Category: Misc Comics

Digital Comics Distribution – What does the Future Hold?


Marvel has launched Digital Comics Unlimited  recently- access to over 13,000 comics from their digital catalog for a monthly or annual fee. It’s sort of like a Netflix for comics, but only Marvel comics. You can read more about it here.

The news of their unique distribution model got me thinking. It’s been obvious for a while that digital distribution was a big part of comics’ future – the question has been what form would it take? The relative success of Marvel Unlimited could have a lot to do with the future of how comics are made available as a product.

There’s been no small amount of ink and pixels used to talk about how much the monthly comic book has become a dinosaur. I have as much sentimental attachment to it as anyone, but the realities of the market and printing have driven the cost up to $3.99 or more for what is still a 15-20 minute read at best. I don’t think the monthly comic will completely go away any time soon, but I strongly believe that you’re going to see more and more titles available only in digital form while being serialized, until they are collected in a print edition/trade paperback/graphic novel exactly as they are today.


The other big advantage of digital distribution is that it digs the industry back out of the hole it created when it went all-in on direct distribution back in the 80’s, moving away from magazine-style distribution that made comics a common staple of news stands and drug stores to being a specialty item that you had to go to a niche comic book shop to find. Not only does that prevent your product being seen by casual readers and impulse buyers, but many potential comics readers don’t live anywhere NEAR a comic book shop. Digital distribution makes comics available to anyone with an internet connection, giving them greater exposure and potential readers greater access. More and more, digital distribution is transforming every corner of the publishing world, and that’s going to include comics. The publishers would be crazy not to try to get out in front of it, so comic book shops will have to adapt and evolve as any retail store needs to do to survive in a changing marketplace. (Many already have, and sell toys, games, a large selection of trade paperbacks/graphic novels, and other pop culture items right along side comic books, as well as hosting events and other outreach initiatives.)


When digital comics first emerged, a lot of the attention was on format – how to create the best viewing experience on a desktop computer, or a laptop or Kindle, while still preserving something of the traditional comic book look-and-feel, and hopefully keeping the content in a form that could work both digitally and in print. We seem to be moving past that now and the next question is what will become the prevalent business model for digital comics in the 21st Century marketplace? Will each publisher have their own digital comics platform, or will there be one distributor that carries content from multiple publishers?

iTunes logo


Consider the iTunes model, with the alternative being that each music label had their own, exclusive platform for music downloads. Or Netflix, with the alternative that each movie studio had their own platform. The publishers would love to have their own platform – it cuts out a 3rd party middle-man from taking a share of the profits. But is that what the consumer wants? Savvy music and movie buffs may pay attention to what music label or movie studio produces the entertainment they enjoy, but most consumers just follow the artists they like. A typical moviegoer will decide to see a film based on the cast or director, or if the trailers and commercials look good, but don’t care if the film was produced by Warner Brothers, MGM or Sony. With comics, the major publishers have franchises and characters they’d prefer that you follow. It’s great if you’re a fan of Matt Fraction or Greg Capullo, but while the publishers are happy to take full advantage of a creator’s talents and star power, they’d rather you follow their characters, since they OWN those and will always be able to reap the rewards of that following.

Then there’s the question of paid downloads versus a different profit model. Many web-based comics give the content away for free on line, but make their money from advertising, merchandise, or print editions. This has the advantage of making the potential piracy of the digital content a relative non-issue. Still others use a pay-what-you-can or donation model, which depends on an appreciative fan base wanting to support the creators of the content they enjoy and willing to contribute for the sake of its continuation.


While the digital comics landscape may never distill itself down into a single unified system, it seems likely that a particular model will become the dominant one, with the major content producers adopting a preferred system and a conventionel wisdom emerging as to what is the most profitable model. Like many of the format wars of the past, the winner may not be the best system. Many people will tell you that Betamax was better than VHS, or that HD-DVD had advantages over Blu-Ray, but in the end the inferior formats won decisive victories in the marketplace because of locking up market share.



There’s a lot of experimenting going on right now with digital distribution models, and a lot of competition for market share. DC and Marvel are both pushing digital editions of their comics, either directly or using partners like Comixology. Mark Waid’s Thrillbent is another new player on the scene, trying to produce content exclusively for the digital realm and offering it to readers for free.

Again, I don’t think digital means end of the comic book. But it’s a new format and a chance to reach more readers. How’s that going to work in the marketplace five or ten years from now? Your guess is as good as mine… but I can’t wait to see what it all looks like!

Origin Story: Kid Flash from Young Justice #5

I posted this on Tumblr a few days ago and at got a good response there, so I thought I’d do a slightly expanded version here.

This is Kid Flash’s origin as told by the Kid himself (aka Wally West) in Young Justice #5. Furthermore, it’s a comparison of my pencil art with the digital inks and the final print version.

Script by Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani
Pencils by Christopher Jones
Inks by Dan Davis
Colors by Zac Atkinson
Letters by Carlos M. Mangual

This comic was scripted by Art and Franco, but the versions of the origin stories presented in it were based on Young Justice continuity as developed for the TV show by Greg Weisman and the other writers. This was my first issue drawing Young Justice, and I was still trying to master the nuances of the character designs. Complicating matters was trying to draw the characters a year or two younger in flashbacks! Let’s dive in!

YJ #5 pencils-inks-colors pg 10 prev

This issue featured members of the newly-formed team going on a camping trip together and getting to know more about each-other as they tell (origin) stories around the campfire. Aqualad’s story about becoming the protege to Aquaman was just wrapping up as we get to Kid Flash. Wally’s story starts with the origin of the original Flash Jay Garrick, so I got to draw Central City in the 1940s. The “Lampert” Building seen in that panel is a reference to Harry Lampert, artist and co-creator of The Flash with writer Gardner Fox. I love throwing in references like that!

YJ #5 pencils-inks-colors pg 11 prev

Here we see a young Barry Allen meeting Jay Garrick and getting his autograph on a copy of the Golden Age Flash #1 before becoming the second incarnation of The Flash. I drew a simplified version of the Flash #1 cover art and composited it into the artwork in Photoshop so I could get greater detail than I could have done in the raw pencils.

YJ #5 pencils-inks-colors pg 12 prev

This page is a good example of leaving room in the artwork for the lettering that is to be placed later. Panel 4 is the simple version – the shot is tight enough on Barry Allen that it didn’t need a background, so I just left enough space to the side of him that the lettering would fit without covering Barry up. But check out Panel 2 right above it.  There’s a whole bunch of background that gets covered up by the fairly large amount of text in that panel. But none of it was important. You just needed to see enough to know you were in a bedroom next to an open closet. All the important stuff (Wally, the open case with Barry’s notebooks) is at the bottom of the panel, with lots of vertical lines in perspective leading your eye down to it.

YJ #5 pencils-inks-colors pg 13 prev

I remember enjoying drawing the makeshift laboratory in Wally’s parents’ garage. I tried to make it feel kind of ramshackle, with equipment that like it would have been more at home in a high-school chemistry class than a high-tech lab.

YJ #5 pencils-inks-colors pg 14 prev

Those are Wally’s parents on the left in Panel 2, who appeared in the TV show, but who I didn’t yet have reference for when I drew this. On the right is Iris and Barry Allen. Barry’s hair is getting a little orange here, rather than his usual blonde buzz-cut. Maybe he’s been hanging out with Wally too much…

YJ #5 pencils-inks-colors pg 15 prev

And finally we see Wally somewhat reluctantly accepted as Barry’s sidekick, Kid Flash.

If you’d like to see more sequences broken down this way, let me know!

Doing my first Reddit AMA

I am doing my very first Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) this weekend on r/YoungJustice with Zac Atkinson!


Join DC’s Young Justice Comic Book artists Christopher Jones (penciller/inker) and Zac Atkinson (colorist) for an AMA on r/YoungJustice Sunday, March 10th at 5PM EST/4PM CST! Chris and Zac will be answering comic art questions about the Young Justice comic and any other comics projects they’ve worked on, what it is like to work with Greg Weisman and DC Comics, the process behind creating comic book art, and really anything else you might want to know!

You can visit Christopher Jones’ website at You can visit Zac Atkinson’s website at

(Chris and Zac worked on the Young Justice comic book for DC Comics. They have not worked on the Young Justice TV show and don’t have any inside information about the show.)

This will be Zac’s and my first foray onto Reddit, but hopefully it will be fun! (Though I am still on the fence about whether I would rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck. I’ll have to give that one some thought…)

The Amazing Spider-Costume


Today released our first look at the updated Spider-man costume from the upcoming sequel to The Amazing Spider-man. (Amazing Spider-man 2? Spectacular Spider-man? Amazing-er Spider-man?) I thought it would be worthwhile to update a post I made when we were getting our first looks at the costume from the previous film.

While I find it weird that after such an extreme redesign of the Spider-man costume in the previous film to something so close to the suit from the Sam Raimi Spider-man films, I have to applaud the fact that for the first time in five films they have gotten the eyes right. I’m still not thrilled with the hard-shell lenses, and I don’t think they have to be as large as the ones here (although at least they eyes aren’t of McFarlane-esque proportions), I love that these have the swoop and aesthetic feel that the eyes have usually had in the comics costumes, as opposed to the more triangular shapes we’ve had previously.


No, not these eyes either.

I was pretty vocal about not being a fan of the costume from 2012’s Amazing Spider-man when we first saw it. It struck me as a radical and unnecessary redesign of one of the best costumes in comics. While this sneak peek at the costume from the sequel looks like we’re going 180 degrees from that to the closest we’ve yet gotten to the comic book costume, I still feel it shares certain problems with all the previous cinematic Spidey suits.

There’s a tendency to give superheroes in movies costumes that LOOK AMAZING on screen with a depth of detail and texture, but that sometimes defies the logic of the character and the story.

It actually started with Sam Raimi’s Spider-man from 2002. Oscar-winning costume designer James Acheson did some genius things with that costume. Previous superhero films had either had actor bulk up for the role and then put him in spandex, like the Christopher Reeve Superman costume, or had been given a bulky muscle suit like the Michael Keaton Batman.


Christopher Reeve as Superman (1978)


Michael Keaton as Batman (1989)

Both of these were reasonably successful for their time, but the bulky Batman costume was inflexible and didn’t move well, and Superman often didn’t look as physically impressive as he might have otherwise given the tremendous shape Christopher Reeve was in, given the way Spandex tends to round off and compress the musculature of the body underneath. Neither of these approaches were going to work for Spider-man.

Tobey Maguire (or a stuntman?) in Spider-man (2002)

James Acheson realized that bulking an actor up with muscle suits looks fake, he created a thin, sculpted muscle suit that didn’t bulk up the actor, but merely restored the definition that would be otherwise lost to the spandex costume that was then worn over the top. This was further enhanced with computer-rendered mesh patterns and shading over the surfaces of the costume that added to the illusion of super-heroic musculature to the suit. The thin muscle suit under the spandex worked like a charm, but I always thought muscle textures worked better on the darker parts of the suit, and that the muscles on the red chest and abdominal areas looked painted on, raising the question of why it was a priority to Peter Parker to look like he had six pack abs at all times.

superman returns texture

Superman Returns (2006)


Man of Steel (2013)

Of course the overall effect was a huge success and the movie was a smash, so it’s not surprising that this innovative costuming approach became a trendsetter for many films to follow. Both Superman Returns and the new Man of Steel featured Superman costumes adorned with fine repeating patterns. The Superman Returns version had a pattern of tiny S-shields on parts of it which seemed silly to me, while the Man of Steel version looks like chain-mail armor, which strikes me as unnecessary.

spock shirt

Starfleet Uniform from Star Trek (2009)

This fine screen-print pattern business even made it’s way onto the Starfleet Uniforms in the 2009 Star Trek film with a field of repeating Starfleet arrowhead logos!

With all the other changes made to the 2012 Amazing Spider-man costume, the texture pattern evolved as well. This time it looked like it was sculpted into the surface of a more rubbery suit. The web patterns had changed as well. The Raimi suit had been reasonably faithful to the stylized, scalloped web pattern of the comics, and had transformed the black lines of the comics into raised shapes applied to the surface of the costume. The 2012 suit  turned those lines into a grid pattern that seemed to be pressed into the surface of the rubbery material. This texture in conjunction grid pattern gave Spidey’s head enough resemblance to basket ball to produce a few Spalding-man jokes.


The Amazing Spaulding-Man

Now it seems like the whole design aesthetic from the 2012 film is being dropped. The scalloped web pattern is back, and from what we can see I’d guess the more traditional patterns of red and blue from the comics will be back as well.  I’m betting the odd sports shoe boots are gone as well. The raised webbing patterns and screen printed textures of the Raimi suit are returning, but with eye shapes more closely resembling the comic book costume than we’ve had previously.

Misguided Olympic Speed Skater

Misguided Olympic Speed Skater

$10,000 Spider-man Costume

$10,000 Spider-man Costume

Lives with Aunt May

Lives with Aunt May

So why am I complaining? Why am I not yet completely satisfied? Is there no pleasing me?

I think this costume is going to be gorgeous, but I don’t for one second believe it’s something that Peter Parker made in his bedroom on a shoestring budget. Yes, the costume looks like a million bucks. But it shouldn’t. Thor can have a magic suit. Iron Man armor should look like it cost a billion dollars. But Spider-man is a character who is by definition a struggling young science-nerd with limited resources. His costume should reflect that. I’d love to see a Spider-man costume in a movie that looks hand-made. Maybe with practice, Peter gets better at making them over time, or even buys a professionally made one after Spider-man becomes a celebrity and a popular subject for masquerade costumes! But I’d still love to see a Spider-man movie where Spidey’s costume accumulates damage and patches and stains as he has his rough-and-tumble adventures.


The Electric Company Spider-man Costume

And for the record, I still think that Peter Parker’s first Spider-man costume probably most resembled the very first live-action Spider-man – the one from The Electric Company! Don’t worry – even I think later versions got better!

In Stores NOW: Young Justice – Volume 3

Mine, all MIne! (Until February)

Mine, all Mine!

Young Justice: Volume 3 – Creature Features is in comic book shops and book stores TODAY! Volume 3 collects issues #14-19, featuring our Atlantis, Kobra Cult and Gorilla City storylines. Carrying a cover price of $12.99, this volume joins Volume 1 (issues #0-6) and Volume 2 – Training Day (issues #7-13).

Young Justice #14-15

Young Justice #14-15

Young Justice 16-17

Young Justice #16-17

Young Justice #18-19

Young Justice #18-19

Young Justice: Volume 3 is written by Greg Weisman, drawn by Christopher Jones, colors by Zac Atkinson, and a story drawn by guest artist Lucciano Vecchio.

If you can’t find a copy at your local comic shop or bookstore, you can ask them to order one, or order it on line from a source like!