I read comics on Apple’s Vision Pro. . . It was good


Few joys there A cold world can equal opening a new comic book on a lazy Sunday morning. Nothing to do, nowhere to be – just you, a cup of coffee and some sequential art. Little has fundamentally changed in American comics since publishers began collecting newspaper strips as bound volumes in the early 20th century.

Sure, the content has changed dramatically, but in the end, the essentials are still there: the characters and text captured in panels designed to be read in sequence. However, in recent decades the diversity of delivery methods has expanded. If the first webcomics date back to the days of CompuServe, the rise of digital comics is more directly linked to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets over the last 15 years.

Nowadays, if there is a screen, you can read comics on it. This includes screens that you can attach directly to your face. But as mixed reality headsets have taken hold in the mainstream, comic book reading apps haven’t really kept up. There are a handful of options available. The Meta Quest store, for example, has a Korean app called Spheretoon, which represents a serious effort to create content specifically designed for a VR platform (a YouTube promotional video features a customer’s hopeful quote “much better than expected”).

The lack of options for VR isn’t entirely surprising, as these systems have historically focused on gaming and other fully interactive/immersive entertainment experiences. From what I can tell, comic book fans aren’t loudly demanding the ability to play their favorite titles through their Meta Quest headsets. In terms of focusing, however, the Vision Pro is an entirely different beast.

Apple believes, among other things, that it’s a great way to read things. This is demonstrated in large part by how the company has leaned into the notion of spatial computing as an augmentation, or even an alternative, to the standard desktop variety. It’s something I’ve started calling the “infinite desktop,” a play on words on the concept of “infinite desktop” coined by cartoonist and media theorist Scott McCloud in his 2000 book, “Reinventing the Strip.” drawn: how imagination and technology are revolutionizing an art form”. »

Image credits: Brian Heating

For McCloud, the notion of an infinite canvas is a nod to the limitless potential of artistic creation in the digital realm. It exploited the hope of the beginning of the millennium around the potential of the Internet to free art from its physical constraints. Certainly, the digital space has transformed many aspects of how art (both the fungible and non-fungible varieties) is created and consumed. But nearly a quarter of a century after the book’s publication, as Apple has adopted the “infinite canvas” to describe its own vision, has the comic strip been transformed in any significant way?

Honestly? Not really. Whether you read a comic on paper or on a tablet, it’s fundamentally the same experience. That’s not a bad thing: comic books are awesome. It could reasonably be argued that printed comics constitute the pinnacle of this art form. It’s hard to disagree, although it’s not for lack of trying.

The example of Spheretoon recalls the fortunately short-lived trend of animated comics. Like British indie pop duo Ting Tings, they briefly emerged during the first half of Obama’s first term. In the early days of the MCU, publishers like Marvel were pouring money into a format that attempted to take advantage of emerging technologies by splitting the difference between comics and animation. Think of comic book panels with moving parts.

Beyond some of these ambitious but ultimately doomed attempts, technological innovations have been limited to the way certain comics are drawn (Wacom tablets, etc.) and consumed (smartphones and tablets). Ultimately, though, it’s the same old comics with a different delivery method.

Image credits: Brian Heating

Comixology – another innovation from the early Obama era – has had a profound impact on this aspect of things. The service combined a very simple app and smooth reader with a large store full of digital comics. Comixology Unlimited launched in 2016, offering readers a Netflix-style comics subscription service for $6 per month. In 2021, Amazon — which had acquired the company seven years before — did what big companies do to promising young startups: It burned it down and let fans sort through its ashes.

Despite this disappointing ending, however, the service had already set the benchmark for reading print comics on digital platforms, and its mark is still felt across the proprietary apps of comic book publishing powerhouses like Marvel and Dark Horse. None of them seem eager to once again reinvent digital comics for the field of spatial computing, but one of the beautiful things about Vision Pro’s launch is that minimal development effort is required to ensure iPadOS apps work on visionOS.

As such, the ported iPadOS apps make up the bulk of my Vision Pro comic reading. I mainly played with the Marvel and Dark Horse apps. The former works pretty much the same as Comixology Unlimited, but for a single publisher at $10 per month (I’m currently taking advantage of the 7-day free trial). Echoing YouTube’s enlightening quote above, the experience was “better than expected.” It’s not life-changing, it’s not the end of my paper comic reading experience, but it’s not entirely bad.

Image credits: Brian Heating

I say this as someone who has limited their use of Vision Pro for the reasons described in This item. Reading books panel by panel involves plot of scrolling and is, overall, far from ideal. However, spreading them out over a full page and placing them in the mixed reality area in front of you is pretty neat. Enter an environment like Mt. Hood and enjoy reading by a large lake in the middle of a pine forest.

Pages appear large and bright, showing the art in detail via the high-resolution screens. This isn’t a game-changer for the comic in its current form, but it’s easy to imagine that any attempt at innovation in support for the platform would be history for animated comics all over again. I experienced this once. I’m doing well.

I also wouldn’t buy a subscription to a service like Marvel’s just for the purpose of reading on Vision Pro. If, on the other hand, I already had one active for my iPad or iPhone, I could easily imagine taking a break from the Infinite Desktop to check out what the Great Lakes Avengers have been up to over the past 35 years.


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