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Digital comics (also known as eComics) can refer to either comics created entirely on a computer (as opposed to comics that are drawn with conventional media, scanned and colored on a computer) or comics released digitally (as opposed to in print).
Digital comics creation
There are several methods of digital comics creation. One is the use of a pressure-sensitive graphics tablet and a computer graphics program. Panels are drawn using the pressure-sensitive stylus, handled in much the same way as a pencil or pen, but the lines are drawn in the image editing software, producing a digital file.
Other approaches include drawing in vector graphics applications, with or without a tablet, allowing for the manipulation and revision of lines after they are drawn, and the use of 3-D computer graphics applications to create characters and backgrounds. Some digital comics include various combinations of these techniques.
The first digitally created print comic was Shatter, written by Peter Gillis and illustrated on the computer by Mike Saenz. Shatter appeared simultaneously as a one-shot special and as a backup feature in First Comics' Jon Sable title in 1985. It was published in its own 14 issue series from 1985-1986. Shatter was serialised in the British computer magazine Big K from the March 1985 issue.
Shatter was initially drawn on a first-generation Mac using a mouse and printed on a dot-matrix printer. It was then photographed like a piece of traditionally drawn black and white comic art, and the color separations were applied in the traditional manner.
The Black Diamond Effect was created and started publishing by George Peter Gatsis in 1990, incorporating multiple digital lettering, all the 3-D rendering and 2-D techniques of that time to mimic an animation still.
Mike Saenz and Norm Dwyer created Donna Matrix, the first digital graphic novel utilizing 3-D rendering, in 1993.
Other comics began to appear, both on CD-ROM and in printed form, that utilized computer graphics to manipulate or add to traditionally drawn comic art, and more all-digital comics were published as improvements in software and computing power made this art form more practical.
Notable companies such as WOWIO; an American-based online destination that provides users the ability to share and consume digital media content, has a number of digital comic book publishers like Sword and Labrys Productions, Reagent Press, and Devil's Due Digital.
- 1985: The first online comic, Eric Millikin's Witches and Stitches, is published on CompuServe.
- March, 1985: the first episode of Shatter, written by Peter Gillis, illustrated by Mike Saenz and edited by Mike Gold, appears as a double-page spread in the British computer magazine Big K published by IPC Magazines (now IPC Media).
- June, 1985: Shatter, written by Peter Gillis and illustrated by Mike Saenz, appears as a backup feature in Jon Sable: Freelance #25, and Shatter Special #1, published by First Comics.
- December, 1985-1986: Shatter continues as a 14 issue series by First Comics. Mike Saenz leaves after 2 issues. Other artists include Steve Erwin and Bob Dienethal who drew traditional art on board that was digitized, and Charlie Athanas who re-established the practice of creating the comic directly on the computer.
- 1988: Iron Man: Crash, the first digital graphic novel is published by Marvel Comics. Drawn by Mike Saenz.
- 1990: DC Comics publishes Batman: Digital Justice. Artist and writer Pepe Moreno uses a combination of 3-D modeling, vector illustration and CAD programs in addition to image editing software like Photoshop, using a Mac II with 16-bit color.
- 1990: The Black Diamond Effect started publishing by George Peter Gatsis. The comic was generated using 3D and enhanced art by scanning and painting, using all the various graphic formats of that time, composed in a layout program.
- 1991: Hans Bjordahl's Where the Buffalo Roam is published on FTP and usenet.
- 1991: Sandman #19: "A Midsummer Night's Dream," is the only comic to win a World Fantasy Award. It was colored using an early version of PhotoShop to create a progressive sunset and night in the colors of comic.
- 1991: Victor Vector & Yondo by Ken Steacy is published as a CD-ROM comic by Sanctuary Woods Multimedia. Although this is not a digital comic, it features an early use of digital special effects (Photoshop twirl filters) applied to traditional comic art. It was published as a print comic in 1994 by Fractal Comics Group.
- 1992: DC Comics publishes The Hacker Files written by Lewis Shiner and illustrated by Tom Sutton and Mark Buckingham, the last two issues of which incorporate digitally created art.
- Sept. 1993: David Farley's Doctor Fun is published on the World Wide Web.
- 1993-1994: Dark Horse Comics publishes Version, an English language printing of the traditionally-drawn manga by Hisashi Sakaguchi, with all-digital (3-D CGI) cover art by Jack Harris.
- August 1993: Mike Saenz creates Donna Matrix, computer generated graphic novel with 3-D graphics, published by Reactor Press. This is the first 3-D CGI graphic novel.
- January 1994: Adhesive Comics publishes The Eden Matrix, a comic book featuring digital color made in Adobe Photoshop 2.5 on Windows 3.11 and Brilliance graphics application on the Amiga platform with art by Ashley Underwood and George Edward Purdy (under the pseudonym Slogan).
- 1994 "Funeral in Mega-City One" (by John Wagner and Colin MacNeil, in Judge Dredd Poster Prog #4) Cover digitally coloured including partially 3d rendered background.
- March 1995: Bebe Williams launches the webcomics portal Art Comics Daily, an online gallery of several webcomics.
- June, 1995: Argon Zark!, a digitally created Web comic, appears on the Web, drawn by writer/artist Charley Parker with a graphics tablet in Painter and Photoshop..
- 1995: Sinkha, a multimedia graphic novel featuring sophisticated 3-D rendering is created by science fiction artist Marco Patrito and published on CD-ROM by Mohave.
- Fall 1996: Sinkha is published as a comics story in the Heavy Metal Fall 1996 Special.
- 1998: The Black Diamond Effect-Syntax E.R.R.O.R. by George Peter Gatsis continued the story, with much better graphics, but still using the same techniques from 1990.
- 1998: The DOME: Ground Zero by Dave Gibbons and Angus McKie is published by DC Comics. An early use of the Poser, 3DS Max and Bryce software in comic books.
- 2001: The Spiders by Patrick S. Farley for his website, Electric Sheep Comix. The webcomic traces an alternate history of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, where Al Gore is President of the United States, and ordinary civilians can view the war through web cams carried by roving robotic "spiders" dispersed into Afghanistan by the U.S. Army.
Digital comics distribution
With the growing use of Smartphones , tablets and desktop screen reading, major publishers have begun releasing comics, graphic novels and Manga in digital formats. Declining sales and copyright violation have led some publishers to find new ways to publish their comics, while others are just adapting to the digital age while still having great success with the printed comic format. American publishers' attempts at creating digital publishing platforms for local comics and Manga have thus far been more successful than attempts with digital Manga publishing in Japan, which have lacked a coherent strategy to create successful digital platforms in which to publish, and had revenue considerations from the impact of illegal scanlation. Some attempts in Japan have been made, but failed, such as JManga; while others merged with larger worldwide distributors as in the case of Square Enix digital publishing joining the Hachette Book Group for distribution in over 200 countries. Some western notable platforms such as Graphicly have closed down due to the creators getting hired by the self-publishing platform Blurb.
Notable digital distributors
DriveThruComics states that it was the first online retailer to specialize in downloadable comics. It opened its comic store in 2004. DriveThruComics is part of a family of sites operated by OneBookShelf. The store hosts comics from 15 different publishers.
comiXology is a cloud-based digital comics platform that offers material from over 75 publishers and independent creators, which can be bought or downloaded for free. Its publishers catalog includes both big western publishers such as Marvel Comics and DC; and translations of Manga through publishers such as Tokyopop. As of 2014 the platform is owned by Amazon.com.
Marvel Comics launched Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, a subscription service allowing readers to read online many comics from Marvel's history, on November 13, 2007. The service also includes periodic releases of new comics not available elsewhere. With the release of Avenging Spider-Man, Marvel also became the first publisher to provide free digital copies as part of the print copy of the comic book.
Image Comics launched its 'Image Digital Comics Store store' in 2013 which is a part of its company website. It got attention for selling comics digitally that are DRM-free, thereby allowing users to download their comics in PDF, EPUB, and the CBR or CBZ Comic Book Archive file formats to their various electronic devices. It also has exclusive digital releases on its website and offers 5-page previews of its comics online. Image Comics was the first big publisher to offer DRM-free digital comics in the U.S., stating that it believes that consumers should be able to own what they have bought in the case of a platform having major technical problems or leaving the market altogether. It also stated that it does not see infringement as a big problem as most consumers will buy comics that are of high quality.
Since 2012, DC Comics has offered to sell its comics through all three major E-book stores: Amazon Kindle Store, iBookstore and Nook Store, as well as through the site www.readdcentertainment.com and through comiXology. DC Comics was the first to offer readers multiple formats to download and digital issues releases on the same day as their printed counterparts. The company stated that it sees the future in digital comics, but its digital sales also help the printed books.
The website Humble Bundle was originally created in 2010 for selling time-limited pay-what-you-want indie game bundles. Since 2012 it has been putting up pay-what-your-want book bundles, which now and then featured comics. The first fully dedicated comic bundle was in April 2014, hosting material from Image comics. The Humble Comic Bundles are digital rights management-free and support charities. The website has hosted comic bundles from some publisher such as Dark Horse Comics, Top Cow, Oni Press, Boom! Studios and Valiant Comics, among others. The idea behind the bundles from publisher standpoint is to try to find new audiences for their products at heavily discounted prices.
- Moreno, Pepe & Gold, Mike (Introduction) (1990). Batman: Digital Justice, DC Comics
- Parker, Charley (1997). Argon Zark!, Arclight Publishing
- McCloud, Scott (2000) Reinventing Comics, pp. 140, 165, Paradox Press
- Withrow, Stephen (2003). Toon Art: The art of Digital Cartooning, pp. 12–21, 45, 118-119, 170-171, 174-175, 184-187, Watson-Guptill
- Comic Book Archive file, a digital media format used to view archived comics
- Mobile comic, comics for mobile devices
- Digital Comic Museum
- "Publishers". Corporate.wowio.com. Archived from the original on February 16, 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
- Jackson Miller, John. "Overall print comics market topped $700 million in 2012". Retrieved 9 November 2014.
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- "Dark Horse Homepage Features". Darkhorse. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
- "Humble Bundle, Image Offer All-Graphic Novel e-Bundle". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
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- "How Humble Bundle is Changing the Face of Digital Comics Buying". Comicbook Resources. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
- Szadkowski, Joseph (July 1, 2000). "Digital Production Comes of Age in the Comic World", Animation World Magazine