I just had a very 21st century reading experience that has messed with my sense of time–and got me thinking about THE FUTURE. [cue echo effect] In the space of a few days, I read every episode of FreakAngels, the free webcomic written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Paul Duffield. It’s a quirky, engaging, surprisingly warm story about disaffected twenty-somethings who happen to be powerful telepaths. Six years ago they destroyed the world, and now they may be building it back. It’s lovely.
But before you go read this thing, some facts about my own freakish reading experience are in order. Namely:
- An episode comes out once a week. There are six pages per episode, each equivalent to a printed page.
- There are now 130 episodes. That’s 780 pages.
- The first episode came out February 15, 2008. It’s now April 4, 2011. That’s 1144 days.
- Missing that many days without reading a page of a wonderful, talked-about comic is called Coming Late to the Party.
- The first 48 episodes covered 24 hours in the character’s lives. This is what they call in comics decompression.
- I could not stop reading. But as good as FreakAngels is, I could not have read so many pages, so quickly, while sitting at my computer. That would cause what doctors call Ass Compression.
- My orgy of reading, my graphical immersion, was made possible only because I had an iPad. This is what’s called Getting Jobbed. As in Steve Jobbed.
- The story is not finished.
You see the problem. I now have to wait around like the proles, killing time for 7 days to get 6 more pages of story. This is like going back to TV before Tivo. How do people live like that?
I can’t offer any advice here. You should definitely FreakAngels. But now? Or later? Ellis seems to be in the final stages of the story, so maybe you can afford to wait. But given the previous statistics, finishing the “final stages” may take two years. Hmm.
But business-wise, I’m intrigued by a few things. First is the business model. Ellis has said it’s like television: you can watch it for free, but the DVDs (in this case, the printed trade editions) will cost you. FreakAngels also sells merchandise — t-shirts, coffee mugs, computer bags, you name it.
Second is the fact that it’s a creator-owned comic, but unlike a lot of webcomics, it’s backed by a publisher, Avatar. They’re providing the web space and publishing the trades. For all I know they also put up money to pay Ellis and Duffield and the other folks who help with the coloring and keep the site running.
Third is that it’s a web comic, but my iPad made it such a pleasurable reading experience. I carried it around like a book, and never shut down the web window, so I could resume where I left out. The art also works for the web. One page at a time, and no two-page spreads, for example.
That said, the experience wasn’t seamless — I was frequently zooming in and zooming out, and my ipad’s wireless connection made some pages load slowly. (Anyone else have a feeble experience with the iPad with your home network? It’s the slowest device on my network.) If there was a free app that did page caching, and removed all the navigation items while I was reading, I would have had an easier time.
[Note to self: Write tutorial to teach webcomics publishers how to do caching.]
More importantly, though, thanks to having a tablet, I’m looking for web comics now. I didn’t have time to read them before, because I spent enough time camped out in front of my PC. But now I can read them anywhere. So if you have a favorite webcomic, please tell me about it.