The (online) state of comics

screenshot of ffviewI used to love comic books.

When I was in middle school, one of the only two disciplinary reports I received was from reading a comic book. The headmaster ripped up a issue of Groo right in front of me. I remember receiving a tap on my shoulder, him yanking it out of my hands, and me yelling, “No! Don’t…” *riiiiiiippppp*,“…It’s somebody else’s.” The fact that I finished all my homework did not matter to me; knowing that a replacement issue was going to cost me a pretty penny did.

If you couldn’t guess already, most of my comic-book-reading friends didn’t survive prep school.1 Neither did I for I stopped reading them.

Then I went to college.

Caltech is full of geeks and geeks like comic books. The job of our house librarian was to maintain the subscription to the Playboys and the comic books. The school had stacks of old comic books in rooms nobody ever visited. I had a friend who had nearly every Image comic ever (which wasn’t that many, actually) and could draw nearly any comic book character. But the mecca was the Coffeehouse.

The Caltech Coffeehouse consisted of two rooms situated below the old south houses. One was kept forever dark so you could watch the satellite TV. The other was where you got overcooked burgers and shakes so thick2 only masochists used straws (buying new milkshake machines kept the student-run Coffeehouse eternally in debt). It took about two hours to get a burger and a shake because service was so terrible and that is where their stacks of comic books came in: Akira, Watchman, the Dark Knight Returns, Sandman…

Did I mention that it tooks two hours to get your order?

I lost interest after college but I was thinking about it recently and decided to examine the state of comic books online. Mostly, I was looking for some simple drawings to imitate.

It turns out, bittorrent is a friend of the comic book fan: on it, you can download every issue of Superman… ever. Just a mouse click away.


The files on these networks are called CBR or CBZ files. A quick network search told me that they’re just jpegs that have been archived together using RAR or ZIP and then renamed. The nice thing is there are applications, called comic book readers for reading them—perhaps CBR stands for “Comic Book RAR”? Simple and effective. Every Spiderman ever might only take a few DVDs. This thought soon followed:

“Now to find one of these things for the Mac.”

ffview iconBecause of it’s unix underpinnings, there are many for the Mac such as Comical. The one to get, however, is FFView. Gorgeous eye candy and totally free and open source software, FF stands for “Feed Face” and that’s what it does. It’s lightning quick because it uses OpenGL to display it and it understands AppleScript and uses Text-to-Speech so you can control it from a distance using your cell phone or your voice. You can read comic books in the bathtub! That alone has got to rank as the best comic book reader ever.

Comic Libre!

Hats off to the developer and to you creative “file-sharers”. If that itch ever needs to be scratched, I know where to go.

1The comic book writer barely survived prep school—he went to Harvard and at last count was an animator for Disney in Burbank.
2The obsession of west-coasters to ultra-thick shakes I always attributed gluttony meeting the knowledge that ice cream is the most expensive ingredient in a shake. Then again, east coasters think milkshake is simply blended ice milk. You have to go somwhere closer to the center of the country to find balance in a milkshake. Go figure.

2 thoughts on “The (online) state of comics

  1. I wish that Bookpedia could be slightly changed to accomodate comics better–Comicpedia; but I use it anyway, I found it here on your website from your Book collection, that and DVDpedia rocks. Thank you for the link.

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