One of the main complaints about the ComiXology platform, when it came to buying and reading your digital comics (at least before the Amazon buy out) was the fact that your comics weren’t yours to download and back up on your PC. Well, today during their panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego that is about to change thanks to ComiXology DRM-free backups being made available, allowing readers to download and store copies of their favourite digital comics.

Just in case you had any doubt, today ComiXology have reminded us that not only are they top digital comics app company but one of the top-grossing iPad apps in the whole world, as the Comics by ComiXology iOS app is revealed as iTunes’ #1 Top Grossing non-game iPad App for 2013, ranking #11 overall.  

The pulsating frenzy around the players and teams of the Premier League has left an impact on popular culture and the media. From television coverage both live and syndicated to media spin-offs like magazines, there is no denial of the Premier League’s imprint on die-hard fans of English football. It, thus, doesn’t come as a surprise that the league has already ventured into the world of comic books. 

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.

melksham-comic-conAlthough our main focus here on Pipedream Comics is the wonderful world of digital comics on the iPad, we are also huge fans of comics in all their forms. So when a comic-related cause comes up that we feel is worthy of our support then we get behind it 100%, digital or otherwise! One such cause is the Melksham Comic Covention, now in it’s second year, and  situated just up the road from Pipedream HQ in the sleepy Wiltshire town of Melksham. This local convention is the brain child of KomiX shop owner Hayley Spencer, but what on earth made her decide to set up a comic convention in the south west of the UK? And what will conventioneers have to look forward to on Saturday August 31st if they make the journey into the wilds of Wiltshire? 

Framed_Screen_01x1024A group of game developers from the fantastically named Loveshack Entertainment have announced a rather intriguing iOS game that mixes our two favourite things – comics and iPads. The game is called ‘Framed‘ and looks like an old style comic book page – but no ordinary one. Your character works his way through the panels in order, according to what the panel depicts – whatever the consequences might be – and as the player it’s up to you to prevent your hero from meeting a sticky end by rearranging the panels so he make it to the end of the page unharmed.

The art of writing a Christmas special isn’t easy. Whatever medium you’re working in the need to avoid mawkishness, sentimentality or twee cliche is a tricky one to get right, so what do you do if you are Britain’s leading sci-fi comic? Well in the case of the 2000AD Christmas Special they have gone for quantity rather than seasonal themed merriment. This bumper issue features 100+ pages, to keep you going over the festive period, and is packed with the usual high quality action adventure you would expect. With several epic stories coming to their conclusion in the last few months,  new series and story arcs begin with this issue, and so there has never been a better time to get into 2000AD

Whther it’s larger than life characters, the eternal battle of good vs evil or tight fighting lycra outfits, the world of comics and professional wrestling have a lot in common. We’ve previously spoken to artist Jill Thompson about her work with wrestlers like Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho, but what about the wrestlers themselves? With many wrestlers waxing lyrical about their love of all things comics-related on Twitter and social media, we caught up with one of the most passionate – Impact Wrestling’s Christopher Daniels. This stalwart of independent wrestling in the US and current star of  Impact Wrestling on Spike TV, we asked the man known as the ‘Fallen Angel’ just why there is so much in common between the two worlds and whether we could ever see his alter ego grace the printed page.  

Double Barrel is a fantastic comic strip double header featuring the latest work from talented cartoonists Kevin and Zander Cannon (no relation). Not content with the lead time required to publish their books separately, the Cannons joined forces with the brilliant Top Shelf to produce this monthly digital title. Not only containing their new strips Heck and Crater XV, its also packed with fantastic articles on how to succeed in the comics business and how to motivate yourself to become a better writer and artist. It’s like reading a fanzine or an old style mini-magazine and is a brilliant way to keep your audience up to date with your latest work. Plus, at 69p for well over 100 pages is an absolute bargain. We got in touch with Kevin and Zander to ask them just where the idea came from and why we should get excited about this double barrelled double act.

If like me, you love the darkness of classic horror movies – often the cheesier the better - then you might be interested in trying the first 3 chapters of Becoming by Brooke Burgess, published by Arcana Studio. As a fan of horror books, I don’t mind if they’re a little bit silly, in a foreign language, long or short. I can happily read pulpy, sexy shorts from the likes of Guy N. Smith and James Herbert or I can immerse myself in the longer, more thought-provoking tales of HP Loveraft and Brian Lumley. And I love a good horror comic. Whether it’s modern stuff like Dark Horse (my current favourite), Chaos! Comics‘s Evil Ernie and Lady Death, Glen Danzig’s Verotik series or legendary EC Comics from the 50s, I love horror, but something just doesn’t quite work with Becoming.

Although not strictly in our remit here at Pipedream Comics, we were very excited this week by arrival of a copy of the DC Comics 75th Anniversary poster book from Quirk Books. Admittedly the book has been around since last summer and so doesn’t include the post-52 universe, but it’s still a fantastic read. Written by Robert Schnakenberg it covers the complete history of DC’s comics , dating back to 1935 and the debut issue of Fun magazine – the first comic published by eventual DC founder Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Each cover features a glorious full page poster with a breakdown of the books significance on the back including information about the story, characters, writers and artists. There’s everything in here from the first issue of Detective and Action Comics to the debuts of Batman, Superman and Green Lantern. One of the real highlights though is the pre-Comics Code books of the 1950s with obscure titles such as Mister District Attorney and Strange Adventures - a book which had a strange obsession with stories about scientifically altered gorillas!

It’s a brilliant visual history of DC‘s back catalogue serving as both an education for those who aren’t big fans or a walk down memory lane for those who are. With the breakdown of different titles on the back it’s a great way to remind fans that there is no such thing as a new idea and the notion of common images, themes and stories in comic books is not something new and is a key reason why companies have to keep re-inventing themselves.

As gorgeous as this is in print though, we always think forward to digital and we would love to see this become an app. Just imagine the full screen glossy covers on a retina iPad with the ability to zoom in to every tiny detail. Now that, really is the future of digital publishing completely embracing the past.

DC Comics: The 75th Anniversary Poster Book is published by Quirk Books and can be be purchased here from Amazon.

Back in September we spoke to artist Peter Krause about his iPad artwork as well as his work on the brilliant Irredeemable from BOOM! Studios. Since then, he has unveiled a fantastic new digital project, Insufferable,  which he launched alongside Irredeemable writer Mark Waid  via their new website Thrillbent. Telling the story of an aged super-hero and his problematic former sidekick,  Insufferable is released weekly via the Thrillbent website, and  feature a fantastic mix of gritty superhero story-telling mixed with brilliant and innovative artwork and interactive transitions. We wanted to find out more about how Peter went about putting his story together and just what was involved in this new venture.

As interactive books and comics get more and more sophisticated the boundaries between them are getting even closer. One title which is hoping to blur the lines even more is Bottom of the Ninth by animator Ryan Woodward. Hailing it as the world’s first animated graphic novel (as far as he knows), it combines Ryan’s love of comics, animation and baseball and looks set to be one of the true ground-breaking titles for the iPad in 2012.  I got in touch with Ryan as he finished off the final finesses  ahead of it’s Summer release and did my best to get to the the bottom of Bottom of the Ninth.

Back in March we spoke to George Lentino, publisher of Moonshot Digital Comics, who was setting out his plan to revolutionise the world of digital comics with “innovative, experimental and down-right fun to read comics”. Well the first title,  from that stable, Deluge, is about to be released with the team of film-maker turned writer J.D. Oliva and artist Richard Clark at the helm. After hearing about all the great things that George had planned for his new line of digital comics, I got in touch with J.D. to ask him about his inspiration for Deluge and just what exactly the Moonshot Digital experience entailed.

The world is going Avengers crazy this week, thanks to the launch of the rather excellent movie in cinemas, so it seems only appropriate to have a look at a couple of related titles in this weeks Pipedream Pull List, both of which have had an influence on the success and style of the new movie as well as the fortunes of their parent company.

The first is Avengers Reborn #1, published in 1996 by Marvel and was revealed this week by Comichron, to be the best-selling Avengers comics of all time, with a whopping 276,374 pre-orders.  So what was the secret? The Heroes Reborn story arc was Marvel’s first attempt to reboot it’s core titles, and saw them outsource the titles to their former star artists Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee (who oversaw an equally successful Fantastic Four and Ironman reboot) who were now running their own studios under the Image Comics banner. Both had left in 1992 to found Image and create phenomenal sales for their new titles, and Marvel were desperate for a cut of the action and gave these key titles to Liefeld and Lee in order to spike sales. With the storyline idea that the heroes were sent to an alternate reality by Franklin Richards where their histories were updated and amended for a new generation, the Avengers Reborn would see Thor as the man rescued from the ice, rather than Steve Rogers, and would see Loki attempt to outfox the newly formed team to attempt to gain the power of the lost Odin-son. (Sound familiar?)

With a story by Liefeld and fellow Image founder Jim Valentino and art by Liefeld and his protege Chap Yaep, Avengers Reborn sums up everything that was bad about late 90s comics and the ‘Image style’ that had developed. Liefeld’s unorthodox anatomy with his improbably posed female characters and contorted, muscled up monster males reach almost parodic levels in Avengers Reborn. While his  ability to give his character only two facial expressions – shouting and grimacing – give the whole story a very hollow feel. The dialogue is clunky and the story is confusing and cliched, introducing too many characters and not giving them much to do beyond standing in forceful poses and grimace. However, despite it’s flaws, it’s major positive is that it set an interesting precedent of moving away from the established Marvel canon set down by Kirby and Lee and opened the door for later, more successful reboots.

Despite the critical mauling Heroes Reborn suffered it sold well (thanks in no small part to Liefeld and Lee’s involvement), and so Marvel were not put off the idea of relaunching their core titles using ‘name talent’ and six years later in 2002 relaunched the Avengers as part of their Ultimate universe, under the helm of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch. Millar and Hitch had made their name at Image on books like Wanted and The Authority, but unlike Liefeld and co they were on the upswing of their careers, developing a new and gritty style of books that would become the template for the entire Marvel Universe, not to mention it’s movies, rather than rely on past-glories and lots of cross-hatching. Rather than re-write the origin for the sake of it and be ham strung by which character they could include, as Liefeld and Valentino had done, Millar was given a blank canvas and took the ‘classic’ Avengers starting point of Steve Rogers in the ice and updated it for a post-9/11 world. In Millar’s world superheroes were not paragons of virtue, but were global super cops who were the only ones capable of dealing with these world-changing threats and events. Out went the colourful spandex of the 60s and in came leather flight suits and combat chic while the heroes were given real world issues and story lines, rather than just stand around looking pneumatic and grimacing.

The first issue focused on Steve Rogers in World War Two and how he ended up in the ice but this was much more than your standard origin story retread. Set in 1944 it was packed full of action from the start with Rogers literally leaping from a plane into the thick of the action, and would set the tone for the new world which these characters would inhabit – just as the Captain America movie would for Avengers Assemble. Ultimates #1 focused on a gritty, bloody, rain soaked world, that most importantly realistic.  In doing so, Ultimates would become a bona fide modern masterpiece over the course of it’s 12 issue run and would directly influence the development of the film, not just in the casting of Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury but also in the updating and modernising of the story and language to reflect modern values and expectations. (Not just drawing them in the current art style du jour!). Thanks to Hitch’s expansive, epic style and Millar’s punchy dialogue it was comics as cinema, before cinema became all about comics, and would help turn around Marvel‘s fortunes making them viable and current for a new generation. This upturn in their fortunes would in turn give them the chance to develop their core characters for the screen and ultimately led to the film filling theatres this weekend.

Avengers Reborn and Ultimates are available on ComiXology for £1.49 each