Should comics be considered an art form?
It can be argued that, in its essence, comics can be just as expressive, emotional, and thought-provoking as any painting or photograph from any master artist. And any argument that points to more poorly executed comics as proof that the medium does not deserve to considered an art form can be easily countered by holding up any number of examples in any artistic genre that least exemplifies that genre's artistic status.
Of course, as a kid I never thought of Spiderman comics as being art. It was just fun laced with escapism and a healthy dollop of fantasy. Why ruin it with highbrow categorization?
Still, the question remains and it has taken on a tint of poignancy as the medium adapts to the new reality of tablets and electronic distribution. If comic is art, then what defines it?
As a photographer, I won't think of a photo I've captured as art until it is printed and I can hang it on a wall. It doesn't matter to me if the shot looks spectacular on my iPad because a picture can take on a whole new look depending on how it's printed or the media it's printed on. And so it is with comic art. Put a well drawn comic cover on canvas or in a frame, for example, and you start to appreciate the artistic talent that went into it. Never mind that it was created for mass market consumption, the artwork stands on its own.
So, if comics are an art form then the artwork destined to be viewed on tablets and phones are as ephemeral as smoke in the wind. Such a shame.
Well, enjoy it when you can. There are plenty of apps that will help you do just that, and I'm going to point out three. So let's get to it.
Marvel Comics [44.6MB, all iOS devices, iOS 4.3 or later, Developer: Marvel Entertainment]
I was always a Marvel comic fan so it would stand to reason that I would be a fan of Marvel's iOS app. If you've used any comic app on a tablet then you'll be familiar with this app's interface.
The primary reason for this app to exist is to get you to buy digitized comics, but it's worth getting because it offers free comics as well. True, some of the freebies are product tie-ins, like The Harley Davidson Avengers (Really?), but there are some that are just straight up comics and that makes the app worth your time.
There's nothing exciting about the app. Double tap on a panel and it expands to fit in the screen, letting you get up close to the artwork. Another tap advances the story. Double tap again and you get the full page again. Triple tapping brings up the navigation menu. It's simple and very effective.
Another nicety is that the app will save your spot if you have to leave the story. The next time you pop it open the app will deposit you in the exact panel you were reading when you got interrupted. (Why wouldn't they do this, right?)
If you're heading out on a jaunt and want something to read that's a bit lighter than War and Peace, grab the Marvel Comics and the freebies it offers.
Emanata Comics [44.6MB, all iOS devices, iOS 5.0 or later, Developer: Emanata Inc.]
There's a lot of talent out there, but a few can work at Marvel, DC, or Dark Horse. So, where does one go to find an audience for his or her work? Independent Comic Publishers, of course. And on the iPad, one of the best indie comic pubs is Emanata Comics. These folks have gathered an excellent stable of comic artists and have put their offerings in a great app. And the best part is that all their comics are free!
Emanata Comic listings is extensive
I'm not talking about uncolored and crudely drawn cartoons that someone is trying to pass off as comics, nuh-uh. The comics contained in Emanata are (mostly) all paper-worthy, handsomely drawn, expertly colored jewels that you'll be (mostly) proud to have grace you iPad's screen.
And they have good stories
Seriously, I am a fan. The stories and the artwork is generally first rate. There are some that you wonder about, but hey, these are INDEPENDENT COMICS, where (mostly) every dog gets his day.
The content changes a lot as fresh artists display their efforts or familiar artists extend their stories. If you like comics, then you need to get Emanata.
NARR8 [16.1MB, iPad only, iOS 5.1or later, Developer: NARR8 Limited]
You're mobile device is more than glorified paper, so why should the comics displayed on them be little more than glorified comic books? If you'd rather actually see smoke curling from a burning building or hear the wind rustling the leaves of the trees in the background then static comic panels just wont do, and if you want something more than motion comics. You want NARR8.
Lots to choose in NARR8
The stories in NARR8 are more than just comics, they are full of action, sound, and reader interaction that draws you into the tales being told. Each story is divided into episodes that you can download when they become available. Once downloaded you can enjoy them offline.
NARR8 has become my favorite reader. New content appears often so there's always something interesting to read. And the artwork is fantastic. Nothing crude about these graphics. You'll enjoy looking through each picture and taking in details that just might cause some sort of action to occur.
Download some episodes and you are good to go
The stories in NARR8 aren't just about buxom heroines battling nightmarish evil, you're just as likely to find stories about the origin of Christmas, or an explanation of how we perceive light. No matter the story, it's all well done and is fun to read. Speaking of which, so far everything I've downloaded is free. I'm sure they'll start asking for money at some point, but for now get what you can.
And that's a wrap for this week.
Be sure to take a look at Weather Cube, this week's Free App of the Week. It's an interesting take on displaying weather info. You may enjoy it.