Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Comics on DVD-ROM

Over the past few years, GIT Corp has been slowly building a line of comics on DVD-ROM. Actual initial releases were on CD-ROM, but they've moved over to the format that can hold a lot more data on a single disk (most likely because combined CD/DVD drives are now pretty standard on new computers). The disks consist of files in Adobe PDF format, and each release comes with a copy of the Adobe Reader program. Now, I know that there are factions of folks who prefer one file format on computers versus another. I can't really get into that debate because, in truth, I've only experienced the PDF files and they work just fine for how I read. I don't know of any major companies 'selling' books in the other format (most of those other format files are found on file-sharing services - which is basically someone independent putting the books up for free). GIT Corp is an official licensee of the products it distributes. By supporting them, I know the original license owner is getting paid.

The product library to date is pretty solid. They have a complete MAD Magazine collection - from the early MAD comic days, through the black and white magazine days and up to the more current color (with ads) issues. This is similar to the Totally MAD seven-disk CD-ROM set that came out from Broderbund in the '90's (though Totally MAD really had its own display engine to bring up the files - maybe it was a version of PDF behind the covers?). In any case, this is over 50 years worth of humor material on a single disk.

The bulk of their offering though is from the Marvel Comics line. They started out with a Spider-Man set that covered the first 40 years of the Amazing Spider-Man title on CD-ROM. Since then, they made two more offerings of the Web-Head - one collection of just the last 20 Years, and then a complete set on DVD-ROM that added a few more years of books as well as annuals into the package. Next came 44 Years of the Fantastic Four, which has also been updated just this year to include a combined set with the full solo run on the Silver Surfer (that 700+ comics on a single disk!). GIT continued with the high profile teams in an X-Men collection (focusing solely on the Uncanny X-Men title) and the Avengers (though various volumes of that book since the 60's). They've now gone back to the solo super-stars with disks for the Incredible Hulk, Ghost Rider, and Captain America.

Upcoming releases, per the company's website include: Iron Man in September of 2007, and Daredevil and Thor in 2008. They also note 'other surprises'. This likely means possible smaller run sets like the Ghost Rider one (which had 250 issues versus the usual 500+) or other updated releases with combos of additional material too (like the FF/Surfer set).

There are a number of things I, as a long time comic reader and collector, love about these sets.
First, the price is absolutely right. At $30 to $50 MSRP (you can get them at a cheaper every-day price from many online sources like, Tales of Wonder, Eagle-One-Media, etc.), that translates to 8 to 12 cents per issue. That's a lot of enjoyment for the money!

Second, everything is there. Each PDF file is full-scans in full-color of all pages, front cover to back, of the entire comic. This includes every single panel, every single advertisement, every single letter column. You get it all. Unlike most paper-reprints that are put out, this allows the reader to put everything into context from the time the book was published. Remember those classic Hostess advertisements? Or how about those Saturday morning programming spreads in the center of the books? They are all there. This bumps the nostalgia factor through the roof for me.

Third, the space savings is huge. A single DVD-ROM in a standard movie clam-shell box, takes up inches on my bookcase. If I had physcially the same comic books on that disk, they would easily fill one if not two long white boxes (each three feet long and a foot wide). The eight disks released so far contain the comparable reading experience of a dozen or so long boxes (more than a third of my whole comic collection).

Fourth, there is the convenience factor. One disk is very light and easy to take anywhere. Going on a trip or vacation - I just throw one in the computer bag with my laptop and I can do some reading easy enough wherever we go. Ever tried to lug a long box around? It's not fun. I moved my collection one time from our old house to a new one. I nearly threw my back out lifting all those boxes of paper. This is much easier to manage.

Now, I know its not the same thing as having the real books. Some people are truly collectors and pride themselves of tracking down those elusive issues to fill the holes in their collection. And that's cool. I totally respect that. For me, personally, I've always got comics because I'm a reader. I like the stories and the entertainment value I get from them. Sure, I keep my old comics when I'm done - and occasionally re-read some again. I just don't see them as completely disposable (I have a hard time throwing any book away). Some day I'll likely sell off most of the books, for a loss no doubt, but that's okay. It isn't about investment for me.

And these DVD-ROM's probably aren't for everyone. Some people don't like to read at their computer. They would prefer to have the physical book, to hold it in their hands and smell the slightly musty smell of old paper. Me, I sit in front of one most of my waking hours so I'm very comfortable with it. Plus, with a laptop, I can read books this way just about anywhere I want (okay, bathroom reading isn't as convenient...). And, I don't have to dig through my long boxes to find the books I want - just pop in the disk, a few clicks and I'm ready to roll.

The best part: this allows me to read books I most likely never could have before - either due to affordability or availability. I don't have to hunt all over to fill in a run or read an arc. The entire run is there for me. And I don't have to worry about aging effects on the paper. These PDF files come from scans of someone's collection - now and forever immortalized for all time. I don't have to worry about ruining a book while eating or whatever. The digital image is immune to those things.

For me, this is a perfect solution to allowing me to read classic comics and research characters, etc. My hope is GIT continues these for a long time - hitting as much of the Marvel back-catalog as possible. My dream would be that someone would be able to do something similar with the DC Comics line (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.).

Then the only thing I have to do is find time to read all this stuff. As the song goes: there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do... But that's a topic for another time.


Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto your blog while researching for any news about more DVD collections. I agree, these are great!

Anonymous said...

hey i also stumbled upon your blog, thanks for the incite i was thinking about picking up a comic to dvd rom and was a little on the fence but you convinved me, and i agree about the dc thing i think batman needs to be on my computer rather then tracking a series down.