Adventures in brine

A blog about code, beer, and bread.

Comics: The DRM effect

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When I transitioned from paper to digital, I didn't just reclaim floor space in my loft, I picked up a more eclectic taste in reading material as well. For the most part, I suspect happenstance of maturity in tastes and storage reclamation. One factor, that at least in part, can be attributed to my personal comic book renaissance, is DRM. Which is funny, because I bloody hate DRM.

DRM exposes the shame that we don't really own anything. Buy "A New Hope" of VHS, then wait for the format to become obsolete. Buy it DRM through iTunes, has it really got any less of a shelf life. How many times have we bought the original Star Wars trilogy (to own), throughout our lives. I've bought it three times, twice on VHS, once on DVD. I will not replace the DVDs, unless the movie industry goes DRM free or Disney release an irresistible boxset. Ah, shit.

At first, I took the approach with comics, that I still take with my digital movie collection, that DRM is a fact of life. If you want to see the movie, it's either DRM or a hard copy. I don't want a hard copy. As a side issue, this is why I have not seen Twelve Monkeys in such a long time (not available in the UK to stream, is never on the TV).

With comics, there is a third option that has just become a lot more popular. DRM-free comics. Look, I'm not saying they're new, just that your options have recently increased, albeit at the sacrifice of other ethical issues. What am I talking about? Comixology, a firm favourite of mine for reading digital comics, made the monumental step of allowing creators to offer their comics DRM-free. This is a truly amazing step forward in my view. So, what about the ethics? Man it's annoying that they've been taken over by (the UK tax dodging poster boys) Amazon.

I hate that I'm so invested in this company.

  • I use Amazon Prime, because they have some great streaming options. DRM protected.
  • I use Audible. Amazon & DRM protected! But the best source of audio books I've found.
  • I have a Kindle, because it's easily the best device for reading, which also ties in with Audible. Also DRM protected.
  • And now, now my comics are purchased through Amazon as well. Arrrgh. The one saving grace being that DRM is optional.

Let's save my ethical crises for another post. It's unlikely that Marvel or DC are going to be clicking the "DRM-free" button anytime soon. Dark Horse have their own service which is still disappointingly DRM protected. All of which means that if you want a DRM-free comic book library, you have to look at other publishers.

2000 AD have been selling their entire digital catalogue, DRM-free for a good while now, and they deserve nothing but praise for it. Because of this, I've rekindled my love of their periodical, as well as discovering some real classic gems. Halo Jones is the one that comes immediately to mind. If I have one gripe with 2000 AD, it's its clunky checkout process. No ability to save card details or use Paypal. If the process of buying comics was easier, I'd regrettably be spending more. I know this is true because of in spite of my ethical crises, the Comixology checkout process is smooth like butter. So smooth, it's a little unsettling at times.

I don't just read DRM-free comics. I read a few titles, like Powers, Hellboy & Atomic Robo that are so far not free of their DRM shackles. Here though, I end this post with some DRM-free recommendations.

2000 AD

  • The Ballad of Halo Jones - I love this book so much. It'a true space opera in comic form. Reminiscent of Ender's Game and Forever War.
  • 2000 AD - I'm on #1679. So many stories, so much beautiful artwork. I couldn't hope to remember them all. Shakara!


  • Bitch Planet - I'm three issues in, and it's really good. The art is so cool, very pulpy. The story has kicked off to a great start.
  • Elephantmen - I admit, I've not read this one in a little while, but I was happy to see it go DRM-free. I'm hovering around #28. It's a gritty piece of work and I like how the different threads work together.
  • Morning Glories - Not my usual bag, but the story is compelling. I'm on #15.
  • Jack Staff - The artwork is awesome. The stories for the most part are great, with a lot of funny references, familiar to those of a British upbringing.
  • The Life After - I really love the art in this book. I'm on #3, and so far, it's very original, very surreal.