DC Comics launches iPad/iPhone app

Posted by under *mixed, Comics, Technology |

DC Comics launched a new app for Apple’s mobile platforms overnight. This came as quite a surprise because DC has been the only major publisher absent from the digital world to date. The app is built on the same Comixology platform that’s used by the Marvel and Boom apps. This format, at least on the iPhone, basically divides each comic page up into panels and guides the reader through each one for a clean and easy reading experience.

The app is free and comics are sold individually at a price point of between $.99 and $2.99 with most books priced at $1.99. Most significantly DC will be publishing digital versions of their Justice League: Generation Lost the same day the physical copies are released to retailers for the same price. DC has also announced plans to bring comics to the Sony Playstation network, particularly the video game titles published by their Wildstorm imprint. In addition, unlike their major competition, DC has stated that creators will receive royalties from digital sales.

One of the main reasons this launch is so surprising is that in an interview that took place last week and was published at ComicBookResources.com on Monday, DC co-publisher Jim Lee said that there was very little he could say about the company’s digital plans. Lee added, “Obviously, I don’t want people to misinterpret our silence as indifference or as a sign of inactivity. All I can say is that we’ve got great plans afoot, and we’ll share them with everybody soon.” Who knew “soon” meant in the next 48 hours?

As a big proponent of digital comics, I had to take the app for a test drive first thing this morning. Overall, it’s a nice start but it has a long way to go. I found the available content to be limited for taking so long to enter the market. There are many single issues available but very few complete stories. I imagine that has to change as we move forward or what’s the point? I do know a new issue of Sandman will be released each week moving forward.

Screen capture from DC Comics' iPhone App

In addition, I believe DC, like Marvel, is making a mistake with the $1.99 price point when indie companies are experiencing so much success at $.99 for books with zero printing costs. Having said that, Marvel has made a big deal out of announcing they are publishing a single upcoming issue of Iron Man the same day its released in stores, but will charge more for it online than in stores. At least DC’s Generation Lost will be the same price as the paper version.

I understand that comic book publishers fear that consumers will abandon the physical media for digital and the direct market will collapse. But I kind of believe collectors have almost a sickness and that they won’t be able to let go of their variant covers and the need to gobble up comics featuring first appearances of characters, bag and board it and put it in a special box to keep forever. Those customers are not going anywhere… Well until they all just die. If anything, by offering $.99 digital versions of their books, DC and Marvel stand to increase their revenue from these existing fans buying more books that they would like to read but don’t feel the need to own. That’s without considering the types of impulse buys $.99 books might represent for lapsed readers or children who just saw the latest Iron Man movie.

The new app launches with several free samples of their product including several Batman: Black and White short stories and a preview of Superman 700 which hits stores today. The first sample I tried was a Batman: Black and White story by Neil Gaiman (writer of Sandman, Coraline, Eternals, etc.) and Simon Bisley (most famous for drawing Lobo). The issue reimagines Batman and the Joker as actors and comics as the product they’re shooting. It’s a fun little story that’s definitely worth the price of $0.

Screen capture from DC Comics' iPhone App

The second comic I downloaded was a preview of Superman 700 which hits comic stores later today. -SPOILERS AHEAD – This issue represents the debut of J. Michael Straczynski on Superman. If you’re not a comics fan, you may know JMS for creating the television series Babylon 5 or writing the Clint Eastwood directed film The Changeling. JMS has long professed an obsession with Superman, so I cannot help but say I expected more out of his big debut on the character. This ten page story sees Superman getting slapped by a woman because he wasn’t around to help cure her husband’s cancer. This moment turns his world upside down, greatly upsets him until he starts to just walk off. That’s the whole story. No joke. You mean to tell me after being around all these years, Superman hasn’t come to terms with the fact that he can’t save everyone? That’s just stupid.

Anyway, the app works fine. I wish the option for a full page view where you can admire the artist’s full designs was a default. You have change your settings to view full pages. But the stories are very readable and flow well.

Nice work DC. Now lets pump out more books at a lower price.

Seriously. Get on that.

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  • jamie said,

    Love this app and Marvels, but it needs an optional subscription plan.

  • KevinMLD said,

    Agreed. But there definitely isn’t enough content to make a subscription worthwhile yet.

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