It occurred to me, while sampling several recent releases, that digital comics have the great advantage of being readable and enjoyable by people who don’t know the history of the characters (if they have any), don’t have the time to follow lots of titles (or remember what they read last month), and want something fun to read ready whenever they are. Whether you call them “civilians” or the “mainstream audience”, these types of people promise great growth opportunities for the medium and are the reason that digital comics aren’t cannibalizing print sales — these customers are as yet fresh, unplowed land for reading seeds.
While I spent my decades as a dedicated comics fan, that also pretty much describes me these days. I don’t know or care, for example, what the current DCU is doing, but if I want superheroes, at least DC is willing to give me a couple of bones featuring the classic versions.
I’ve already talked about Batman: Li’l Gotham and how much I like it, but two other DC Digital titles interested me.
Adventures of Superman
The early installments (can’t call them issues) of Adventures of Superman were stand-alone stories featuring the classic Superman, red trunks and all. They were by some talented creators and took some interesting perspectives on the life of the hero — and he was a hero, saving people and preventing disasters, which was a welcome change. Each weekly installment is 99 cents for 22 screens. Because they use landscape-format “pages”, it’s easy to read either on tablet or laptop screen.
Unfortunately, the latest release (#16) is part 1 of 3 (boo! give me a complete story) by J.T. Krul (whose work I’ve never liked) and Marcus To. It seems to take influence from the recent movie, which I don’t want to know about, having General Zod promise Superman unknown revelations about his father, who is selfish and thinks Superman should leave Earth alone. This doesn’t seem like a promising beginning, since everyone is unpleasant. While I would recommend earlier stories, I’m skipping the next few. Try instead #12, shown at top, which is about Superman’s relationship with his mom.
It’s a shame that a good superhero title has to be so retro; it’s as though the Powers That Be are admitting that the glory days of their characters are well behind them. Batman ’66 recaptures the entertainment of the TV show and runs stories across three chapters (so they can be collected in one print comic).
The first three chapters were in the DC2 format, which added limited animation in a way that made the digital version a superior reading experience to the print copy (while still keeping it firmly a comic, not a cheap attempt at a cartoon). With the current story, by Jeff Parker and Ty Templeton, they seem to have dropped that enhancement. In other words, #1-3 were 95-100 screens each for 99 cents, while #4-6 drop back to 99 cents for 22 screens, just like Adventures of Superman. Shame.
It’s always a pleasure to see Templeton’s work, since he really gets classic adventure cartooning. This story (#4-5) features the Penguin, whom, as Commissioner Gordon puts it, “has somehow gotten the United Nations to recognize his iceberg as a sovereign nation!” As you can see, Jeff Parker is well able to channel the bombastic nature of the show’s declarations. Unlike the TV version, he’s also able to team up villains and have them do what would be ridiculously expensive things to film.
Issue #6 returns Jonathan Case (who illustrated #1-3) to the art, for “Chandell’s Chanteuse”, “starring” the formerly criminal pianist teamed up with Lorelei Circe, the Siren. Loved seeing Bruce Wayne out on the town in an ascot! Case does an amazing job with some of the crazy visuals he’s asked to provide, complete with show callbacks when appropriate. Great read!