3 Free Graphic Novels for iPhone & iPad

Is there really a big difference between a graphic novel and a comic book? Besides the spiffy cover I mean, and the price.

Physical graphic novels, the kind made of paper and ink, can cost ten times what a comic cost. They use nicer paper stock and often sport richer colors and primo artwork, while comics try to keep the cost down by using inexpensive paper and are loaded up with advertising.

At the end of the day, however, it’s the story and artwork the fans of both mediums shell out the bucks for. Now that tablet devices are widespread the two mediums seem inconsequential. Both comics and graphic novels can look the same on these new devices. They offer new ways to present the images and stories.

With tablets, of course, there is less permanence. 50 years from now we won’t find a beat up copy of a digital graphic novel in an old attic trunk. If my iPad physically survives that long you can believe the battery won’t, so there will be no nostalgic flipping of musty, mite infested pages, no snickering at stupid and dated ads, and no marveling the cover art. All of the effort, all that art would be gone, to quote Roy Batty of Blade Runner fame, ” …like tears in rain.”

Damn! Now I’m depressed.

To cheer myself up I need to be entertained, and one way I can do that is to see if my daughter has posted anything new on her Web-comic site, 25 to Life. It’s a funny comic, and new strips appear often.

When I’m not shamelessly plugging family member’s comic sites, I find Burn Notice to be highly entertaining. The problem is that Burn Notice is a seasonal show, and it’s hard to know what season it’ll appear in. I could get my fix by watching full episodes online on my iMac. (The USA Network website uses Flash, so iOS devices are out of luck. Haven’t they heard of HTML 5?)

Or, since we’re talking about graphic novels, I could download and read the latest volume of Burn Notice: Graphic Novel.

Burn Notice

I may have mentioned a few time in this column that I’m a Burn Notice fan. For those of you who haven’t a clue who or what a burn notice is, pull up a chair and let me briefly explain.

Actually, at the beginning of each episode, Michael Weston, the main protagonist in the show, does a much better job of explaining what a burn notice is, but I’ll tell that the show is about Michael, an ex-spy who is stuck in Miami with two close friends (Fiona and Sam) and his mom. The group helps people in need of this eclectic team’s special talents while Michael tries to figure out why he’s an ex-spy.

Burn Notice

It’s a fun show, and now the iOS optimize graphic novel extends the ongoing story, which is delivered in volumes that are then divided into chapters, each of which can be downloaded and viewed individually. The artwork is top notch, but the app adds a nice bonus: There are 3 icons on the upper left of each page. The paintbrush let you view the finished artwork, fully penned and colored. The pen icon reveals the artwork after it was penned, but before coloration. The pencil icon shows the concept drawings for the page, which often does not match the final artwork exactly. It’s a nice touch and a boon for budding artists trying to understand how these things are put together.

Currently there are two volumes. The app also gives you access to blogs, character bios, and more, and it’s all free! How is this possible, you may ask? The app and the show is sponsored by Hyundai, the South Korean car company. Don’t worry, there are hardly any ads.

If you want a digital graphic novel that really takes advantage of the digital part then take a look at Operation Ajax, a graphical view of the events that led to the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup in Iran.

Operation Ajax

Before you roll your eyes thinking this is just another attempt at glamorizing a boring history/propaganda tale, you should take a look. The makers, Cognito Comics and Tall Chair, have put together a graphic novel the is…, well, novel. The graphics are active. As you move through the story motion, color, and highlights enhance the storytelling and bring life to each page. To say that it’s immersive would be putting it lightly.

Operation Ajax

Since the story chronicles actual events the comic includes supporting material; photos and documents which add weight and depth to the story being told.

This is good stuff, and a wonderful way to present any information, not just historical or political stories.

Operation Ajax

The first 3 chapters are free. Chapters 4 and 5 are available for a buck apiece. A lot of work went into this. You should definitely check it out.

The last graphic novel I’m going to talk about today is from Dark Horse Comics. If you’re a fan of the Fallout game series then you’re gonna love this.

Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas is told in the Fallout universe where mankind struggles to resurrect itself after a devastating nuclear world. As you might imagine, this story takes place where Las Vegas currently stands.

You get the first chapter in the series. It presented like most digital comics are; you can either view it panel by panel or the whole page at once. The artwork is good and the story leaves to wanting more, which, of course, won’t be free when it’s release in October, 2011.

Fallout: New Vegas

At least you can see if you think it’s worth your money without spending anything more than the time it takes to download and read the first chapter.

Fallout: New Vegas. Take a gamble. It might be a winner.

That’s a wrap for this week.

More free comic apps below with direct links.