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zerosum dirt(nap)

Digital Comics, Unlimited

November 13, 2007 by nap · Comments

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a bit of a comic book geek.

When I was a kid, I was a hardcore fanboy who spent pretty nearly all his paper route money on weekly trips to the local comic shop in Dover. I have no apology for that. As a technology geek also, I’ve built a social comic book pull list organizer that has yet to officially launch (we’re looking for someone who’s excited about comics and community building, no techie skills required, email me if you’re interested!) and I’ve done a little ancillary plugin work for the geeky folks over at Heavy Ink too.

These days I buy mostly graphic novels, but I’ve always loved the feel of a floppy, and back when I used to buy titles monthly, there was just something unspeakably awesome about ‘new comic book day’ and the excitement of pouring through the stacks in a local shop looking for that one key back issue…

Like most fans, I have mixed feelings about the digitization of comics. On one hand, I’d probably read a lot more of them if they were available (ahem, legally of course) through a cheap, easy to use digital distribution service like iTunes. On the other hand, I’m sort of glad this hasn’t happened, because it would kill a lot of the allure of it for me if the comics on paper were to become a thing of the past.

I imagine I’m not the only one who was both excited and, at the same time, just a little tiny bit bummed about the announcement of Marvel Comics Unlimited yesterday (NOTE: as of right now the site appears to be down for maintenance, coming soon). The basic premise is that Marvel will offer an online archive of over 2500 back issues online in high-resolution format, starting at about $5/mo. They’re also making a free sampler of 250 titles available to wet your appetites.

Marvel’s hedging their bets a little though, which is smart. New issues won’t appear on the Marvel Unlimited site until six months after their initial print publication. This is great for those of us who read graphic novels, and aren’t used to picking up books every week anyway, and it keeps the floppies in circulation. After a bit of consternation, I’ve decided that it’s pretty much a win/win. Of course, as it always is on the web, the user experience will determine the ultimate success or failure of the venture. The flash-based digital comics I’ve seen from Marvel up to this point haven’t exactly been the most pleasant things to read, so here’s to hoping this is an entirely new interface to the library.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading more about this, both as a comic book enthusiast and as a technologist. Welcome to the 21st century, comic fans. For better or for worse.

It’s about time, I guess!

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