Robot 6

Comics on the iPad: ComicZeal

Almost every comics app—comiXology’s Comics, iVerse’s Comics+, Graphic.ly, and every publisher app—works the same way: The app itself is free, but you have to pay for the comics (well, most of them).

ComicZeal is the opposite: The app costs $8.99, but with it you get access to a huge amount of free content. I don’t think the app provides much that you couldn’t get for free* if you put the pieces together yourself, but it bundles everything together nicely and makes it easy to use.

ComicZeal reads PDFs (and RARs) and the file types that are most popular for downloadable comics, CBZ and CBR. It’s more of a reader than a store; the big attraction, for a lot of people, is that they can simply import their existing comics library into it.

Wait, you may be saying, where do you get that existing comics library? Ah. Some people scan in their print comics, which is more trouble than I’m likely to ever go through. This guy bought DVDs of Archie comics and imported them into iBooks; you could do the same with ComicZeal. You can buy comics in PDF form from DriveThruComics, and they have some free offerings, too. CBZ and CBR are popular formats for bootleg downloads, of course, but we will not speak of this. Because to my mind, the highest and best use of ComicZeal is to read public domain comics from the good old days. ComicZeal syncs to two sites that download public-domain comics, Flashback Universe and Golden Age Comics. These sites provide a cornucopia of forgotten comics: Romance comics, space comics, detective comics, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comics, all the treasures of a misspent childhood.

All the comics on these two sites are in the public domain, and they are available for free download. I could get a CBR or CBZ reader, download the files to my computer, and read them on that screen, but what you pay for with the iPad is ease of use, and ComicZeal delivers: The comics are arranged in a storefront format, more easily browsable than the original sites, and they download to my device with a single touch. ComicZeal has a nice display menu that shows a longbox icon for series and cover images for singles.

There are a lot of different ways to use ComicZeal, and people have lots of opinions on its usability for different functions, but to me it works great as a gateway to vintage comics. These aren’t great works, for the most part; they are schlocky genre comics, but that’s exactly the sort of thing that doesn’t get collected and reproduced. The public-domain download sites are doing us all a great service by putting them up, and ComicZeal streamlines the download process and makes them easy to read. I would cheerfully shell out $25 or more for a collection of these oddball comics in book form; looked at that way, $8.99 for the app is a bargain.

*CloudReaders is a free e-reader that can handle CBZ files. I haven’t tried it, but it looks like it would be fine for reading comics files you already have; what it lacks is the storefront of ComicZeal.

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Comments

6 Comments

This app works great with the DVDs GIT Corp. made for Marvel Comics back in the early 00′s. On an Ipad, it is close to reading a comic full size without the difficulty of navigating panels that you find in some other apps.

Buyer Beware!

Paid for their iPhone app. It doesn’t work at all. Tried to get help with their technical support, but, they were useless. And by they I think it’s just one guy. Hope the iPad app works and succeeds, maybe they’ll have enough funds to fix their iPhone bugs.

Brigid Alverson

January 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm

@citizenmilton: Thanks for the tip! I’m surprised, because they had an iPhone app before the iPad, and the reviews were pretty decent. My iPad version automatically synced onto my iPhone, so I’ll check it out.

@citizenmilton, what was the issue that you had? I don’t think I’ve ever had someone with a totally non-working Comic Zeal.

We also have a great dedicated support site here: https://comiczeal.tenderapp.com/

Sorry for posting twice, couldn’t find a way to add to my previous post.

ComicZeal has been my favorite reader for years, through many iterations of the app and before the iPad even existed. It was my favorite iPhone app, and it’s my favorite iPad app.

It’s not perfect but it’s miles ahead of any other iOS comics reader, and while it’s been months since I’ve needed support when I did they were very quick and helpful with their response.

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