Digital comic

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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[edit]

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 comic to be published online was Eric Millikin's Witches and Stitches, published on CompuServe in 1985.

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.

Shatter artist Mike Saenz went on to create Iron Man: Crash, the first digital graphic novel in 1988.

Batman: Digital Justice was published by DC Comics in 1990, and introduced a more sophisticated blend of computer graphics techniques.

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.[1]


  • 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.

Production methods[edit]

This is an outline of how six key computer generated and enhanced comic books (series)/graphic novels were fully produced.

  • 1985: How Shatter was created by Peter Gillis and Mike Saenz. (Shatter issue 1, Dec 1985, Inside front cover / Shatter issue 4, August 1985, inside front cover)
    • 1) Layouts are penciled on paper, then scanned the pages into the computer.
    • 2) Notes are made of certain images or backgrounds to repeat in various panels.
    • 3) Then electronically the art is copied and repeated in specific places, putting in highlights and shadows, enhancing the images, adding detail to backgrounds.
    • 4) Lettering is applied.
    • 5) It is printed out in black and white.
    • 6) Positive film is shot from the black and white.
    • 7) The film is sent to the colorist, to color traditionally by hand.
    • 8) The color pages are collected with the film and sent to the color separator.
    • 9) The separator uses a color scanner to produce film for the printer.
    • Storage: Floppy Disks.
    • Programs: MacPaint, MacDraw, ComicWorks
    • Hardware: ApplePlus, LaserWriter.
  • 1988: How Iron Man: Crash was created, by Mike Saenz. (Iron Man: Crash, 1988, pages 66 to 71)
    • 1) Images, photos and penciled art are scanned into the computer at 72 dpi and uprez later.
    • 2) 3D graphic elements are created in grayscale.
    • 3) The black and white artwork and 3D artwork is electronically colored.
    • 4) The artwork is then put into a layout program that holds the art inside varying panels and borders.
    • 5) Word balloons with text and adjustable tails are created.
    • 6) Special effects are applied to some text.
    • 7) 4 files are created for each of the pages. (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black)
    • 8) Printer's Separated Film is created from the 4 files.
    • 9) The film is color proofed, by creating color keys/chromalins for the printer.
    • Storage: Floppy Disks.
    • Programs: Lithographer, Illustrator, Pro 3D
    • Hardware: Mac II
  • 1990: How Batman: Digital Justice was created by Pepe Moreno. (Batman: Digital Justice, 1990, Mike Gold intro and inside back page)
    • 1) Images, photos and penciled art are scanned into the computer.
    • 2) 3D graphic elements are created.
    • 3) The black and white artwork is electronically colored, giving it an enhanced painted look.
    • 4) Many images throughout the book are repeated and cropped or colored differently.
    • 4) The artwork is then put into a layout program that holds the art inside varying panels and borders.
    • 5) Word balloons with text, varying borders and adjustable tails are created.
    • 6) Special effects are applied to some text.
    • 7) Printer's Separated Film is created from the page layout program.
    • 8) The film is color proofed, by creating color keys/chromalins for the printer.
    • Storage: Possibly CD ROM Data Disk.
    • Programs: Studio 8, ImageStudio, Photoshop, Quark Xpress.
    • Hardware: Mac II
  • 1990: How The Black Diamond Effect was created by George Peter Gatsis. (The Black Diamond Effect, 1991, issue 4 inside front and back pages)
    • 1) Artwork is drawn and scanned into the computer.
    • 2) Art is vectorized and colored.
    • 3) 3D elements are created.
    • 4) All artwork is composed into page layouts.
    • 5) Some background and foreground artwork is rasterized and painted with blurs, shading and effects.
    • 6) The rasterized artwork is clipped and brought back into the page layout program.
    • 7) Various typefaces and effects are used for lettering.
    • 8) Various kind of jagged word balloons, with varying vectorized effects are used.
    • 9) Printer's Separated Film is created from the page layout program.
    • 10) Grayscale letter sized printouts are sent along with the film to the printer.
    • Storage: CD ROM Data Disk.
    • Programs: Quark Xpress, Pagemaker, Ready-Set-Go, Freehand, Illustrator, Studio 8, ImageStudio, Swivel 3D Pro, Photoshop, Infini-D.
    • Hardware: Mac IIcx
  • 1993: How Donna Matrix was created by Mike Saenz. (Donna Matrix, 1993, inside front page and pages 40 to 44)
    • 1) Characters are designed.
    • 2) All assets, characters and props are modeled in 3D.
    • 3) Scenes are composed in 3D, with multiple lights and various lighting effects.
    • 4) Individual 3D scenes are rendered.
    • 5) Various elements (such as smoke and fire) are scanned into the computer and composed along with the rendered 3D scene in a paint program.
    • 6) Individual pages are composed by importing the final painted panel into a vector program.
    • 7) Text, Word Balloons and sound effects are created and composed in the page layout.
    • 8) Printer's Separated Film is created from the vector program.
    • Storage: Possibly CD ROM Data Disk.
    • Programs: Swivel 3D Pro, Electronic Image Animation System, Illustrator, Photoshop.
    • Hardware: Most likely a Mac IIfx or Mac IIci
  • 1998: The DOME: Ground Zero was created by Dave Gibbons and Angus McKie. (The DOME: Ground Zero, 1998, inside backpage)
    • 1) Scripted.
    • 2) Layouts done in a paint program.
    • 3) Lettering and the rough page layouts composed in a vector program.
    • 4) The pages are submitted for approval.
    • 5) 3D elements are created and rendered out.
    • 6) Low rez samples are checked with the page layout vector program.
    • 7) The Lettering and border panels were rasterized into the paint program, with the lettering on a separate layer.
    • 8) Details are painted into the characters and backgrounds.
    • 9) Printer's Separated Film is created for the printer.
    • Storage: Possibly CD ROM Data Disk.
    • Programs: Freehand, Poser, 3DS Max, Bryce, Photoshop.
    • Hardware: Mac 8500

Notable digital comics[edit]

This list includes some hybrids of digital and traditional media.

Digital comics distribution[edit]

General background[edit]

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 pirating has 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] Some western notable platforms such as Graphicly have closed down due to the creators getting hired by the self-publishing platform Blurb.[6]

Notable digital distributors[edit]

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.[7]

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.[8] Its publishers catalog includes both big western publishers such as Marvel Comics and DC; and translations of Manga through publishers such as Tokyopop.[9] As of 2014 the platform is owned by[10]

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.[11]

Image Comics launched its 'Image Digital Comics Store store' in 2013 which is a part of its company website.[12] 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.[13] It also has exclusive digital releases on its website and offers 5-page previews of its comics online.[14] 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 doesn't see piracy as a big problem as most consumers will buy comics that are of high quality.[15]

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 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.[16] The company stated that it sees the future in digital comics, but its digital sales also help the printed books.

Dark Horse Comics launched its online digital store in 2011 which supports both computers, iOS and Android devices. The site allows nearly 2000 comics to be previewed.[17]

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.[18] The Humble Comic Bundles are digital rights management-free and support charities.[19] 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.[20]



  • 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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Publishers". Archived from the original on February 16, 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  2. ^ "Ape Entertainment". Ape Entertainment. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  3. ^ Jackson Miller, John. "Overall print comics market topped $700 million in 2012". Retrieved 9 November 2014.  External link in |website= (help)
  4. ^ Thompson, Jason. "Why Manga Publishing Is Dying (And How It Could Get Better)". Retrieved 9 November 2014.  External link in |website= (help)
  5. ^ "Discontinuation of the Manga Content-Browsing Feature". Retrieved 9 November 2014.  External link in |website= (help)
  6. ^ Melrose, Kevin. "Graphicly to shut down as Blurb acquires employees". Retrieved 9 November 2014.  External link in |website= (help)
  7. ^ "About DriveThruComics". Retrieved 9 November 2014.  External link in |website= (help)
  8. ^ "About comiXology". Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  9. ^ "ComiXology Publisher List". Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  10. ^ "ComiXology bought by". Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  11. ^ "Avenging Spider-Man #1 Makes Digital History". 12 October 2011. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  12. ^ "Welcome to the NEW". Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  13. ^ "Digital Comics Formats". Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  14. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  15. ^ "Image Comics Now Selling DRM-Free Digital Comics From Its Website". Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  16. ^ "DC Entertainment Digital Comic Books Now Available on Kindle Store, iBookStore and Nook Store". Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  17. ^ "Dark Horse Homepage Features". Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  18. ^ "Humble Bundle, Image Offer All-Graphic Novel e-Bundle". Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  19. ^ "Valiant Gets Into the Charity Game With a Massive Humble Bundle Deal". Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  20. ^ "How Humble Bundle is Changing the Face of Digital Comics Buying". Retrieved 8 November 2014. 

External links[edit]