Monday, February 18, 2013

ComiXology: The App That Taught Me How to Read Comics

Be prepared, readers. This post is going to come across as a glowing love letter to an App. But it's deserved. Because comiXology is amazing. So consider yourself warned.

You guys remember me lamenting this past summer about comics? How I didn't read them growing up? And now I wanted to read them but had no idea where to start? And then how I found one I liked?

Well one thing that I didn't want to admit to you guys, one of my big stumbling blocks to becoming a comic reader, was that I found the medium too hard to read.

That's right. Me. The girl who reads 500 words a minute. The girl who started reading Epic Fantasy at the age of 11. The girl who read Anna Karenina for fun in high schoolThe girl who has a masters degree in Rocket Science. Yes, that very same girl (me) was having trouble comprehending what was happening from pane to pane in a comic book.

It galled me. It really did. One of the first comics I tried to read was Angel: After the Fall. I figured that would be easiest, since I was already familiar with all of the characters.  But there I was: staring at the pictures, reading the word bubbles, and feeling like I was somehow doing it all out of order (which half the time I was).

It was frustrating. Were comic books going to be another fiction medium (like video games) that I would never be into because it was too hard? 

Too hard? How could comics be too hard? I was so embarrassed. I only admitted it to a few people. That when it came to comics, my reading comprehension was next to nil.

Part of my problem is that I just couldn't put the pictures and words together, not at the same time, not in a way that made sense. There was just too much going on in any one image. And then add on to that the fact that the entire page is covered in images of multiple panes. It was too much. Way too much.

And then I read Scott Pilgrim using the comiXology app. I picked Scott Pilgrim for several reasons, but the big ones were: (1) I was familiar with the story and characters and (2) it's in black and white and drawn in a more cartoonish manner. Both of these things working together helped me not get overloaded with imagery and to focus on the story. But I still couldn't look at an entire page. And I was still sometimes confused as to which speech bubble I was supposed to read next. Luckily, comiXology's guided view came to my rescue.

With guided view, I could look at one pane at a time. With a mere touch of my finger it would move on to the next pane, telling me in fact which pane was the next one to read. And in situations where there is a super large pane with multiple speech bubbles in it, it would tell me which speech bubbles to read first. It was amazing.

After Scott Pilgrim, I went on to read Young Avengers and The Unwritten, both using guided viewing. I was able to become comfortable with deciphering what was going on in a single pane of complex (color!) images. And I eventually figured out the correct order to read speech bubbles. (The answer: left to right BUT you have to read everything high before you read anything low. That's where I was getting confused. For some reason I wanted to read up then down then left right.) 

I went on a comic hiatus for a little bit due to various reasons. Mainly because I didn't want to reach the end of The Unwritten and there were no more Young Avengers comics. Then, the other week, it came to my attention (via my weekly comiXology newsletter/email) that they were starting a Young Avengers vol. 2. And that kid Loki would be in it.

I knew Loki was a kid now in the comics. I mean, a person can't be as obssessed with Loki as I am and not know that. I even knew about Journey Into Mystery, which followed his exploits. Heck, I'd even purchased Journey Into Mystery on my comiXology app. But for some reason, I hadn't read it yet. But now that my favorite Marvel character was going to intersect with my favorite Marvel superhero team, I knew I had to catch up. I had to read Journey Into Mystery.

So I paused my Wheel of Time re-read and hunkered down with Journey Into Mystery

You're going to get several posts in the near future about the awesomeness that is Keiron Gillen's Journey Into Mystery (JIM). But right now I want to talk about something else.

I started reading JIM in guided view. But the artwork was so beautiful, that one page I flicked back to the full page view. And then something happened.

I started reading the entire comic in full page view. I ended reading almost the entire series this way, only occasionally using the guided view to zoom in on pages where the writing was tiny.

I'd learned how to read comics. 

And really, it's all thanks to comiXology.

So if you're looking to get into comics and have a color e-reader of some sort or even just a computer, get comiXology. Their selection is amazing, and their entire system is fantastic.

Plus their customer support is stalkerish good. What do I mean by that? Well the other day I happened to tweet that I had forgotten both my user name and password to comiXology and I was slightly freaking out. (You see my iPad logs me in automatically, but I was trying to log in on my computer). I didn't add any hashtags or direct the tweet to any one person. ComiXology or its customer support (@cmxsupport) don't follow me. But somehow @cmxsupport saw my tweet and responded:

I've personally never experienced amazing customer support like that, with anything. So my hats off to your comiXology. You not only single-handedly taught me how to read comic books, but you are fantastic at your jobs.

I highly recommend the comiXology app for your tablet or phone. I recommend you getting a comiXology account so you can read comics on your computer. And I highly recommend you read Journey Into Mystery. But more on that on Wednesday.


  1. Dang (same anon who posted on Loki), I need to get that. " The girl who started reading Epic Fantasy at the age of 11. The girl who read Anna Karenina for fun in high school" that's me too and you described precisely WHY I have never learned to read comics!

    1. I highly recommend comiXology (as if you can't tell from this glowing post about it) for first time comic readers. It definitely still requires retraining the brain, but comiXology can make it less overwhelming.

      And I also highly recommend giving comics a try. I've read a lot of great ones just in the short time I've been reading comics, and the stories are just as good as the stories you can get from novels.