Appless Comics

Apps, apps, apps! That is all we hear about anymore, especially when the discussion is about digital comics. Maybe I’m dense, too old fashioned or just plain stupid but I have to admit that I just don’t get it.

I know that there are apps for just about everything. Apple boasts over 300,000 apps available just for the iPhone. There are thousands of apps for Droids, Smartphones and Blackberries too but, face it, apps are a brilliant marketing tool for “App”le more than anyone..

Now that the iPad is on the scene everyone and their sister can see the potential of comics flourishing on that brilliant 9.7 inch screen and of course the imitators are already popping out everywhere.

In the midst of all this commotion we have all been sold the idea that an app is needed to be able to read comics on these portable devices. An app! Quick run out and get one so you can read comics! Hurry, hurry, hurry!

If you are a creator or a publisher you especially better get a jump on it before you are left in the dust. Times-a-wasting! Lock into a deal, NOW! Tie up your rights and spread that wealth with Apple, the app developer, and the publisher leaving little for the creator before it’s too late!
Hurry, hurry, hurry!

What a bunch of sheep we are. Happy to be herded to a promised land by the carrot of new source of possible revenue.




Let me bring you back to Earth with a simple truth. You do not need an app to read tons of great digital comics on a computer, a net book, an e-reader or a cell phone.

You don’t need an app!

All you need is a browser.

If your device can read Flash files your options are even greater.

New devices are coming soon from Samsung and Blackberry that read Flash. Soon Apple will have to include it as well. Even if they don’t Flash created with HTML 5 is readable so eventually all web comics will be an easy read on any tablet or phone, app-free!

If you are a creator or a publisher, post your comics on the web, market a PDF download, or make your own app if you feel that you really have to and guess what?

You are in command!

You have control over your content, no censorship, no digital rights management that ties up your property indefinitely and, if you wish to sell your works, get paid directly from your readers without sharing any of the profits except your PayPal fees.

I know this all sounds like blasphemy!

The digital comic download is supposed to be the savior of comics and finally provide a source of revenue to creators while opening up the huge untapped market of the masses.

The magic bullet!

But it is not.

If we allow ourselves to be led down the narrow road of the app it is business as usual. In the comics industry we know who wins. Everyone else loses. Even the readers.

Look, as a publisher, I have gone toe-to-toe with Marvel and DC in the Direct market. I’ve waded into the dark and murky waters of the mass market. I was there championing the rise of creators’ rights and the proliferation of independent publishers from the beginning. I know what I’m talking about.

As a comic creator and publisher I sought the Holy Grail and it wasn’t profit. I’d be lying if I told you money wasn’t part of the motivation but the real prize was freedom.


The internet gives comic creators the opportunity to enjoy creative freedom like never before. Creators can reach a global audience with little expense and retain complete ownership of their works.

Creators don’t need to be confined to an app. They need to be creative and they need to discover creative ways to generate revenue.

When Bill Cucinotta and I conceived of CO2 Comics this was and continues to be our mission, to create a cooperative community of comic creators that support each other to reach a wider audience with diverse material and to maximize the profitability of our individual intellectual property by exploring product options of digital, print, merchandise, other media and licensing.

In a year and a half we have amassed nearly a thousand pages of comics from over twenty distinguished creators that attract about ten thousand hits a day. We have published a 680 page book that is the greatest collection of comic interviews in the history of comic books. Most importantly we have created a venue that supports the creators that share in our mission by helping them sell their print products, services and merchandise while maintaining complete ownership of their creations.

We are just getting started.

I know that I am coming down pretty hard on apps, but I am just trying to make an important point that I believe has to be made.

Apps can be part of a successful comic marketing strategy but I don’t think that they can be viewed as a panacea for the entire industry or surely the little guy will get crushed, unnoticed in the shadow of the usual giants and trampled by the rush of new readers herded by powerful marketing machines toward product they are already familiar with.

Comic creators need to take advantage of the internet while it is still inexpensively accessible. Maximize it as a resource while you still have a chance. Don’t be distracted by the temptations of a huge corporation whose sole motivation is profiting from the work of every creator possible.

That “app”le looked good to Eve, too and look where it got her.

Making comics because I want to.

Gerry Giovinco

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11 Responses to “Appless Comics”

  1. Appless Comics « CO2 COMICS BLOG: If you are a creator or a publisher you especially better get a jump on it bef…

  2. paul zdepski says:

    well said. In 1998, every company, store, manufacturer of widgets and baubles needed a website… dumping money into something they knew little about. A good business plan with solid tactics and goals seems to be the word I’m getting from your article. Know what you want to achieve and what you’re willing to sacrifice to get there. I’m partial to PDFs, but a friend of mine from UARTs has made a go with an app with a comic adaptation of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” – which got a ton of press with NYT, NPR and Apple blogs because they challenged the nudity clause. Right there – Censorship – How many comic panels would need to be redrawn to get your pub on iTunes? Think about it. There is no artistic freedom in the Apps World.

  3. Appless Comics « CO2 COMICS BLOG: We have published a 680 page book that is the greatest collection of comic int…

  4. Joe Williams says:

    Gerry, you raise some excellent points, and I should probably sit and stew them over before responding, but I’ll shoot my mouth off anyway.

    Apple has done a great job with their app store opening it up to individual programmers and giving them a terrific distribution point. People are suddenly spreading their programming efforts and generating an income from something that wasn’t there yesterday. Yes, Apple is going to take a piece of the take, but that’s what they are in business to do.

    I agree that browsers would be a better way to distribute web comics, but there are a number of issues with Flash. Steve Jobs wrote about Flash not being open, but I thin the main problem is that the Flash plug-in is a battery pig. Take a look at this from Wired:

    It’s all about battery life in a portable device. Unless Flash is vastly improved by Adobe or there is some major breakthrough in battery technology, I don’t see Flash lasting.

  5. CO2 Comics says:

    RT @co2comics: Appless Comics

  6. Joe,

    I just finished talking with a Verizon rep and he was telling me that all the Droid phones with the exception of the first one which is no longer available can read Flash. Either way all the roads will meet in the middle very soon.

    I am also not really as much of an app pundit as I know I came across as I sensationalized a bit. Here is a rebuttle that I posted on the Beat that explains my position further:

    My point is that it should not be just about monetizing. I read an interview with Brigid Alverson over the weekend that suggested that creators were abandoning the web in favor of apps for just this reason and I think that is a mistake especially for creators that have not established a market willing to buy their work.

    The web offers an opportunity to create comics with little expense and reach a potentially huge audience without being censored and funneled through a selection process of larger corporations with their own agendas. It offers aspiring comic artists creative freedom and the opportunity to make comics that are read by others which before the web, if you could not get published because your work was not mainstream enough, your work rotted in your portfolio until you gave up and found a career that could never fulfill your inner cartoonist.

    I also wouldn’t be so quick to claim web comics impossible to monetize. There are plenty of sites that make a lot of money offering free content that are not comics. Why is it that comics should be deemed incapable of such success. I tip my hat to the web comikers out there that have found ways to support themselves with web comics.

    I agree that reading comics on an app is a different experience and I can understand the added value just as I am happy to watch my favorite film for free on cable (I know I pay a big cable bill and mind you this is where the internet is going) and then ad the DVD to my collection with all the special director cuts and added features for which I’m willing to pay bucks for.

    I am also a consumer in a difficult economy and if I can read comics for free on my mobile device I’m going to do it before I have to pay for it. Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield’s FREAKANGELS web comic reads fine on my cell phone and I continue to follow it religiously. Their project is proof that the web can work for comics. I’m sure FREAKANGELS would look great on an app as well just as it does in the graphic novel formats, so why can’t I, as a reader, have all the options available to me. The folks at AVATAR got it right, so can others.

    Apps are just part of the equation. It is not time to turn our backs on any of the other options. Print and the internet are still viable and it is much too early to abandon either for the shiny new toy.

  7. Matthew Fabb says:

    Joe Williams, Android runs just fine with very little battery drain with Flash enabled (at least no more than other interactive content).

    That Wired magazine that you link to, which in turn links to an article from test several pages with Flash running animated banner ads (possibly with video) with Flash disabled and those ads being just static images. Animated content (possibly with video) will always drain the battery more than a static image. In various benchmarks HTML5 animated content and video can be more CPU intensive than Flash, therefore causing more battery drain. Also Flash Player 10.2 is currently in beta, with even more optimizations for it to use the GPU rather than the CPU (once again less battery this way).

    All the major smartphone companies except for Apple are working with Adobe to bring Flash to their smartphone. Meanwhile, all the major Android hardware companies have said they plan to pre-install Flash for their smartphones.

    Now back to the original article, certainly creative freedom is one of the big aspects of not having to go through Apple or RIM or Amazon (who are setting up their own Android app store that might possibly rival Google’s) who all want to look over the content to approve or censor the content.

    Also for those who are looking at apps, to expand an audience, since many with devices use the device’s stores to search for content, might want to look into solutions to avoid having to share part of the profit. Some have found a way to do this is selling content through the browser, where Apple, RIM or Amazon who don’t get a cut and then viewing the content via an app.

  8. […] on this topic has already stirred the pot. Mark Millar, Dean Haspiel, Joe Casey, Warren Ellis and myself have all made a point to instill this dynamic into the mindset of comic creators, many of which […]

  9. Anthony Pike says:

    Reading: "Appless Comics « CO2 COMICS BLOG" ( )

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