You may have heard about this guy, Scott Pilgrim. It’s a series of comic books by Bryan Lee O’Malley that just concluded this summer, and it also happens to be a highly anticipated movie that opened last weekend … to disappointing box office figures. In case you don’t have any idea what all the fuss is about, there’s another way to experience Scott Pilgrim: on your smartphone or iPad. It’s a bit odd, though: HarperCollins released Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little App via Robot Comics, which is not available for US and Canadian customers. ONI Press’ version is through ComiXology and is available in North America. And if you’re using an Android phone, Robot Comics’ version is available, but so far in limited countries (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and UK.)
Robot Comics added some fun features to their app, which zooms from panel to panel as you tap, occasionally throwing in some motion and panning depending on the panels. It becomes something halfway between reading and watching the comic. They’ve also hidden various secrets—tapping the right panel will unlock sketches, wallpaper, and other fun extras—and included a comments feature so you can see what other people are saying about the comics. However, the weak part of the comments is that they seem to be for the whole book; you can’t tie a comment to a particular frame or page of the comic. Like the rest of Robot Comics’ apps, you can pinch/squeeze to zoom in and out of a whole page, and get an index page to quickly skip to the desired page. The app itself is free, but then it’s £3.49 for each volume. So far, the first three are available.
For you Android users (in the above listed markets), each volume is a stand-alone app at £3.49, and there’s a free version which includes the first chapter. I did get a sneak peek at the Android version, and it’s slightly different from the iPhone version. The navigation through the pages is similar with the same motion (and phone vibration) thrown in, but there’s also letterboxing which blacks out the panels except for the one you’re looking at. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same app.
There’s a fun video trailer for the app, too.
Wired: Nice controls for zooming, browsing; added motion makes an already-dynamic comic come to life. Hidden secrets are fun to search for and have fun rewards.
Tired: Comments section applies to the whole book/app so it’s not really useful for commenting on a particular section. Only first three volumes available so far.
ComiXology’s app is slightly different: again, it’s a free app with in-app purchasing. Each of the volumes is $6.99 except for volume 6, which is $11.99. The app comes with the first chapter of Volume 1 for free, as well as the Free Comic Book Day story (which takes place between Volumes 3 and 4). You can still tap to go from panel to panel and there’s a browser to jump to a particular page, but you can’t zoom out with pinch/squeeze to see a whole page at a time. There’s a setting to either see the whole page when you first enter it, or when you leave it, but otherwise you just have to follow the app’s zoom-and-pan sequence. The one thing I do like about ComiXology’s version is the optional letterboxing, which blacks out anything outside of the current panel. It’s nice when the panels aren’t exactly the right shape for the screen, so you don’t see a portion of a speech bubble from an adjacent frame. Overall, the ComiXology app feels a lot more static after having seen the Robot Comics’ version, but if you’re in North America you should at least check out the free samples to see if you like it.
Wired: Letterboxing lets you focus on the current panel; Free Comic Book Day story is a bonus.
Tired: Controls for seeing a whole page at a time are less flexible, no other extras.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we really get a choice: you get the app that goes with your market, and it’s doubtful that Apple would approve both apps for the same market. The pricing on the volumes for both apps seems a little steep, considering that the books are available from Amazon for not much more than that. Having all six books on one device is certainly easier than carrying a stack of books around, but personally I think the Robot Comics’ version has some more added value. The ComiXology app is basically just the comic itself, formatted for your iPhone or iPad.
By the way, if you’re one of those people who didn’t go see the movie last weekend, I encourage you to go check it out. If you grew up with Atari and Nintendo, hanging out in arcades, this movie is for you. Please don’t let a disappointing box office mean this sort of movie won’t ever get made again. I got to see a sneak preview at Comic-Con, and I’m definitely planning to go buy tickets to see it with my wife when we can. (My excuse is that my small-town theater doesn’t have it yet; we may have to drive three hours to get to a theater.)