Saturday, July 1, 2017

Digital Comics: Comixology Guided View vs Kindle Guided View

This may be the most nerdy, nit-picky, tech/comics related post in the world. If you're a comics purist who only reads actual physical comics, or comics from the past, I'll just save you some time, this article probably isn't for you.

I have been reading a lot of digital comics lately, for many reasons familiar to many of you. Space is limited for longboxes of comics, so is the cost, etc, and my wife is worried that I am could become a hoarder. So I thought, better stop now while are hallways are clutter free. Since the first of the year I have bought a bunch of digital comics on sale. Comixology, like Amazon's Kindle Daily Deals, always has some weekly promotion guaranteed to make you want to buy more comics. And then there was this crazy glitch of 95% off certain Marvel titles at the beginning of June 2017. Now I have way too much to read or re-read.

At first I was a bit of a purist, reading the complete page as it is physically presented, on my iPad Pro. I thought Guided View was terrible when I first heard about it. It reminded me of early 1990's AOL Comics with Spider-Man.

However, after reading a comic written by Brian Bendis, The Infamous Iron Man (Doctor Doom as a hero, pretty good yarn), I changed my mind. I decided for certain types of comics, guided view is quite nice! Especially for a Bendis comic, it really helps to navigate through this thorny vein of word balloons. I don't usually get lost reading a comic, but in a Bendis written tale, sometimes I do, especially on a two page spread of panels. Beyond the comics that are word heavy, it is just kind of nice to have the page zoomed in a bit on the panel you are reading, especially for old eyes. In this comic, Guided View became an almost movie like experience. It zoomed in on the person or group who was talking, and it felt like the camera was moving in point of view shots. I was mesmerized. I think if there is a case for Guided View it might be with the type of comic that Bendis often writes. It may not work as well with a comic done by Frank Cho? I am just guessing, not sure at all.

Since I got the Jason Aaron written Thor volumes at a good price, I have been re-reading those and using Comixology Guided View. You can see an example of the zoomed in page from Thor volume 1 by Russell Dauterman. It's zoomed in on the panel where old Thor fights new Thor. There is a black part above it because this is the top panel on the page - there is nothing above, it has been moved into the center of the screen. You still see the panel below it - and when you swipe right to left, that is the panel that will be zoomed next. I like this because it is like reading a real comic, in a way. You see all of the panels but your eyes focus on one section at a time.

Comixology is a wonderful app. But after you have bought dozens of comics / collections, it has a slight drawback. It's hard to find your stuff! Comixology has "Smart Lists" that show you Recently Purchased, Recent Downloaded, and so on.  You can expand Recently Purchased and see your hundreds of titles there. There is no Search feature for just titles that you own; search is performed on all titles that Comixology has for sale. That seems like a real drawback to me! I don't know how people who have been buying comics on this service have coped with it.

If you've merged your Comixology and Amazon accounts, then you have the ability to read comics either in the Comixology or Kindle apps. The Kindle app does have a nicer user interface (IMHO) for navigating your stuff and a better Search feature. So I began to think, perhaps I should switch over to reading comics on the Kindle app on iPad.

I found my comic very quickly on the Kindle and downloaded it, started reading and using Guided View. You would think, reading this page from Comixology, that Guided View would be the same on both apps. It's not. This is the same page from Thor in the Kindle iOS app. It's zoomed in on the same scene, but the panel border is blacked out below. This is to isolate the panel even more? I noticed the difference right away. It is not appealing at all to me, because it cuts out way too much of the page. A comic book panel isn't made of up of squares - you can see in this case, the panel is at an angle. By squaring off a portion of it, they destroyed the flow of the page.

I began comparing other pages to see if they bothered me as much. Here's a panel for Thor issue 5, illustrated by Jorge Molina. Using Comixlogy Guided View I am specifically looking at the panel where Thor points Mjolnir towards the villains - it almost seems like the hammer is pointed at us, the reader, almost three dimensional, since it pops out of the panel borders. This is part of the magic of comics. Comics have a structure and a language, and breaking those conventions make wonderful little moments.

Here's the same panel in Kindle Guided View. Completely destroys the effect of reading this page by cutting off the panel into a rectangle. For some reason they decided the top and bottom rectangles surrounding this should be light blue. No idea why that decision was made. Because there was some light blue in the original page?

Then I thought - Thor 5 is on Marvel Unlimited, which I still have for a couple of months. Let's see how Marvel Unlimited Guided View represents this panel. A little better - you see more of the hammer but it still gets cut off on the bottom. At least they went with black on the top and bottom. It's a little better but not much.

I am kind of shocked that Guided View is not exactly the same on both Comixology and Kindle, though I shouldn't be. Companies share the same engine and tweak settings for their individual needs. I've decided after this little analysis that I am going to stick with the Comixology app for reading comics! Nuff Said.

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