Of the many comic book apps I have tried on the iPad, Comic Zeal ($4.99) is my clear favorite. I believe it was the very first comic book reader available in the App Store for the iPhone, and from there it has matured into a wonderful means of reading comic books on the iPad. Since its inception is has been regularly updated and improved. If you write Bitolithic with a question or problem with Comic Zeal, expect a prompt and considerate response. They care about the app and they care about the user’s experience very much, right down to trying to make the best app possible for their own enjoyment.
Let’s go through the process of acquiring a comic book and describe the experience from there.
Here’s what happens after you buy and download a comic book from a major publisher’s website solely with the iPad through a browser like Safari, and how once it finally downloads that 20-50 Meg file a dialog pops up on your iPad looking like this:
- captured from my iPad Air -
That’s as easy as it gets. The difference with Comic Zeal is that after a comic book is put into it, Comic Zeal then takes a couple seconds to unarchive the file. Why would it do that? Because when you are flipping through the comic the pages turn much faster than otherwise. The problem with this is you cannot drag and drop the file from your iPad to your desktop computer through iTunes. It is my experience that you can re-download the comics you purchase from the publisher to the device of your choice at no extra charge. My preferred method is to download the file to my Mac and then drag it into Comic Zeal through iTunes. Dropbox can also be used.
What’s all this about archived files?
Comic books commonly come in one of two kinds of files: CBR or CBZ. These are RAR and ZIP files with the extensions changed so that they can be associated with comic book readers. Back in the day, about the year 2000, I used to scan my own comics page by page and then zip them into neat little collections of files. I edited the filename “Superman-252.zip” to be ”Superman-252.cbz”. It amazes me to think back and remember I did that with over 1500 of my own comics, at 20+ pages per book. This can still be done today with your own physical comics.
Open a comic by tapping it. Simple. Here are the options you can use while looking at a comic book:
- Pictured is “A Voice in the Dark” by Larime Taylor, published by Image Comics -
You can access these controls with a single tap anywhere on the screen, otherwise the comic book image fills the entire screen. Of special note here are the iPad’s brightness control, page turn animation, whether you want to tap the edge of the screen to turn a page, and the background color. The upper left of the screen shows a left-pointing arrow that will take you back to the directory view (your page, in every comic, will be remembered). The slider along the bottom will take you to any page you choose directly.
Pinching in and out will adjust the size of the image, and if you are near the height or width of the page it will snap to that edge so you can see as much as possible. You can zoom beyond by pinching out or by double tapping. Double tap a specific spot to zoom in to that exact location after which you can scroll around, and then double tap again to return to the way you had it before. Let’s tap the upper left of the screen and take a look at the directory which is where Comic Zeal really shines.
iPad Tip: In any app where you can zoom, scroll with two fingers. That way you can both move around and zoom as desired.
Now for that directory view:
- Screenshot of Comic Zeal’s directory view -
This is where the real innovation is. Each of the banners is a comic book. The red triangle along the right edge is the Slider. One or more comics can be put into that slider by swiping from the right half of the banner toward the right, as many as you like, one at a time. Just flick. Then you can spit them back out by dragging from the slider to the left and they come back out in the order you put them in. In programming parlance this is called a FIFO queue (First In First Out). You can put a copy of a comic into the Slider by using two fingers instead of one so a reading list can be created — this is great for those grand story arcs that include many titles each month. If you delete the copy it does not delete the original.
Moving things into the slider is not constrained to individual comic books but also can be done with directories and subdirectories. Tap the slider and options for itself and the directory appear. You can navigate around loading up the slider and then go to where you want to empty it, position it horizontally, and then flick everything out in the order you put them in. This touch-based directory system makes arranging a large number of comic books easy to do.
Comic Zeal is rich in features. I have only covered the core basics.
To explore all the features, tap every icon on the screen including the little circled “i”s. And tap the Slider to see what it offers.
Comic Zeal is for: People who buy their comics individually or already have their own collection of CBR and CBZ files.
Comic Zeal is not for: People who like to subscribe to a specific publisher in order to read through their massive backlog on a subscription basis.
Where to get:
Comic Zeal ($4.99)
Disclosure: I have been a beta tester for Comic Zeal since its introduction to the app store. I purchased Comic Zeal even though I was offered it for free, I like it that much.