Modern Tales adopts CBR

The Modern Tales suite of websites, which publishes the work of webcomics creators such as the brilliant Roger “Fred the Clown” Langridge has just announced it’s to offer select longform comics in the downloadable CBR format.

This is a pretty major indie acceptance of CBR, quickly picked up by blogs such as talkaboutcomics and others.

Here’s the press release from Modern Tales honcho Joey Manley in full. (If you’re on a Mac, my preferred CBR reader is Comic Book Lover, not mentioned below):

Modern Tales family of websites (Modern Tales, GirlAMatic, serializer and Graphic Smash) is the first major webcomics network to embrace the downloadable CBR format for full-length, high-resolution digital comic books.

Not familiar with the format? CBR format has rapidly become the preferred means of digital comics delivery for people who mostly like to read comic books or graphic novels when they read comics in print (as opposed to newspaper strip fans, who are very well-served by traditional webcomic technology). Unlike traditional webcomic strips, Comic Book Reader files are complete issues of “comic books” or even full-length “graphic novels” in digital form, released all at once, downloaded onto the fan’s hard drive and consumed at his/her leisure, with crisp graphics and immediate page-loading.

Like MP3 files, CBR’s first gained prominence in the file-sharing world. Apparently there are a lot of comic book fans out there who enjoy scanning their collections (or even the comics they just bought this week) and sharing them with their friends. I don’t necessarily approve of this activity, but I have a lot of respect for the way that P2P and filesharing systems often stand at the forefront of innovation when it comes to media formats and user-friendly ways of doing things.

At Modern Tales, we’ve always attempted to bridge the gap between webcomics and indie print comics. We’ve spent a lot of our emphasis and energy trying to popularize the “longform” webcomic (that is, comics that are more like comic books or graphic novels than like newspaper strips). We’ve done a pretty good job, but that’s not an easy thing to do. Quick, humorous, non-continuity strips just work better on the web, for a lot of reasons. They always will. And there are plenty of great ones (we have some on our own site!), but — well, you know, there’s always more that comics can be. And we’d all like to see comics be everything they can be, right?

CBR format is, far and away, the very best way I’ve discovered to read “longform” comics in digital form. I’m not the only one who thinks so—recently the CBR format has been embraced up by several “real” comic book publishers, like Slave Labor Graphics (see, for example. It’s just a completely different experience from browsing comics on the web. Every line is crisp and clear; every page loads immediately; you can take your hand off the mouse, put one finger on the “page down” key, and lean back, read, and relax.

Seriously, try it out. Note: EyeMelt and others are selling their CBR files. Ours are free. So you really have no excuse not to give it a whirl.

First you’ll need some Comic Book Reader software, such as CDisplay (for Windows), FFView (for Macintosh), Qcomicbook (Linux/KDE) or cbrpager (Linux/Gnome).

Once you’ve downloaded one of the software packages linked above, here are the launch CBR’s from the Modern Tales family:

From Modern Tales proper:

Headsmen (Rogues of Clwyd Rhan one-shot) by Reinder Djikhuis

Fred the Clown Vol. 2 #1 by Roger Langridge

Ballad of Little Monster by Herve Largeaud

Wahoo Morris (Free Comic Book Day issue) by Craig Taillefer

From GirlAMatic:

Galaxion # 1 by Tara Tallen

From serializer:

Make Love the Fetus-X Way by Eric Millikin

From Graphic Smash:

Charity Begins in Hell (Reckless Life) by Tim Demeter

Personally, CBR is okay as far it goes — and in terms of viewing comics on screen I agree, it’s pretty good. But the format needs to be more searchable (a Table of Contents option would be a great add on), for starters, and while this may defeat the object of online comics, you can’t print straight from the CBR — not using Comic Book Lover, anyway.

There are folk working on add-ons to the format, I gather.

And, obviously, there’s no DRM which doesn’t worry many — and the pros and cons of DRM have been discussed ad infinitum and by people far more up on the whole thing than me.

Categories: Digital Comics

5 replies

  1. My personal wishlist for a reader would be podcast-like RSS-with-enclosure functionality, except for CBR/CBZ’s rather than MP3’s.

    Just FYI, the TalkAboutComics blog is owned by the same guy who owns Modern Tales (ummmmm … me), so it’s not too surprising the story would be covered there. 🙂

  2. Heh. I remember buying Fred the Clown minis at Caption in Oxford in ’99 or 2000; didn’t know it had been released to the web now.

  3. Heh — missed that you third person talker you. Good idea. Have you seen Wattpad, the book reader for mobile phones? It’s a little flakey but I like the simple navigation structure.

  4. I haven’t seen that. I’ll try to check it out. My phone isn’t exactly the highest of high tech, though.

  5. Wattpad is a small java application that works on a lot of mobiles. Check it out at The Gutenberg Project is uploading its © free material to the service.

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