When many of the comics fans among us were kids, they had to eagerly await the arrival of their favourite superhero instalments at the local newsagents or via the postman. Now all grown up they still read comics – but do so more and more on the iPad, thanks to dedicated comics apps and some accommodating publishers.
If you get only one comic-book app, make it Comics by Comixology (free; www.comixology.com). This excellent little program offers comics from DC, Marvel, and numerous indie publishers, including an exclusive deal with Robert Kirkman, author of The Walking Dead.
You can buy issues directly from within the app by using your iTunes account, and you can start reading them even while they’re still downloading.
If you’re new to comics and are uncomfortable navigating their layout, the Comics app walks you through it: double-tap on any panel to enter Guided View, and the app masks out everything but the panel you’re looking at; tap on the right side of the screen to advance to the next part of the page. The app will pan, zoom, and otherwise lead you through the comic story.
Comics in PDF
The comics industry is slowly embracing digital comics. Two current series, Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man and Kirkman’s Invincible, are available on the tablet the same day they’re released in print. Another to watch out for is Mark Waid’s Irredeemable.
A few years ago, it was possible to buy a DVD full of old issues of Marvel’s X-Men in PDF; now there are lots of other comics available as PDFs on the internet. For those, you can use GoodReader (£2.99; www.goodreader.net). Marvel put an annoying watermark on every page of those DVD PDFs; GoodReader strips that watermark away.
In addition to PDFs, comics are available in the CBR and CBZ formats. Unfortunately, most comics in these formats were scanned in by fans and are available only on pirate sites. Some of you may have downloaded a few titles that you already own in print and loaded them onto your iPad so you can read them without digging around in your garage.
So, with a friendly reminder that it’s wrong to pirate comics, let us recommend Comic Zeal (£5.49; www.comiczealapp.com). It accepts CBR and CBZ files straight from iTunes without any conversion, offers good organisational tools, and provides a smooth reading experience. It also has a nifty feature that colours the frame around your comic page with whatever colour dominates the panel, which makes for a more immersive reading experience.