Panel Syndicate is alive and kicking

I’ve mentioned my love of Panel Syndicate before, on this blog as well as on the Unreliable Narrators podcast. It bears repeating, as the brainchild of comics legend Marcos Martin continues to produce great stuff.

Admittedly started as a grand experiment, the site began as a delivery system for Martin and Brian K. Vaughan’s limited series, The Private Eye. That series was great, but I remained skeptical that PS could continue to make the pay-what-you-want, DRM-free model work once that series ended. Happily, both Martin and Vaughan are back with Barrier, another great series that began late last year. In the interim, they began releasing Universe!, a book that introduced U.S. audiences to the work of Spanish cartoonist Albert Monteys. We’re still waiting on word of the PS exclusive release of a Walking Dead story from Robert Kirkman, but their deal with Image has only increased their profile.

The Panel Syndicate model is what separates it from other online comics platforms like Comixology and Thrillbent. Creator-owned comics are offered on a “name your price” basis in a wide variety of DRM-free file formats (PDF. CBR, CBZ). Even better, these digital-only comics are fully formatted for horizontal display; no awkward scans of narrow print pages, or clumsy panel-follow animations required!

To be fair, digital comics have seen improvement on the mainstream front. Image now offers DRM-free downloads in its online store, and even Comixology has begun offering file downloads from Image and other publishers. Only Panel Syndicate, however, manages all of the above-mentioned advantages of the print-free revolution. May they continue to grow and to influence other creators in this direction.

The Private Eye

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Here’s something interesting, Brian K. Vaughan (Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man) and Marcos Martin (Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil) have just released the first issue of their new comic series, The Private Eye. It’s available now and online only through Panel Syndicate.

Everything about this release is awesome. First, there’s the promise of a fun ongoing story about a PI in a future L.A. that no longer uses the internet. More importantly, it’s a creator-owned release, independently distributed in a variety of formats (PDF. CBR, CBZ) and you can name your own price!  Even better, it really feels like it was made specifically for online distribution: the wonderful artwork is laid out in landscape format that is more conducive to a 16×9 screen. And reading with a good CBR browser (like CDisplay) means no clumsy interface and navigation between you and the artwork.

This is exactly the sort of product I would love to see more of, especially from such top-drawer contributors. Online comic reader stores and platforms are useful for the occasional fix, but usually charge full retail price for crippling DRM and silly restricted usage on their own servers. Check it out and support independent distribution, so we receive more of this goodness!