Marvel Comics, The Frontiersman, CloudReaders & More

If there is one thing I can credit for instilling in me the desire to read, that thing would be the first issue of The Metal Men back in the (very) early 60s. Before stumbling upon that comic in a local drugs store I was a so-so reader. I can’t say that I enjoyed reading then, it was a chore, like schoolwork and washing dishes. When I did read for enjoyment it tended to be short SciFi stories. I had read comics before, but I never bought any, they were expensive (all of about 12 cents), and once read, all they did was sit there and collect dust.

The Metal Men changed all of that. Here were beings made of gold, tin, mercury, lead, and platinum who could morph into any shape, were as tough as the metals they were made of, but were also as emotionally fragile as the human (Dr. Magnus) who created them. Their stories made me want to read more, and reread in order to glean subtleties of the plots and subplots.

I moved on to other comics after my initial infatuation with The Metal Men, Spiderman, Hawkman, Ironman, The Fantastic Four, and Herbie Popnecker (The Fat Fury) all consumed my time and meager allowance. I even read Archie on occasion.

I can’t say when I stopped reading comics. I suppose as my world expanded comics became a smaller part of it until years would go by between readings.

I thought I might start reading comic again when I first saw comic reader apps appear for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but while the apps worked, they could not deliver an experience similar to the paper version.

All of that has changed now that the iPad is here. This device (I’m writing this article on it now) is big enough to allow a picture window view of the comic book world, not a peepshow peek as you might get on the iPhone. What’s more, many of these comic readers are free!

The one thing you’ll notice about reading comics on the iPad through a comic reader is that there are few extra bells and whistles. These apps are like book readers in that they are libraries that store the comics you’ve acquired and they provide a platform for you to read them. No animation or sound or flashy bits, just artwork and dialogue — the good stuff.

So far, the best comic reader I’ve run across is the one from Marvel. The Marvel Comic Reader App is basically iTunes for Marvel Comics. It displays all of the books in your library, offers a nice store, and gives you access to a host of settings.

Getting new material is falling-off-a-log easy; just find a mag you like and buy it. Your selected mag downloads in seconds. You get cover art and, of course, all of the end to end panels and dialog.

The real jewel, however, is the way the app lets you interact with the comic. You can read them in landscape or portrait orientation, of course, but you can also get up close and personal with each panel so you can closely examine the artwork and action by using the familiar pinch/spread finger gestures, and double tapping on a particular panel isolates it on the screen. I really enjoy the way the app transitions between panels: the current panel slides out while the new one slides into view while adjusting to the shape of the panel. It’s hard to describe accurately, but it’s very nice and not distracting at all.

Marvel even includes some free comics to get you started. Obviously they do this so that we’ll pay cash money for other content, and they are right. At least they are in my case because I intend to read more comics with the

The Marvel app works on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. Unfortunately, comics downloaded on one don’t automagically appear on the other. It sure would be great if it did.

Even so, the Marvel Comics app is a whole lot of fun and a great way to waste your allowance. Get it and be a kid again.

If you’re already into comics and want to stay abreast of the latest and greatest news about your choice of reading material then boy, do I have an app for you. Frontiersman is an emagazine about the comics universe.

Each weekly issue, released every Tuesday, contains articles, interviews, and other content concerning the cast and characters in comic culture. Cool!

It’s big and colorful. I would subscribe to it if I could, but, as with other magazines on the iPad, there’s no subscription mechanism and you have to download each issue as a discrete app. Bummer!

So far I’ve only been able to get issue number two, making this more like a monthly release instead of weekly, but what’s there is really good so check it out.

The last app is not really a comic reader per se, but you can potentially use it to read comics and PDF content.

CloudReaders (sic) is one of the best PDF readers available on the iPad.

“So what,” you say? “The best comics aren’t in PDF format.”

Au contrair, mon ami! There’s a wealth of comics and other material all over the Net in PDF, and CloudReaders will let you browse through that content with ease.

True, since these documents are in PDF you won’t get the formatting niceties found in the Marvel app, but much of the PDF comic content is free, and since it’s in PDF you can read them on any device.

Using CloudReaders is push-button simple. It gives you a bookshelf that you can easily populate by transferring PDF files to and from your computer either through iTunes or WiFi. Select a document from the bookshelf and it opens, letting you flip, zoom and pinch through your comics with ease.

When you close the app in the middle of a read you’ll be happy to see that opening the app again puts you just where you left it.

This app is good and it can only get better. Whether you read comics or not you definitely want CloudReaders.

That’s a wrap for this week.

In honor of Memorial Day, I’d like to take this time to salute the brave men and women who have served, and continue to serve in our country’s armed forces. I hope that we all take a moment sometime during this extended weekend and remember those who have given their lives in service to our country.

More free stuff below with direct links.