Category Archives: Technology

Stela: Comics for your Phone

There’s been a lot of recent news about digital comics, and one of the more interesting (and unexpected) is the announcement of the launch of a new mobile comics platform in 2016.

Stela is the “premiere mobile comics platform” designed from the ground up with original content by award-winning writers and illustrators. Whether at home or on the go, Stela is the only app that delivers comics designed and optimized for your smartphone, all in the palm of your hand with new content every weekday.

The Stela library includes work from acclaimed creators including Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Joe Casey, Irene Koh, Brian Wood, Ron Wimberly, Stuart Moore, and many more.

The app promises new content every day optimized for the mobile platform. More interesting, the app also mentions the focus on community whether it’s interacting with authors, illustrators, or fellow readers. You’ll be able to post your reactions and comments in real-time, and discuss the latest chapters in the Stela library.

This is one to watch for in 2016.


Marvel Unlimited for Less than $5 a Month with Cyber Week Sale

Marvel Unlimited is celebrating “cyber week” by inviting Marvel fans to experience over 75 years of Marvel Comics through Marvel Unlimited! For less than $5 a month for a Marvel Unlimited yearly subscription, new subscribers will be able to experience the greatest present of all – access to over 17,000 digital Marvel comics!

The deal is for 20% the yearly price of $69 coming out to $55.20.

Unlock the Marvel Universe through Marvel Unlimited by using the Promo Code TREAT at Marvel Unlimited checkout!  This amazing gift is accessible through Marvel Unlimited on the web and through the Marvel Unlimited app on iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

New to the Marvel Universe and don’t know where to start? Don’t worry! Marvel Unlimited subscribers have access to the DISCOVER section of Marvel Unlimited. Subscribers are now able to discover new pathways into the Marvel Universe by being able to search by their favorite storylines, characters or creators.

Want to learn about Marvel’s Civil War? Marvel Unlimited will show you the entire series and offer you a step-by-step suggested reading order. Curious about who Jessica Jones is? Marvel Unlimited is here to provide you with her most heroic Marvel moments. Love Sara Pichelli’s artistic style? Marvel Unlimited can now show you some of her most acclaimed work all in one place.

With classic and newer issues being added to Marvel Unlimited on a weekly basis as early as six months after they’re in stores, you’ll definitely want to join Marvel Unlimited this holiday season and enjoy the gift of the Marvel Universe for the entire year!

The deal runs through November 30, so you have until Monday to take advantage.marvel unlimited cyber week 2015

Visionbooks Brings Street Fighter to Life

Street Fighter Origins AkumaUDON Entertainment and digital comics studio Visionborne have partnered to produce a special edition release of Street Fighter Origin: Akuma. The series is featured on the Visionbooks platform in a new format that showcases movement and visual effects in every panel of the comic book.

Visionbooks revolutionizes comic book reading by transforming two-dimensional comic books into a 3D digital animation experience. By combining traditional comics with cutting-edge technology, Visionbooks creates a reading experience with special effects enhancements you would normally expect from blockbuster movies.

The legendary world of Street Fighter Origins makes its Visionbooks appearance with the launch of the first issue and reveals the untold story of one of its most beloved evildoers: Akuma.

Archie Comics’ New Digital comics App Includes Unlimited and A La Carte

Archie Digital 1Archie Comics has announced today that it will relaunch its digital comics app in partnership with innovative technology company Madefire.

The new app, which goes live on iOS devices today, will feature a bold, streamlined storefront showcasing all of Archie’s diverse and top-selling titles, graphic novels and exclusive digital content.

While many comic publishers have chosen to keep their buy-as-you-go and “unlimited” digital comics apps separate, the new Archie Comics app forges new ground by merging both—allowing fans to experience the many worlds and adventures of their favorite Archie titles under the convenient roof of one aesthetically pleasing and groundbreaking app. App users will be given the option to utilize the “Archie Unlimited” service, an “all you can read” option available exclusively through the new Archie Comics app.

The app, which boasts an all-new comics reader showcasing an improved and fluid reading experience, will also give readers new navigation options—allowing fans to browse by imprint, series, best-sellers and most popular, in addition to the ability to search directly for comics of their choice.

In terms of content, the app will include comics and graphic novels from every Archie imprint, including the New Riverdale titles, traditional Archie stories, Archie Action’s Sonic and Mega Man series, Archie Horror and the company’s Dark Circle super hero books, eliminating the need for fans to switch between apps to fully enjoy the diverse and beloved Archie Comics experience. Additionally, the Archie Comics app will also feature a number of must-have exclusives for Archie fans, including the all-new Pep Digital ongoing series of collections and a new line of Dollar Digests.

Aspen Comics Teams With Visionbooks For Digital 3D Animated Comics

PSYCHOBONKERS-01b-BowdenAspen Comics has joined forces with Visionbooks, to create a library of new digital 3D animated comics with the release of Aspen’s all ages action-adventure series Psycho Bonkers, for free starting today on the Visionbooks app (iOS and Android) and on the web.

Visionbooks’s new technology enhances the comic book utilizing action and dimensional visual effects to bring together a new reading experience for the consumer. Psycho Bonkers is set for the first planned Aspen Comics series release by Visionbooks.

Aspen VP/Editor-in-Chief Vince Hernandez said in a release:

“We’re extremely excited to team up with the team at Visionbooks to create an exciting new format to enjoy our material. The talented folks over there have been hard at work on the first series, Psycho Bonkers, for some time and we couldn’t be happier with the result. Fans who check out his exciting digital release will see the comic in an entirely new way as the effects spring to life in front of your eyes. And we have more planned as well, so it should definitely be a fun partnership for the fans.”

Aspen Comics first release on Visionbooks, Psycho Bonkers #1, is available for free currently on the Visionbooks app and site with subsequent issues to follow weekly.

If You Paid for Wifi at the Baltimore Convention Center, Heads Up (Updated)

wifiSection 333 of the Communications Act prohibits willful interference with any licensed or authorized radio communications. Virginia based M.C. Dean didn’t get that memo, and is looking at a large fine by the FCC for blocking individual WiFi hotspots at the Baltimore Convention Center. M.C. Dean provides electrical, communications, and telecom services for the convention center. Exhibitors were charged hundreds (and some thousands) of dollars if the wanted to access the center’s WiFi network.

In October the FCC received a complaint from a company who offered competing WiFi services that M.C. Dean was inhibiting other hotspots and users keeping their connections. FCC investigators looked into it, visiting the convention center three times and confirming that actions by M.C. Dean were causing the disconnection. A staffer for the company acknowledged the blocking but that visitors could use the center’s WiFi which is available for free in the lobby. It’s not free on the exhibitor floor. Prices to access from there were anywhere from $795 to $1,095. There is also some evidence the company’s actions extended beyond the convention center and extended beyond its walls.

The company has defended their actions saying it was to improve security and reliability. The FCC has alleged how that’s the case hasn’t been answered.

The FCC is proposing a fine of $718,000 and you can read the FCC’s full take here. Due to the company’s profitability from this, as well as the amount of times they did it, the FCC has come down pretty hard with this one.

I reached out to conventions such as Otakon and Baltimore Comic Con as well as vendors and exhibitors at the show. Baltimore Comic Con got back to me saying their process has exhibitors paying M.C. Dean directly for WiFi services, and that they themselves didn’t use the WiFi themselves, sticking with the cellular network and MiFi. Otakon did respond having received my inquiry, but I haven’t gotten their full details by time of publishing. This will be updated if any further statement is received.

I spoke to numerous exhibitors and vendors. None I spoke to used the WiFi offered by M.C. Dean, with many of them citing the price as to why not. One comic publisher said:

We didn’t use the WiFi at the con this year. When we were told that WiFi was going to cost us over $1,000 on the exhibit floor, at first we thought that couldn’t be right. But when we realized that was indeed the case, we used the Hotspot on one of our staffers’ cell phones instead, and it worked great.

I hope no one paid that fee!

That publisher said their Hotspot did work fine from the floor.

We’ll continue to follow the story and follow-up during next year’s Otakon and Baltimore Comic Con to see if pricing has changed.

It is also unknown if individuals who paid for the service are able or will receive restitution (reading the FCC’s document, I didn’t see anything about that). Individuals who feel they should, should probably contact the FCC or their lawyer.

Update: We have received a statement from Otakon.

Otakorp is aware of the recent FCC investigation and is monitoring the developments closely.  Otakorp/Otakon makes very limited use of wireless internet in the BCC.  We’re looking forward to working with the BCC and MC Dean for our final year in Baltimore.

– Nick  Avgerinos, Otakorp Vice President.

(via Consumerist)

Fan-Fiction as the “Uberization” of Canon

I recently came across a blog by Nassim Taleb Nicholas describing the “Uberization” of education, the proliferation, of bottom-up alternatives to education such as MOOCs and other means of training that are slowly catching up with the traditional paradigm of formal education. Nassim was making the point that decentralization and perhaps disruption is becoming the norm, allowing people a greater range of freedom by providing means to bypass rigid establishments (i.e. the University). This article was a timely find for me as I have been really obsessed and invested in all variants of decentralization and disruption both academically and by virtue of curiosity. The following is an example of some various forms of disruptive industry.

Digital DisruptionUpon some reflection I would  argue that fan-fiction could be considered an “uberized” response to traditional canon. Admittedly I am no expert on the phenomenon of fan-fiction, however I do know enough to recognize its mass and broadening appeal to people of many ages within various fandoms and tastes. Within the world of fan-fiction there truly appears to be something for everyone and this momentum doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Fan-fictional works span from the fan imagined continuation of cancelled series, fictional universe mashups/crossovers, to the practice of romantic “shipping”  that ranges from platonic to the outright erotic (slash/fiction). I find this absolutely fascinating. There is a degree of creative wish fulfillment going on here that is very alluring and seemingly all encompassing. Perhaps fan-fiction represents the “made-to-order” consumer-oriented advent with respect to canonized fictional works. A lot of people forget that 50 Shades of Grey technically started out as erotic Twilight Fan-Fiction. Not that I’ve ever indulged in that swill *spits on the ground*

Phoenix and WandapngI experienced my appreciation for fan-fiction first hand after reading Marvel‘s mega event Avengers vs X-Men. AvX arrived with much marketing and fanfare, the culmination of years of Marvel lore, and a controversial smackdown between two major franchises. AvX excited me in the run up to the event but afterwards in its aftermath I was ultimately underwhelmed by it. In sum AvX was just too big. Too many writers, too many tie-ins to dance between. Overall the event felt constrained perhaps by editorial restrictions and glaring continuity errors. At 10 issues long I felt the overarching goal was to just sell as many issues as possible rather than to focus on good storytelling. Ulitmately the resurgence of mutantkind should have been a monumental occurrence, AvX made it feel like a whimper. Additionally The Phoenix force a pillar of X-Men lore was relegated to a mere plot device. Likewise Hope Summers a Character Marvel spent years investing and developing was essentially a McGuffin for the story. In my judgement mega comic events tend to  become productions that are too-big, and collapse under their own weight. Large teams of writers or “Architects” are enlisted and eventually things become cacaphonic.

Mutant ResurgenceSoon after I stumbled upon a fanfic on a website called Archive of Our Own titled Firebirds which was billed as the story that AvX should have been. A “fix-it” story as labelled in one if its tags. This was no lie, the story was everything an X-Fan or Avengers fan could want from the AvX conflict with some unexpected edge. The story was gritty, dark, violent and punctuated with some very shocking deaths that kept you reading. Oh and did I mention the profanity? That was nice touch to be included. Above all else I really loved the creative twist that the author took with the AvX storyline, the readers were to introduced some broader plot elements/factions that fleshed out the continuity, and the characterization was razor sharp.  You could really tell that the author knew the characters and their history and showcased this wonderfully in their interactions. Firebirds was my first bonafide foray into fanfiction and it was a surreal experience because it was a non-canon story that I enjoyed more than its canonical counterpart!  I remember uploading every single chapter to my kindle and waiting impatiently for each new update on the story after finishing each installment.

This experience made me realize that perhaps Marvel’s house of ideas and arguably other publishers alone don’t hold a monopoly on creative story telling. If Marvel’s AXIS was any indication, Marvel itself seems to be waning in this regard. There is even some evidence that most of Marvels’ acclaimed architects are gravitating towards more creator-owned ventures. Kieron Gillen, and Matt Fraction are notable examples. The glaring and more recent example of this dearth of creativity would be Marvel’s AXIS event, which rehashed so much of the plot of AvX and past event story-lines it was unbearable to endure.

The popularity and enjoyment of fan-fiction is definitely something to watch for I would argue, as other forms of media are poised for their own encounters with “uberization.” I follow an artist on Tumblr who has put together several X-Men team concepts one of which “Endless Summers” I would definitely pay to read . The concept is essentially a Summers reunion of sorts planned with some very appropriate villians with contemporary and fitting plot elements. Though it is way too early to say whether fan-fiction can maintain enough momentum to become a viable alternative to traditional fictional media, I believe there is a case to made that if publishers are looking to inject fresh blood into their respective house of ideas they should start paying close attention to fan-fiction or perhaps consider hiring fan-fic writers. Shameless Plug Alert, although I am not currently looking for work in the comic industry, I did put together a fan-fic of my own called Aerie. Inspired by Firebirds and my love for all things Shi’ar I wanted to put forth a creative story that was hybrid of sorts of the Shi’ar and the HBO series Rome. Life and school got in the way and I was not able to continue the venture, but I am very proud of the first chapter and the opportunity to add my own imagination to the growing tapestry of fan-fiction. Have a look if your curiosity has been piqued!

What do you think? Is Fan-Fiction an idle waste of time? Or is here to stay? What are the legal ramifications of it? Who “owns” the characters? are respectful disclaimers enough? Do fans have the right to write creatively about the characters they love? I’d love to hear some thoughts in the comments section below!

New DMCA Exemptions from the Librarian of Congress including some Video Games

1024px-Copyright.svgThe Librarian of Congress has adopted new exemptions for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA has prohibitions against circumvention of technology measures.

The decision was part of a public process and evaluated from feedback through that. There was nearly 40,000 written comments and heard testimony from sixty-three witnesses over seven days of public hearings.

Based on all of that, the Register of Copyrights suggested exemptions for twenty-two types of uses and the Librarian adopted them in full. Yeah read the full exemptions (and some of the rejected ones) online.

The rule is effective October 28, 2015.

The decisions affect everyone and some are interesting particularly for us geeks.

One of the exemptions has to do with works distributed electronically for use with “assistive technologies for person who are blind, visually impaired or have print disabilities.” There’s some folks working on comic readers for the blind, and this absolutely impacts that cottage industry.

Also mentioned are video games whose server support has been discontinued, and issue that affects more and more video game fans out there. It’s specifically mentioned this is for “individual play by gamers” and as for preservation of the games by libraries, archives, and museums. It also extends to the console code to help in that preservation.

Overall, a victory for consumers from the draconian and abused DMCA.

Improper Books now on Sequential

Sequential has announced that Improper Books‘ existing and upcoming creator-owned titles are now available on Sequential. This is the first time that these books will be available digitally anywhere, so to celebrate the launch today, all Improper Books titles on Sequential will be available at 50% off the normal digital RRP (up to 80% off print RRP), until Monday, 19th October.

Available now are:

PORCELAIN: A Gothic Fairy Tale, by Benjamin Read & Chris Wildgoose
NIGHT POST, by Benjamin Read & Laura Trinder
MULP: Sceptre of the Sun Issue #1, by Matt Gibbs & Sara Dunkerton
BUTTERFLY GATE, by Benjamin Read & Chris Wildgoose

To be followed on Wednesday, 21st October, 2015 by:

BRIAR, by Benjamin Read & Chris Wildgoose

Dark Horse Single Issues Come to comiXology

Dark Horse comixologyToday Dark Horse Comics, comiXology and Amazon announced an agreement to bring the full catalog of Dark Horse Comics’ single issues to the comiXology platform and Amazon’s Kindle Store. Now, all Dark Horse Comics’ digital single issues will be available on comiXology and the Kindle Store the same-day-as-print versions arrive in comic shops.

This past June, comiXology and Dark Horse Comics announced an agreement to bring Dark Horse’s collections, graphic novels and manga to comiXology. As of today, Dark Horse Comics’ full digital catalog is now available on both comiXology and Amazon’s Kindle Store.

More than 2,000 single issues launched today on comiXology and Amazon’s Kindle Store from Dark Horse Comics, including Fight Club 2, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tomb Raider, The Witcher, Plants vs. Zombies, Halo, The Goon, Archie vs. Predator, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and B.P.R.D. and more.

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