Friday, January 18, 2013

Classic Comics

A while ago I discovered the Digital Comics Museum, a website that offers classic public domain comics free to download (though you do need to register with the site). I don't remember exactly how I found out about the site, but it was likely through one of the many blogs I follow. I've been downloading a lot of great comics the last few nights, focusing primarily on sci-fi comics. They've got a very wide variety though from super heroes (they have a great collection of classic Phantom Lady and Captain Marvel books), to horror, to westerns, to young kids titles, to even romance. They don't discriminate either, there are a couple issues of comics out there that would be considered blatantly offensive today, usually titles centered out black characters focusing on the stereotypes of the day.

I've some to the realization that I rather like digital comics. I don't have the space to store a ton of comics anymore, and especially with older comics all they are doing are slowly deteriorating, no matter what you do to protect them. I can store far more comics on my computer, comics that as long as I keep everything backed up will always be there. That's why I'm glad to see more comics publishers putting out electronic editions of their books alongside the print editions in many cases. Now, as is the case with ebooks in general the pricing is still in a state of flux as the publishers try to figure out what's the high end of what we consumers will pay (just a hint, full print price for an e-edition is not OK with me), but I expect it will level out in the near future.

Marvel has done a great job so far of offering up digital comics with their service. While I'm annoyed sometimes with the gaps in some series, and even more annoyed when a gap is in the middle of a storyline, they're doing a good job of putting out a lot of great books at a reasonable monthly price. Last I check DC wasn't doing anything on the scope that Marvel is, but I'm sure they will in time. Marvel has also released several collections on DVD. I've picked up the X-Men, Ghost Rider, and Fantastic Four disks. My only beef with these disk sets is that they don't add in the issues of other titles in a crossover storyline, so you end up missing parts of some stories (even moreso with the crossover crazy atmosphere surrounding Marvel and DC these days).

The digitizing of comics is great from a historical standpoint as well. Browsing through the Digital Comics Museum, I'm saddened to see how many issues of these series are missing or are incomplete (sometimes only missing a page or two, other times mroe than half an issue is missing). Hopefully the missing issues will be found and digitized in time, but there's a good possibility that a lot of these comics are simply gone, never to be seen again. It's no great cultural tragedy, but comics, like most media, is a snapshot of time. It shows what we were interested in, what the big fears and hopes were, and the prevailing styles of the time from art to clothing were like. Reading or watching old media can sometimes give a better perspective on the time period than any history book can get across. That's why I applaud the DCM in their mission of preserving the comics of the past. I also thank those that scour comic shops and libraries looking for these old comics to keep them around. Well done.

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