Columns > Published on March 20th, 2023

What Digital Comics Readers Really Want

Header image via unsplash

The good thing about reading average-type books is that you can get your hands on them without too much trouble. As long as you don't care about collectability, you can lay hands on just about anything put to paper.

Comics have been a little tougher.

For readers who don't care so much about collecting and cataloging, who just want to see those webs spun and those ups upped and away-ed, digital comics seemed like the answer. Collector nerds can keep collecting physical copies, reader nerds can read without paying a ridiculous price just to get the whole story, everyone wins.

But digital comics haven't quite worked out for digital readers. 

Let's talk about how we can fix that.

We Want The D

By which I mean, “The dimensions appropriate for tablets.”

A standard comic book is about 6.5” by 10”, and some of the larger iPads and Galaxy tablets are pretty great for comics…until you get to a two-page spread. When that happens, you turn the tablet sideways, and you get an image that’s about a third the size of what you’d get in a physical, 2-page spread.

Goddamn does saying "2-page spread" this much feel dirty.

2-page spreads are gorgeous in print, they're incredible, and I'll never forget some of those Death of Superman spreads, those George Perez masterpieces, that moment when the Avengers assembled in medieval garb, which was a nerd highpoint on so many levels.

I'm not saying they should go away entirely, but if they don't work for a good chunk of your audience, maybe doing them too often is a bad idea. Or, maybe you should only do them for big pieces of art, not for layouts with dozens of dialog balloons for me to struggle through at 1/3 size.

Maybe we should consider...

Digital-First Comics

Why not make comics for the digital environment?

What is it with heavy metal music and comic books?

Comics meant to be read panel-by-panel as opposed to full-page layouts work WAY better on a tablet, even a phone.

Watch the way someone scrolls on almost every app. Up and down, right? Can't comics be designed for panel-by-panel, vertical scrolling?

Why not consider comics that are designed with small screens in mind? It closes some storytelling doors, but it opens others. Gone is the need to pad out a page so the reveal doesn't come until someone flips to the next page. If it's one panel at a time, you can spring a surprise at any moment.

Bonus Features

You’ve trotted out Amazing Fantasy 15 many times, many ways. Why not give us something extra? Creator commentary? Pop-up comics history that explains who the hell Irving Forbush is?

I’d happily read a version of an old, and let’s face it, sometimes-boring comic if there was some commentary from a writer who can talk about how the issue inspired future comics, or an inker who highlights some of the technique at play.

Why not insert a couple pages? Have a Joe Bob Briggs type of character (or, hell, just have Joe Bob Briggs!) tell us a little bit about what we just saw and what he thinks about it. Get Dave Wyndorf from Monster Magnet to do a couple issues, or Sebastian Bach.

What is it with heavy metal music and comic books?

Selectable Scans

Do I want an original scan with some creases, faded colors, stuff that looks the way the issue does today? Do I want a scan that’s converted to look like it would have on the newsstand in 1965? How about the remaster that touches things up and makes them super crisp?

The answer is: Yes. I'll take all 3.

Anything At A Price

I don’t shop at a brick and mortar store that ONLY sells DC or ONLY sells Marvel or ONLY sells Dark Horse. Why would anyone want this on a digital platform?

Can you all get your shit together long enough to build an online comics store? Not a DC Digital Platform, Not a Disney+++SuperComicsStravaganza, just a damn website where I can get comics of all kinds?

Can it be not Amazon?


The problem with subscription platforms is that things come and go, some things are on tier A, then they move to Tier B. It’s a clusterfuck. And it doesn’t help that The Mouse owns Marvel, meaning the decisions about silly series from the 90s are being made by people who care more about how those books reflect on Disney than they do about whether or not those books are interesting.

I want options that let me own digital files for my purchases.

Ownership lets me build a collection. Ownership lets me read when I don't have an internet connection. Ownership lets me occasionally print something out and handbind it, which is something I do because I am a true maniac.

I don’t need to own EVERYTHING, but, look, I know I’m gonna read Dark Knight Returns again before I die. Unless I drop dead in the next year or so. But I ate KALE today, DC Comics. Kale. That's how committed I am to reading comics over and over until I die, and the least you could do in recognition of my sacrifice is to give me some reasonable purchase options.

Put Together Good Runs

My god, try and find a chronology of Batman comics from the last ten years, it’s a complete mishmash hodgepodge of “Read this trade paperback, but then stop two issues in, switch to another trade, then back to the first one, but when you hit the third panel of issue 3, you’ll want to switch to–” alright, enough!

I want to read some Batman comics, not to actually become the World’s Greatest Detective to figure out what the fuck order I’m supposed to go in.

Post-Crisis to No Man’s Land. There you go, that’s a great Batman run to put all together, in the right order, one digital package.

You've done this in print with omnibus editions. Why not go even further in digital versions, which don't have limitations like gravity and binding integrity (and, seriously, weight. I nearly tore a bicep holding one of those damn things)?

Make it easy on me. I’m happy to pay for an organized, fat stack of comics.

Get Batman: No Man's Land Omnibus Vol. 1 at Bookshop or Amazon

Get Iron Joe Bob by Joe Bob Briggs at Amazon 

About the author

Peter Derk lives, writes, and works in Colorado. Buy him a drink and he'll talk books all day.  Buy him two and he'll be happy to tell you about the horrors of being responsible for a public restroom.

Similar Columns

Explore other columns from across the blog.

Book Brawl: Geek Love vs. Water for Elephants

In Book Brawl, two books that are somehow related will get in the ring and fight it out for the coveted honor of being declared literary champion. Two books enter. One book leaves. This month,...

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Books That Should Be Box Office Blockbusters

It seems as if Hollywood is entirely bereft of fresh material. Next year, three different live-action Snow White films will be released in the States. Disney is still terrorizing audiences with t...

Books Without Borders: Life after Liquidation

Though many true book enthusiasts, particularly in the Northwest where locally owned retailers are more common than paperback novels with Fabio on the cover, would never have set foot in a mega-c...

From Silk Purses to Sows’ Ears

Photo via Moviegoers whose taste in cinema consists entirely of keeping up with the Joneses, or if they’re confident in their ignorance, being the Joneses - the middlebrow, the ...

Cliche, the Literary Default

Original Photo by Gerhard Lipold As writers, we’re constantly told to avoid the cliché. MFA programs in particular indoctrinate an almost Pavlovian shock response against it; workshops in...

A Recap Of... The Wicked Universe

Out of Oz marks Gregory Maguire’s fourth and final book in the series beginning with his brilliant, beloved Wicked. Maguire’s Wicked universe is richly complex, politically contentious, and fille...

Learning | Free Lesson — LitReactor | 2024-05

Try Reedsy's novel writing masterclass — 100% free

Sign up for a free video lesson and learn how to make readers care about your main character.

Reedsy Marketplace UI

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy. Come meet them.

Enter your email or get started with a social account: