

Looking back at it now I can see just how great Mike Zeck’s pencils really were and certain panels I still vividly remember even after all these years. Whether it was Captain America rallying the troops in a futuristic amphitheatre,  Johnny Storm creating the FF 4 in the sky in flames, or Ben Grimm morphing back into human form for the first time while Magneto threw giant metal balls at him. I didn’t even appreciate all the awesomeness that was to come with Spidey and his black costume, but as a result of reading this book I would go on to buy more FF and Spider-man comics than is truly healthy and started me on my road to comic fandom. I even started collecting the Secret Wars sticker albums from Panini (although as with those albums, I never even came close to finishing it!).

Now, this may seem a bit contradictory seeing as this is a blog all about digital comics, but I was inspired to write this by thinking about how today’s generation of comics fans will never get to experience this simple sense of nostalgia. They won’t remember their first download in the same way I have remembered buying this book. It won’t be as linked to a specific moment in their childhood that mine was, and it is doubtful it will even be kept for more than a few years as digital copies become transfer-able across devices with copies kept in the cloud not in a dusty box somewhere in an attic. Perhaps I’m being overly nostalgic and a world where every comic is available at the tap of a tablet is a geek nirvana which I am failing to embrace. But for me, no matter how great the world of digital becomes, until it can replicate the simple joy of a 7-year-old discovering super heroes for the first time (and then revisiting it 25 years later!) then it will never quite replace the world of print.

So what was your first ever comic? Tweet me it @pipedreamcomics with the hash tag #myfirstcomic.

Todd McFarlane’s Spiderman #1 is one of the featured titles on Marvel’s iPad app this week which got me feeling rather nostalgic. You see, growing up as a comics fan in the 90s, the most iconic book for me wasn’t Amazing Fantasy 15 or Action Comics #1 it was  Spiderman #1. I’d been  a Todd McFarlane fanboy from the moment I first picked up Amazing Spiderman #317 and saw Venom and Spidey go back and forth while surrounded by Todd’s trademark webs. His pencils were so exciting and dynamic and the weird poses he had Spidey contort into were just mind-boggling and unlike anything I had seen before. So, as his run on ASM came and went,  the prospect of seeing Todd not only drawn but also write, his own title was a fanboy’s dream come true.