Digital Tools For Comic Fans

The modern movie business takes a lot of heat for not being able to come up with original ideas. Roughly 90 percent (a completely un-scientific number that I pulled out of my hat) of new films are remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels, or spin-offs, leaving only the late fall Oscar contenders to provide original content—and even those are increasingly based on novels and historical events. It seems as if no one but the heavy hitting directors (Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, and I suppose James Cameron once a decade) is creating original stories.

I understand the general public’s gripe with this trend. It can definitely get frustrating. But for fans of the world of comics and graphic novels, the modern movie business has become something of a running tribute, constantly immortalizing our favorite characters and stories on the big screen. For example, I’ve had a blast explaining the concept of Marvel’s upcoming Civil War saga to friends who don’t know the comic background. Also, I can’t wait to see how the upcoming Star Wars continuation incorporates various subplots from graphic novels.

The interesting thing to me, though, is that as the movie business has continued to promote comic sagas for the past 15 years or so, we’ve more recently seen an expansion in the ways in which original comic content can be consumed and enjoyed. A lot of this, naturally, is due to mobile technology and ever-expanding app markets. Ultimately, through comic readers, video games, and even brand-new original content, there are just about limitless ways to enjoy graphic novels and the like these days.

The first two obvious examples that come to mind are DC Comics and Marvel Unlimited, both free apps in the Google and iOS app stores, and both designed to bring fans digital versions of all their favorite superhero comics. The two apps work a little bit differently, with DC Comics more about a free download followed by pay-per-issue collection (get it here), and Marvel Unlimited offering something that more closely resembles a subscription service (get that one here). But for avid comic readers, both are pretty great, and offer a huge variety of popular comics to enjoy. Personally, I kind of prefer the DC app’s format (though that may be because I’m more of a DC comics guy in general!).

As mentioned, gaming also plays a role, and in that regard we’ve seen some pretty interesting playable displays of old Marvel and DC comics emerge in the last several years as well. The Betfair Casino hosts a number of Marvel-themed games here that are surprisingly loyal to comic backgrounds, and though players will have to put real money on the line to play, the welcome bonuses and promotions at the site make it pretty reasonable to try these games out. You’ll find all the popular Avengers characters, as well as more fringe characters like Daredevil, Blade, and Elektra. Within the games, there’s lots of comic-style imagery displaying old villains, settings, etc. For somewhat-simpler gaming experiences, there are almost too many Marvel and DC app games to keep count of; though I’d point out Spider-Man Unlimited as a particularly good option for comic junkies, because its animation and action style make it look like you’re literally playing through the pages of a comic book.

Ultimately though, it’s not all about DC and Marvel. They may have everything from casino games and app arcades to digital comic downloads, but the world of comics and graphic novels is far larger than its two biggest players. For example, I for one am in it for the Star Wars content!

I shouldn’t need to mention gaming here because most any Star Wars fan is familiar with the endless range of gaming options available. But what I do feel the need to point out is the Star Wars Book Collector app (more info here), which might be the single best reference tool I’ve found for the hundreds of books and graphic novels that have spun off of the original Star Wars saga over the years. I should clarify that this isn’t like Marvel Unlimited or DC Comics in that it’s not simply a platform on which to read digital copies of Star Wars pieces; rather, it’s sort of an all-inclusive reference and organization library. The app helps you to track books you own, books you want, and books that are coming out soon. It will help you to organize your own collection, and will even put stories in order in terms of their chronology within the realm of fiction! And finally, you can also order books, and sometimes audiobooks, straight out of the app.

Beyond Marvel, DC, and Star Wars, there are also plenty of independent graphic novels and comics that have been brought to digital formats in recent years. The Huffington Post featured a nice list of six great graphic novel apps to try out, and it’s a great place to start. They even included the basic iBooks app, which I thought was a little cheesy until I realized that iBooks now has a comic and graphic novel section built into it. Who knew!?

So, that should be enough to get you started. I’m not usually one to support the full digitalization of entertainment, or the unyielding spread of rehashed fiction, but this is one area in which digital tools have been immensely helpful in making some great stuff a lot more accessible.


You are not neglected

So, personally it’s been a busy year. And like a lot of people out there, I got to get my act together.

But if you need to see new stuff from me, follow me on instagram.

Check it out:

Self portrait for vol.79 #sketchbook #ink #watercolor #art #selfie #drawing

A photo posted by Elan’ + + + (@toecomics) on



A Break-up Letter to San Diego Comic Con

Dear San Diego Comic Con,

When I first met you, I just graduated from high school. You were so cool. We would hang out all day and talk about what we wanted to be when we grew up. But around that time, you also started to hanging out with the popular kids. They were all wrong for you. They didn’t really care about you or comics. They just wanted to use you. Your attitude started to change. You got all conceited. I mean, you were still cool, even sexy with all that cosplay and sh!t. We still had some good times!

Remember that booth we rented? Or that table? Remember that magical night we watched Warren Ellis talk? Or that Tenacious D concert? Or when I was nominated for that award?! Or remember just simply, staying up late watching movies and cartoons? You always managed to blow my mind and show me something beautiful and new. You always seemed to inspire my creativity and my soul.

Those were good times, San Diego Comic Con. They were great, in fact. Those were times that, more than anything, I wanted to be inside you. And I wanted to stay inside you for a long long time. But now, everyone’s inside you: the press, Hollywood, people who’ve never even read a comic book. We just don’t have that special connection anymore and I can’t imagine sharing you like that.

Now I hear that you’ve become a Goldigger lately so more people can be inside you. So more people can use you and throw money at you. You’ve lost sight at what’s important, San Diego Comic Con. It sickens me a bit, but I’m not here to judge you. You’ve meant so much in my life: those fourteen or fifteen years we spent with each other are priceless.

The sad thing is, most of those people, those new people in your life, will never understand you like I do. Most of those people don’t love you like I do. They just want to have their way with you, maybe for the weekend or just one day, but I wanted you all the time. If I had you all year long, I’d be a very happy man.

It’s been over between us for a while now. Ever since that argument we had at the Portfolio Review section in 2010. What the f#ck were you thinking!?

Anyway please, please, San Diego Comic Con, please have some dignity! Or at least hold onto the dignity that you have left. You deserve so much better. You used to be so smart and charming, but now its like all of your intelligence has left the room.  {You see, that was a metaphor for all the smart and interesting panel discussions like the Comic Arts Conference or Spirituality in Comics… which was a panel discussion I was on one year…. its a metaphor for those types of events being moved to the Marriott instead of staying in the Convention Center.}

Anyway, I’ve been seeing other conventions. I started seeing Comikaze, probably because we live in the same neighborhood. Although we don’t have as long as a history like you and I. WonderCon Anaheim is really cool, but I had to admit, the first time we met, it was really rocky and the parking sucks because there’s that weird cheerleader thing going on. What’s up with that? AnimeExpo is awfully cute, and you know I have that thing for the Japanese, but… I never had deep, thoughtful, inspiring moments with AnimeExpo like I had with you.

I’ve never had a convention like you before and I’ll never have a convention like you again.

Here’s Looking At You Kid,
PS. But if I’m ever nominated for an Eisner Award again… I. will. SO. WRECK YOU!

—and you’d be all like, “say my name! say my name!” and I’d be like, “that’s how you LIKE it you naughty naughty convention!” And I wouldn’t give a f#ck whose watching!

Originally published here.

An Excerpt From That Novel I’ll Never Finish: Red Line

Last week, I took the Red Line, the subway here in Los Angeles, to Downtown. The train was filled with neutral, silent faces except for a father and his three very young children. He sang to them songs, the type you’d learn in Pre-school and Kindergarden. He kept them entertained as a means to keep them seated. A lesser man would yell at them and bark commands, but he sang to them and made them laugh. He made sure they were safe and behaved.


So, of course, I chose the empty seat across from him.


The father noticed my bag. My bag is one of a kind. It is an ornate and metallic Tibetan scroll holder attached to an East German Map bag. He pointed at it and told his kids that that’s the magic scroll from Kung Fu Panda. The children were in awe.


The train’s speakers announced that my stop, 7th & Metro, was coming up. So I showed the kids the metallic scroll holder. They asked to touch it and I let them. It is a mysterious looking thing that I traveled as far as Echo Park to attain it. I have two of them, each one cost me about forty bucks. Although I’ve seen some on eBay selling at 80.

Anyway, the kids wanted to see what was inside. I opened the cover and all there was were pencils and pens. “This is magic.” I whispered. The kids looked at me with confusion. “This is real magic. I use these to control words and pictures. Kings have ruled with art and pictures. And those kings have been brought down with words. Master the words that come out of your mouth, your heart, and the ones you craft with your pen. Ask yourself what the pictures are telling you, or more likely, what they’re selling you. Go to school, and sharpen your tongue like you sharpen a fine and dangerous weapon. Study art and understand the designed world. For some day, you may bring down a corrupt king or become a just one.”


My stop came up and the doors slid open. Instinctively, I threw a smoke bomb onto the floor and disappeared from the three children and their father. As I left, like a ghost, I said, “You’re an awesome dad!”

True story.

Theory of Everything Comics on Instagram!



Hey guys,

I know its been a while since I’ve posted anything up, but I have been fixing up the website a bit and normal day job stuff. Also my phone broke. But the good news is I got a new one and this one can support Instagram. So follow me on Instagram to see random sketches from my sketchbook. Currently, I’m stuck in Jury Duty and its mainly drawings of people sitting still.


Please give to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Heiyan)

Typhoon Heiyan (Yolanda)

Three weeks ago, a 7.2 earthquake hit Bohol, Philippines, the island my mother and much of my family is from. Over the weekend, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit much of the Philippines. I’ve heard that a Tropical Depression is forming and another typhoon may hit the Philippines.

For the fans of my work, I ask you to donate whatever money you can for the relief efforts.




A lot of people are now homeless and clean water will be hard to get. Usually in post-disaster situations, its easy for people to get sick. Especially for the children and elderly.

Although the Red Cross is a reputable and experienced organization when it comes to disasters, the ABS/CBN Foundation is part of a news organization and have better information of where help needs to go first. If you have friends or family or just have an affinity to other countries that are in Typhoon Haiyan’s path, then please donate money to them instead or, if you don’t mind your kids getting a $20 toy rather than a $200 toy this Christmas, give money to as many countries as you can.

Thank you.

Happy Birthday Jack Kirby


This is me at Jack Kirby’s grave. Me and a friend decided to visit one day. We each sipped gin from a flask. I poured a bit on the ground to share. And we said our “thank you”s like the rock star that he is.

If I knew what was his favorite drink was, I would’ve brought him some… and a cigar.

Thank you Jack. Thank you for all your creations and your artwork and how you’ve managed to influence the 21st century.

You are one of my great Creative Saints, and I hope to do good work for my King.


PopMusings: Superman in Samsara

sam-sa-ra [səmˈsɑːrə] (noun):

1. Hinduism  the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth

2. Buddhism  the transmigration or rebirth of a person

[Sanskrit, literally: a passing through, from sam  altogether + sarati  it runs]

–World English Dictionary


I feel sorry for Superman. He exists in a universe where he is constantly rewritten, reborn and revamped. First he’s an orphan found by a motorist and raised in an orphanage. Then he has adopted parents, only to be revamped and retold and then adapted for a major motion picture. First he leaps then he flies. His adopted father has a heart attack and all of Kal El’s super powers couldn’t save him.

Of course Superman isn’t aware of any of this. He just lives on without aging. Without growth or evolving. He falls in love with Lois Lane, never to admit that Clark Kent and Superman are the same people. Sure, he’ll eventually marry her, but the universe will just start over again and he will just find himself in another bizzare love triangle between him, Lois Lane and himself.

He will fight Lex Luthor countless times. Lex Luthor: the mad scientist, Lex Luthor: the corporate CEO, Lex Luthor: the President of the United States. Lex Luthor: Gene Hackman.

1127040-superman_facesHe will never die. We won’t let him. He will never escape this kingdom, his imprisoned Malkuth. Here he will always be a god. Here he will always have the same problems. He can’t change. We won’t let him.

For years, fans have complained about his red underwear (something a circus strongman would wear back in the days when Superman was created) and when the artists, writers, and editors decided to get rid of the underwear, fans got upset.

Once, the powers that be and the rulers of his destiny tried to kill him off and replace him. They put him in a crazy energy costume, had him co-star with Kristin Kreuk, never to put on the cape until the very last episode! But fans just wanted the old Superman.

Imagine how annoyed Superman would be if he knew that he was living in an endless circle of profit and entertainment? Immortal, sure, but his archons and stewards would make him relive his most traumatic experiences again and again. — Yes, they are the most character defining experiences — but how many times would he have to go to Pa Kent’s funeral? How many times would he have to come to age and struggle with his alien identity? How many times will he have to run into Kyptonite? Or save the world? How many times will his writers run out of ideas?

He’s stuck in Samsara because its just so damned entertaining for us. I guess that’s his karma.

Just look at other Superheroes. How long has Cyclops been in his 30’s? How many times does he have to watch Jean Grey die and then come back? And then die, and then come back? I’m sure by now, he’s just ACTING sad over the death(s) of his wife. (I mean, Its not cheating if she’s dead.)

Or how about something a bit more controversial like Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern. He has his adventures, disappears for a while, comes back old, and he has a few kids. Then the DC Universe starts up all over again from scratch and now he’s gay!

Now, as long as its written well, there’s nothing wrong with another gay superhero. But you got to think: When this new version of Alan Scott: Green Lantern was a kid, trying to figure out his sexual identity– I wouldn’t be surprised if that fifteen-year-old Alan Scott wished he were straight. Would it be comforting for him to know that in another time and another universe, he WAS straight? …with kids? Would this distress the Green Lantern? I mean, how would you feel if your sexual identity was ultimately in the hands of DC comics editor and chief, Dan DiDio?

2000257_origWesterners often confuse reincarnation for a type of Heaven. They think it would be great to be reborn, maybe have a fresh start, be born into a rich family or be reincarnated into a dolphin.

Well guess what? Dolphins rape each other! Millionaires have crazy million dollar problems, and if you start fresh from your crappy life, you’re more than likely to have a life just as crappy!

Superman can’t change. If there was ever an ending to the Superman mythos, if Superman was put to rest like King Arthur, if everyone wondered ‘Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow’, his universe would just start up all over again.

He will never find liberation because there will always be a new re-telling of the Superman story.

He will never find peace because story always means conflict.

He will neither find inner peace nor peace for the World that he protects.