Today ComiXology has debuted two new ways to shop that comic book fans have been clamoring for – subscriptions and bundles. Subscriptions let fans everywhere subscribe to their favorite series so they’ll never miss an issue. Bundles allow ComiXology fans to buy curated collections – be it entire series, or multi-issue events – at steep discounts and all at a click of a button.

Marvel ComicsThis weekend Marvel unveiled 3 exciting new initiatives at the South by South West festival in Austin, Texas as they look to ‘re’-evolve’ the world of digital comics – their words, not ours! by releasing them at SXSW’s Interactive event, which is primarily focused on technology and interactive web design, Marvel made a clear statement of intent that the world of digital comics is one that will be the real driving force for them in 2013

You wait for months for an exciting new digital comic to come along and then two come along at once with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite and a new Atomic Robo!

Hawkeye 7When it comes to weaving real life incidents into a comics storyline avoiding mawkishness and insensitivity is not easy and is the primary reason that many comics choose to base their books in fictitious cities or alternative timelines. However for a company like Marvel who pride themselves on their links to New York and the sense of realism it gives their stories then it means that when something as profound as Hurricane Sandy happens then they are almost duty bound to cover it, just as they did with 9/11 in 2001. However to get the tone right is not easy, reconciling the fantastic world of the Avengers with the real life heroics of everyday New Yorkers requires a subtle hand to avoid sensationalism and poor taste, but fortunately for Marvel they have an ace up their sleeve in Matt Fraction’s brilliant Hawkeye.

markwaidHaving written some of the finest comic stories of all time (Kingdom Come, Flash, JLA, Daredevil, Superman), superstar comic writer Mark Waid turned his back on print in 2012 and declared his allegiance to the world of digital. Over the past 12 months he has established himself as the true godfather of digital comics, thanks to the launch of Marvel’s Infinite series, but also with his creator owned web portal Thrillbent and its lead title Insufferable. As one of the most high profile advocates of the brave new world of digital publishing we asked Mark the secrets to a great digital comic and where things are heading in 2013?

Captain Stone is Missing 1 cover (Madefire)It’s been an amazing year for digital comics and after a fortnight of frantic voting on Facebook, we are proud to announce that the winner of the inaugural Pipedream Comics Digital Comic of the Year 2012′ is ‘Captain Stone is Missing‘ by Liam Sharp, Christina McCormack and the team at Madefire.

What we said about Captain Stone:
“A cutting edge tour de force of digital comics. Showcasing the Madefire app’s motion comics technology to its utmost, Captain Stone merges a multitude of art styles with stunning interactive elements and physical effects, and a mean and moody soundtrack…. it has become one of the most sophisticated digital titles around.”

What the winners said…
“Myself, Christina and all at Madefire are delighted that Captain Stone is Missing… has been voted digital comic of the year! 2012 proved to be the year that digital storytelling came of age, and we faced some genuinely stiff competition. Congratulations to all the other story teams that made the top ten list, and here’s to more good things in 2013!”
— Liam Sharp, CCO Madefire, writer/artist of Captain Stone

The final standings
1.    Captain Stone is Missing (MadeFire)   379 votes
2.    Powerplay (Kurt Christenson/Reilly Brown173 votes
3.    Kickback (Panel Nine) 91 votes
4.    Double Barrel (Top Shelf Comix) 26 votes
5.    Upgrade Soul (Opertoon) 21 votes
6=   Treatment Tokyo (MadeFire) 9 votes
6=   Insufferable (Thrillbent) 9 votes
8.    Aesops Ark (MonkeyBrain) 8 votes
9.    Avengers vs. X-Men Infinite (Marvel) 6 votes
10.  Bottom of the Ninth (Ryan Woodward) 2 votes

For details on the full shortlist you can find out more here

Pipedream Comic logoIt’s been a landmark year for digital comics in 2012. We’ve seen them develop from simple page turners from a few leading lights to an increasingly diverse and exciting medium with offerings from the world’s biggest comics companies, alongside a whole host of new digital exclusive publishers and app creators. From Madefire and Marvel Infinite to MonkeyBrain and more, we have seen animated pages, immersive soundtracks and new companies developing comics and apps with new and exciting characters in new and exciting formats.

To celebrate this we want you the readers to help us choose the very best digital comic of the year 2012. Below is our shortlist of the top 10 titles we’ve seen this year and we want you to vote on them here at our Facebook page. Voting closes on Friday January 4th and we’ll announce the winner the winner on Monday January 7th so be sure to get voting!

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.  

This weeks we’re going to celebrate the diversity of digital comics with two titles that could not be more different, but each of which exemplify what is so great about the medium.

First up is Avengers vs X-Men #10 aka the 3rd Marvel Infinite title. Written by digital comics godfather Mark Waid and with art by Pipedream Comics favourite Reilly ‘Powerplay‘ Brown it features the kind of boombast and spectacle that comes from Marvel’s two top super teams duking it out in a summer crossover epic. Digital specific books often benefit from action rather than subtlety and AvsX #10 delivers this is spades thanks to Brown’s manga tinged artwork and his smart panel designs that he has clearly been honing in Powerplay. With a neat three tiered story that has Scarlet Witch simulating battle scenarios between the Avengers team and the Phoenix possessed Cyclops we get to see all three scenarios play out simultaneously with characters shifting in and out of shots simultaneously with some very neat transitions, giving the whole book an epic, cinematic feel. Brown still has some tricks up his sleeve for the talking head scenes though, and his use of layered pages (rather than sequential panels) along with clever use of eyes moving and heads turning within otherwise static panels give the book an animated feel, without taking away from the comic-ness of them. The balancing act of digital cleverness vs. readability is a always a tricky one but Waid and Brown and co do an excellent job here and have definitely created the best of the Infinite books so far.

At the other end of the spectrum is Thoughts from a Winter Morning by Kurt Busiek and Steve Lieber. Published by MonkeyBrain Comics, there are no superhero slugfests or sophisticated digital trickery in this book, just a man,  a dog and his memories.  This autobiographical ‘slice of life’ book is a sublime slice of Americana that sees Busiek reminisce on childhood past and look forward to the future with the story brilliantly realised by Steve Lieber’s expert linework and subtle use of colour.

In days gone by this would simply have been one of many entries in an anthology that relied on Busiek’s name value (along with several others) to get it solicited and published. (In fact that was how this story first existed in NEGATIVE BURN published in 2004). However thanks to the growth of digital and the opportunities it now gives to smaller publishers like MonkeyBrain to release personal and intimate books without worrying about solicitation and distribution, it can now get to exist as its own entity and enjoyed as such. Sure it helps that it is written by a name talent like Busiek but for every book like this that does, it helps make it possible for other MonkeyBrain titles (like the brilliant Masks And Mobsters, also released this week) to get attention. And it is that open market where quality has room to breathe which is as exciting in the world of digital comics as the large scale advances at Marvel Infinite.

Both Avengers vs. X-Men #10 and Thoughts From A Winter Morning are available on ComiXology

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