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.