Bags, Boards & Gigabytes II

Published on April 11th, 2014

It’s the single-most wonderful and life-changing thing that I’ve ever done for myself. I’m speaking, of course, about laser eye surgery. There was a point, however, where the procedure made me want to crawl into a hole and die. You see, my corneas are too thin for what is considered conventional LASIK surgery, but the doctor gleefully explained that he could perform an alternative procedure called PRK. Now, I won’t bore you with the messy details, but only tell you that the healing process is longer and more painful for PRK than its LASIK counterpart. I didn’t care. I had been trapped by the burden of “Coke-bottle” glasses and uncomfortable contact lenses for 20 years and was desperate to gain my freedom. Never did I expect to experience what followed. There was intense pain, nausea and light sensitivity, and I felt like I had made the biggest mistake of (at the time) my twenty-something life. Once my healing began in earnest, however, the problems gradually went away to be replaced by 20/15 vision and the freedom I had yearned for so long. I can now shower, swim and do a host of other things where before I would be nearly blind. The transformation to my quality of life has been tremendous, despite its rocky start. What does this experience have to do with my transition from paper comics to digital comics? Read on, true believers.


In part one of this column, I had completed a vast amount of research to evaluate the hardware, platforms and costs associated with digital comics. With all my comparisons and decisions complete, it seemed like the hard part was over. My aim was to purchase an iPad Air, subscribe to Marvel Unlimited and purchase my non-Marvel titles through the DCBS portal with Comixology.  My simple plan took a disastrous turn, however, when I attempted to place the order with my wireless company, AT&T. I won’t go into detail how they muddled up my wireless service plan, but as far as the iPad Air was concerned, it initially seemed like I placed my order without a hitch. Boy, was I wrong.

ATTOne week after the order was placed, I started getting a little antsy for my new toy to arrive. Somebody at AT&T was kind enough to give me a UPS tracking number, but when I checked it’s status online, the product was being shipped back to AT&T (even though it was literally down the street from me at the time)! The folks there explained to me that my iPad was being recalled because I never accepted the online terms and conditions. “What online terms and conditions?”, I asked, wondering where in the process anybody might’ve explained that part to me. In any case, we canceled the order, placed a new one, and I received instructions for what page to visit to accept the terms and conditions. One day passed, then another, then a whole weekend, and still the website could not find an active order in their system, preventing any progress.

I learned later that the person who placed the second order had entered the wrong item, an iPad Mini. What followed were about a dozen more frustrating phone calls to AT&T, speaking to at least 20 different personnel and supervisors (each one needing me to describe my whole ordeal), and a total of seven hours either on hold or attempting to track down one of three different orders. Eventually, in the middle of a dispute where I had been charged twice without any indication that any orders were still active, an iPad Air showed up at my doorstep. After all that frustration, I felt like I just wanted to throw the thing into a wood chipper. Oh, the clenching of fists and gnashing of teeth were so prevalent during those two and a half weeks! And yet, a small bundle of joy with a Retina Display was now in my arms, and I’d be damned if I was going to give AT&T one more ounce of my righteous fury.

One of the first things I did with my new iPad was to purchase a year-long subscription to Marvel Unlimited. It took me a good week to figure out how everything works, but it’s been a genuine pleasure ever since. In the last month, I’ve read enough comics from Marvel where their cover price would pay for five years worth of the subscription cost. Everything from Claws of the Cat and The Defenders to Guardians of the Galaxy and Infinity is at my disposal, and I’m absolutely loving it. It’s a very enjoyable reading experience and the library of Marvel Comics from which to choose is extensive.

While I had planned to acquire my other comics through DCBS’s Comixology portal, I learned that Comixology offered a way for me to buy digital comics yet still do business with my LCS. I spoke to the owner of Creative Comics, which supplies me with my Bronze Age goodies, and persuaded him to set up a digital storefront with Comixology. This way, a little bit of every comic book I purchase ends up in the pocket of my favorite store. As soon as he got it set up, it was child’s play to load up my iPad Air with the latest goodies from Image Comics, IDW Publishing, Oni Press, Top Shelf, Maerkle Press and others. The only exception was with Dark Horse Comics, which required its own app to purchase and read its comics separately from my Comixology app. Not much of an inconvenience, in my opinion.

Throughout this whole process, I had my doubts as to the different experience I would have reading digital comics compared to their paper counterparts. I was certain that I would miss the feel of paper in my hands, the smell of the printer’s ink and the ritual of walking out of my LCS with a bag of weekly treasures. To be perfectly honest, I don’t miss any of those things. When I read a book now, the artwork is vibrant and stunning, and there are no advertisements to interrupt my reading experience. I can carry literally thousands of comic books with me at all times and begin reading one at a moment’s notice wherever I may be. The collector’s mentality which resulted in rows and piles of long boxes and short boxes to clutter my basement has all but left me completely. Not only am I no longer devoting time to bagging and boarding single issues, but I no longer have to deal with the ongoing cost of those supplies. In addition, I have gained the benefit of both leisure and accessibility. Not only can I take my time with a single book or series, reading whatever I can when I have a spare moment, but I can now binge-read longer stories at will, finishing one book and immediately downloading the next.

I absolutely love my comics and still get excited when new comic day brings me the latest stories of my favorite super-heroes, supernatural detectives, science fiction adventurers and post-apocalyptic survivors. It is my sincere opinion that, despite all my paper-dependent trepidation and hardware purchasing difficulties, the world of digital comics is a much more delightful place to be. I found my share of challenges to get here, but the destination is worth every bit of confusion and fist-shaking that came before. If I had any advice to offer, it would be that you buy your hardware from a retail store where you’ll be taking it home that very day. From there, it’s pretty much all smooth sailing. I’ll be continuing to purchase and enjoy my beloved Bronze Age treasures, and yet everything I’m reading digitally is every bit as cool as it’s cracked up to be. Fare thee well!

Rick “Smash” Hansen