Friend or Foe

Marvel Comics As Content for Apple's iPad

by Andy Smith

8 April 2010

Is 'good or evil' really the correct frame through which to view Marvel's recently announced relationship with Apple's new iPad?

Comic book fans can sometimes apply the hero and villain convention to many things outside of the medium. We may ask ourselves questions when coming across new trends and innovations.

“Will this tech be used for good or evil?”

“How can we rise up to defend or defeat this thing?”

“Is Loki behind all of this?”

And as of last week, some of us are asking one question.

“Is the iPad a friend or foe?”

It’s an understandable concern. After all, various media sources have the claimed that the iPad could either “save” comic books or destroy the product as we know it. Even asking around your local comic shop may garner mixed reactions. Many store owners have cursed technology since someone first got the bright idea of scanning a single issue and distributing it promptly over torrents and blogs. Now, with the Marvel Comics App allowing the iPad to create a direct link between the pockets of readers and their own, retailers may begin to worry about both the end of the print product and their own occupation.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For years to come, the fanboy traditionalist will still prefer the feel of a 22-page single issue, as comic books are still collected and coveted as something valuable. The iPad, for a while, will simply co-exist with the single issue – just as the trade paperback was once considered a threat to the single issue but now simply occupies the same shelf.

The point is not to see the iPad as a friend or a foe. We should approach it as an fascinating alternative to what we know as the comic book. For those of us who adore the primitive, stapled magazine, we’ll keep waiting for Wednesday to come around to get that weekly stack of fresh comic books. We’ll trade them, accidentally rip them and file them away in bags and boards until it’s the last print medium on the market. For others, sampling an issue on your new iPad may even encourage you to go pick up a trade or two of the series.

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