British artist Frazer Irving has worked his distinctive magic on such diverse books as classic 2000AD to Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated. If you’ve seen his digital artwork on his blog or Tumblr, then you will know he is a man who loves the world of digital comics, so I dropped him a line and asked him his thoughts on creating art on the iPad and the success of the DC relaunch.

This month the brilliant Freak Angels by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield published it’s final episode online. A brilliant steam punk story of Whitechapel based telepaths known as Freakangels who are born with special powers at the same time and swear and shag their way around a post flood London. Although not the first online web comic, it was one of the best in terms of great artwork and fantastic story telling. It’s brilliantly detailed, Manga inspired artwork was created by the super talented Paul Duffield (aka Spoonbard) and I dropped him a line to ask him about the legacy of Freakangels and just how difficult it was to produce his super detailed artwork on a weekly basis.

As well as writing features I also write reviews for Tap! and thought I would share them with. Back in issue 4  I reviewed the brilliant Inkpad from Steve Sprang (creator of Brushes). Inkpad is a fantastic vector illustration app for the iPad. For those not in the know, vector images are made using shapes and lines to create paths, rather than colouring in pixels, and these paths can then be manipulated using anchor points to create precise shapes with defined edges. These are perfect for creating logos or technical drawings, as they can then be scaled in size easily without any loss in quality because they are based on mathematical data rather than on pixels.

When I was growing up my favourite book was a hardback called Marvel’s Fifty Fabulous Years.  It was a complete history of Marvel comics (up to that point) and I must have read it cover to cover a dozen times. One of my favourite sections was about the process a page takes from pencils to inks to colours to print. The page itself was from an issue of Ghost Rider drawn by Mark Texeira, but the panel I was most interested in was the colouring, which was done by a mulleted maestro named Gregory Wright.  This was in the pre-digital world where Greg was painting with a brush and ink before picking and annotating the colour separations by hand for the printing process. Over the years, I noticed the name Greg Wright appearing on several of my favourite comic books, most notably on the Erik Larsen run of Amazing Spider-man (my favourite ever comic run) and the early issues of Savage Dragon at Image. So when I saw him appear on Twitter last week I thought I would say ‘Hi!’. Greg was very gracious and actually replied to me as he was getting used to Twitter and so I took the chance to ask him some questions about what he had been up to and how he felt about the world of colouring in this new digital age.

In 2008 I wrote an article for MacFormat magazine about artists who have started painting on the iPad and iPhone using apps like Brushes and SketchBook Pro. I met some fascinating folk like Corliss Blakely, Jonathan Garuel and Susan Murtaugh who were creating amazing pieces of artwork with just an iPad or iPhone. I also interviewed comic artist Dean Trippe (www.deantrippe.com) but unfortunately his answers didn’t make to me in time to make the article (due to them getting waylaid in spam filters and the cyber-netherworlds!), so I thought this might be a great chance to finally have his words see the light of day as he has some really interesting stuff to say about creating artwork on his iPhone and iPad.

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.

When it comes to the best digital comics app on the iPad, there really is only one top dog – ComiXology’s Comics. The iTunes of comics apps, ComiXology are the pioneers of digital comics on the iPhone and iPad and the powerhouse behind Marvel, DC and Images own apps. As I explored the world of comics on the iPad, it got me wondering just how the titles are published and how would I go about getting my work published if I were an indie comics publisher. And who better to ask than the folk at ComiXology themselves. So if you’ve ever wondered what the secret is, here’s the answers, courtesy of ComiXology’s David Steinberger their founder and CEO !

There are few comics writers who carve as individual a niche as Alan Moore. From his ground-breaking books Watchmen and From Hell to era-defining runs on Swamp Thing and 2000AD, when Moore speaks the comics world takes note – even if that is simply to pour scorn on his supposed ‘grumpy old man of comics’ viewpoint. On the eave of launching the latest incarnation of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen he has spoken to the Guardian about publishing his books away from the strict deadline-centric regimes of DC and Marvel and in particular the prospect of turning his books into interactive reading experiences on a tablet. Here’s what he had to say on the matter…

I have nothing against putting it on one of those devices per se except that it would require a complete rethink of that actual medium. The way the comics companies I believe are producing online comics is that they are old comics uploaded online and made available. That I don’t think is the way to do it, because comics storytelling is entirely predicated upon the print technologies of the late 1930s. We have six panels of page on average because that was the optimum numbers of panels to put on a page in a periodical of something like 32 pages. This is what has formed the very language of the comic book. The fact that you turn over the pages. And you can time it so that turning over a page will be the moment of some big revelation. Which you wouldn’t want your reader to have spotted on page 24 just because it’s opposite page 23. And subtler things that really affected the way that a comic story should be told.

So what I’m saying is that I don’t think these devices are quite there yet but they have some very interesting possibilities. But before we would be thinking about putting something like the League into that format, I would want to think long and hard about the possible advantages of that new medium and the ways in which my storytelling craft would have to be adapted to best effect from this new medium. Much the same as when comics were just a 24-page thing that you drew on pieces of paper. I was always trying to find what the medium was capable of and to push it as far as possible. Like I said I’ve been having some thoughts about this. People shouldn’t be too surprised if they were to hear something about me working in this kind of area.”

To read more about Moore’s future plans and to find out more about the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1969 project you can find the full interview here.

When it came to designing the logo for this site, as a designer by trade I knew it had to be a good one! So rather than just use a slightly ropey freeware comics font, or worse Brushstroke or Comics San, I decided to invest in a couple of fonts from the brilliant Comic Book Fonts website run by Comicraft’s Richard Starkings. It was while looking around on his site, that I realised that Richard and the guys at Comicraft are way more than just comic book letterers. They are publishers, artists and digital pioneers, so who better than to ask about their opinion on the wonderful world of digital comics.

1. Marvel to release Ultimates, Spiderman and X-Men titles ‘day and date’.
In other words print and digital titles will be released simultaneously. It’s a horrible phrase but this is a huge deal for Marvel with DC already launching their books on the same day as printing and planning to roll out their 52 reboot simultaneously across both platforms. This could finally be the tipping point where digital becomes as important as print in the house of M as Marvel plan to start the roll out with the complete Ultimates line up in August (the final Ultimate Spiderman having already tested the waters for a same day release). This will be followed by the Spider-man titles in September which include the eagerly anticipated Dan Slott written Spider-Island saga. The X-Men titles will join the day and date gang in October with Avengers and all new titles following soon after in a push to ensure all major titles are running day and date in order to maximize the new reader potential of the Avengers movie in 2012. It’s exciting times for the world of digital comics as the big boys finally put their weight behind the medium.

2.Todd McFarlane says ‘bet against’ DC Comics 52 relaunch
Image co-founder and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane caused a bit of a storm with his comments to Comic Book Resources about the new DC relaunch. Saying he would “bet against it” and that it’s a “fools game”  McFarlane was highly critical of  DC’s plans to relaunch titles simultaneously, saying he would have preferred a staggered release over the course of 8-9 months in order to boost sales across all titles rather than spike sales of issue 1s. Comparing it to Apple’s product launch he said “Apple doesn’t say we’re going to release the new iPod, iPad, Macbook and I’ll talk to you about the cloud, all in the same day”.  As an instrumental part of the 90s comics book boom with his own Spider-man #1 and subsequent Image Comics, Todd knows a thing or two about spiking sales, as you would hope would fellow Image founder Jim Lee, now publisher at DC. When it comes to digital comics and piracy, Todd was more circumspect saying, “You can’t undo the mindset of  ‘I like to be in my pyjamas, hit a button and get my comic books’ . You have to do what the music people do and say, we want you to download, but not download for free”.  He was also keen to push the idea of digital comics being cheaper than print, saying that the 99c comic could be a profitable option once you remove printing, binding and distribution costs, again comparing it to the music model of offering 99c songs, but was not prepared to announce a Spawn release on the digital platform.

For the full interview pop on over to Comic Book Resources here and see him talk about everything from Spawn and Haunt to the positive influence of Robert Kirkman on the Image Comics family.

3.Dark Horse to launch Star Wars titles digitally for 20th anniversary
With the Dark Horse iPad app now in full effect, it was only a matter of time before it felt the full power of the force. Just in time for the 20th anniversary of Star Wars comics, Dark Horse announced they will not only be releasing new issues directly on the app, but that each week they would also be releasing classic back issues such as the Marvel adaptation of New Hope alongside expanded universe story lines like Crimson Empire and Knights of the Old Republic.   Also announced for their fall line-up are of books based on Hellboy director Guillermo Del Toro’s best-selling novel series The Strain, a new partnership with Valve to create comics based on their hit video games line and Orchid from former Rage Against The Machine Guitarist Tom Morello.

4. Frank Miller unveils the trailer to Holy Terror
We’re huge fans of the creator of Sin City here at Pipedream Comics and so the prospect of a new Frank Miller book in 2011 got us very excited indeed. Judging by this sneak preview, Frank has not lost a step with his time behind the movie camera and in actual fact has given his stories an even more cinematic feel than ever before. This will be the first released book from the newly formed Legendary Comics, and what would be the chance of him releasing it as an interactive app – we can but dream surely?! We’ll find out September 11th!

5. Ape Entertainment announce Cut The Rope the comic
We’re huge fans of the Ape Entertainment guys, (as you can see from our interview here) so news that they are releasing a comic of hit iPhone/iPad game cut the rope is just fantastic. After the great job they did on Pocket God you know that Om Nom will be in good hands and we can’t wait to check out his back story and all the new characters that are promised. Released in late August, Cut The Rope will be available as a digital only comic via its own app.