A look at the Comic Zeal comic book reader on iPad


My preferred way of reading comic books is in print. I doubt that will change. (The smell of a comic book alone is reason enough. Whenever I take a deep whiff of my old comic books, the reward center of my brain blossoms.)

That said, I'm really looking forward to reading old, previously rare comic books on an iPad. Lots of people scan out-of-print comics books and upload them to the Web, so a lifetime of free comic book reading awaits!

Here are some notes on the upcoming iPad compatible version of the comic book reader Comic Zeal:

Comic Zeal 4 is able to read CBZ,ZIP,CBR and RAR files natively. So you can just fire up SyncDocs on your PC or Mac, drag in a whole bunch of CBZ files and import them into Comic Zeal.

Comic Zeal will still need to process the comics and resize the images, although they’re now 60% larger than they were before. This process is going to be optimised and tweaked once we get our hands on a real iPad. At the moment we have no idea how long it will take to process the comics and it could be that on release, using Comic Zeal Sync is still the best option.

You’ll still need to use Comic Zeal Sync to read PDFs, we don’t know how the iPad will deal with opening the huge PDF files that a lot of you have.

At the moment we can’t talk about any other options for transferring the comic files into Comic Zeal so please don’t think I’ve forgotten to mention it, I just can’t talk about it.

Spilling the beans on Comic Zeal V4


  1. It’s just an image viewer then? Ok? So what?

    Shouldn’t stuff like this be content-aware?

  2. I have a pretty intense comic habit- and this is the exact thing I was hoping would come along and make the iPad worthwhile for me. I would gladly switch over to digital versions if I could get all of my monthlies on the same day the print editions hit the racks. If they sold for .99 a file- same as a song on iTunes- I would be sold and never look back at print.

    1. “I would gladly switch over to digital versions if I could get all of my monthlies on the same day the print editions hit the racks.”

      You can do that already if you know where to look, but I strongly recommend you buy the print editions as well. Comics are probably one of the only industries where piracy can actually make a difference between a successful book and a flop.

      1. I don’t pirate comics, never have, never would. I would gladly pay .99 an issue in lieu of 3.99 for printed paper however… It is a very expensive hobby. If the companies can keep or increase their profitability by doing most of their business electronicly- I am all for it- in fact, I would likely collect even more titles that I would otherwise pass up.

  3. This one thing – comic books – makes me want to be an early adopter of the iPad. As much as I think the pad’s going to be cool, nothing else about it says ‘must-have-now’.

    But a comic reader? yes, and hell yes.

  4. I’m really a free software person, so I won’t be getting an iPad anytime soon. Still, this really shows one point in which it fills a void:

    we need an inexpensive, GNU/Linux or FreeBSD-powered tablet PC which is suited for reading.

    Being able to read comic books on an approximately comic book-sized tablet would be wonderful. Laptops are clunky for reading, and so are desktop screens. I can sometimes convince myself that my Acer Aspire One netbook is suited to the task, but it’s really too clunky too. If only it were a tablet …

    I’m not that impressed with the program itself, there’s plenty of free (as in freedom) comic book readers for GNU/Linux. But we don’t really have the hardware. I do hope the iPad will pave the way for a new generation of free ebook-readers, just like the iPhone paved the way for Android (sort of).

  5. A TV show with a $3 million dollar/episode budget sells for $1.99 on iTunes. If comic publishers would offer old comics in bundles around .25/comic or less, I would buy hundreds.

    I would love to have access to some of the old titles. I think a lot of people who would never set foot in a comic shop would. Especially to those old fans (like me) who can’t figure out what the heck is happening in some of these incredibly dense and far out story lines, and certainly don’t want to expose our kids to the extremely adult themes in today’s comics. iTunes has shown that a simple .99 cent game can attract hordes of fans who aren’t gamers and make hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process. Comics publishers should get a clue.

    1. Yes, the Entourage Edge looks a bit clunky – for reading comics, its two-screen outfit is exactly the same thing as my netbook’s screen+keyboard, and is bothersome for the same reason.

      I’d like to see a comic book sized tablet with a touch screen – sort of like the iPad, but with free software. I know Apple is leading the digital innovation thing, but I’d rather follow those who struggle to uphold our civil rights also when we go digital – and that means “something like the iPad”, but with free software.

  6. I’m developing an app for the iPad and really like the small navigator at the lower right. I think I’ll steal it. Thanks!

  7. “Whenever I take a deep whiff of my old comic books, the reward center of my brain blossoms.”

    No, that’s your mold allergies kicking in.

  8. You still can’t get the all important two page layout on the ipad so I’m sticking with print.

      1. @crispinus211 and Hools Verne,

        not sure if you read cbz/cbr comics, but two page layouts exist digitally. Not an issue.

        1. I have read .cbz files on my tablet for quite a few years now and they become more or less illegible when you try and fit two pages on the screen simultaneously.

  9. If this could work with my 800 gigs of CBR/CBZ files, that’d be something. but i’m pretty sure the developers won’t be allowed – by the comic industry – to let non-DRM comics on a non-official server be read.

    1. i’m pretty sure the developers won’t be allowed – by the comic industry – to let non-DRM comics on a non-official server be read


    2. You can load whatever you want. It doesn’t matter where it came from as long as it is in one of the supported formats(which aren’t DRM-laden). I’ve been a happy iPhone ComicZeal user for a long time and I adore it. The only thing I disliked is the size of the screen. Once the iPad was announced, I was already sold. It’s worth it for me just as a comic reader alone.

      @ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive: You can use the multi-touch pinch and expand gestures to zoom in and out. There isn’t a specific tool for it. It does do some resizing, but as with the iPhone version, I imagine it will be reasonable to the screen size. You’ll probably be able to get in nice and close, but not close enough to notice the half-toning :)

  10. OMFG.

    That is so astonishingly cool, and I can’t believe I didn’t know it existed.

    Just bought the iPhone version. Woot!

  11. I’ve collected comic books for over 40 years. A few years back I lost the bulk of my dead tree collection in a move (don’t ask…) After recovering from the emotional shock, I started rebuilding my collection with .cbr and .cbz files. And I love it. I have absolutely no desire to rebuild a physical collection. With the paper collection, it was a pain in the ass to go sorting through them looking for a range of issues to read. And then I had to take them out of bags and put them back after reading. With Comicbook Lover I just pop open the app and browse around, dragging issues I want to read into a playlist. Or playlists. I’ve reading queues set up for all types of situations. No mold issues to worry about, and best of all, I’m not dealing with an artifact so precious I’m afraid to touch with out wearing gloves.

    The only fly in the ointment was that I was limited to reading them on my (21 inch) desktop screen. The comics look gorgeous, but I can’t kick back in an armchair or in bed. My laptop offers a somewhat better solution, but the iPad is where it’s gonna be at; I already have the money for one budgeted. If there was a larger iPad, I would buy it just to read comics on.

    1. Is it just me, or does anyone else want to hear how #14 lost his comic book collection? Come on, out with it! We like stories of pain!

  12. I was disinterested in the ipad at first, and then skeptical, but now I’m seeing all kinds of real new cool opportunities that something like this can have.

    From an interactive game board to replace chess and scrabble to a way to save all kinds of magazines and newspapers with exciting enriched content…

    still I’m not going to be an early adopter as I always wait for a version or two before I get something like this.

  13. I’m a huge bookworm and comic book reader, and I’ve been reading @90% of my prose books on my iPhone for about a year using Stanza/Kindle Reader. I was holding off on buying an ereader cause of all of the Apple tablet rumour, and was initially pretty disappointed in the iPad since the overlap with the iPhone was so big.

    However, the comics thing is definitely the big killer app that’s making me want one. I have most of my comics backed up digitally already, but I hate reading them on my laptop and the iPhone is too small, so the iPad might be just the right compromise. Plus PDFs will work a lot better on the larger screen as well.

    I’ve been using Comicbooklover since it has a cludgy faux-iTunes database frontend and a iPhone app that should be easy to translate to the iPad. Comic Zeal looks pretty nifty though, so I’m definitely going to A/B the two.

  14. I just ordered a iPad on the basis of this blog post. My only concern about this particular software is that I don’t see a magnifying glass tool, and the notes above indicate that the files are resized when they load. I want hires images that I can zoom in on to see details of the inking.

  15. After spending a while using Comiczeal on the iPod Touch I can state that the app is pretty decent. However, having to convert and use an ad-hoc Wi-Fi solution (not USB tether) for transfer is more than a pain in the hole.

    Have Apple sorted this document transfer problem out? I know I won’t be buying one until I find out they’ve at least made it as simple as the cheapest mobile phone can manage.

  16. Apple already has a book reader app for iPad. I wonder if Apple will deny Comiczeal access to the iPad from the App Store because of that.

  17. Marvel has over 7,000 digital comics available. $9.99 month / $60 for the year. That’s like a $0.01 a comic. I know you can see the first issues of Spider-Man, Hulk and Fantastic Four for free. They already have comics on iPhone/iPod Touch via Comixology and Panelfly.


  18. The iPad screen is too small. You’d need a 12 inch screen to reproduce a standard american comic at full size. You won’t be able to read the text.

    When there’s a 12″ linux tablet, I’ll be all over it for my comics.

  19. I’m surprised people are actually looking at the iPad to be their digital comics reader. My first ‘fail’ thought for the iPad was that they weren’t bothering to make it big enough to fit a full comic book page (or any US letter size) page on the screen.

    Give me something that shows the whole page, unshrunk, that isn’t a DRM-laden Apple sh*t-pie. But seriously, this is news? An app can open CBR/CBZ … Whoa! Better not let these Apple users into the secret that GNU/Linux can do that too, without a download/app fee.

    Or perhaps the news is that Apple didn’t nuke this ‘pirate-format friendly’ app to begin with?

    1. I use free software for viewing comics on my PC and Mac. If you know of better software, a better device and better platform than what the iPad offers for non-desktop/non-laptop use, please let me know.

      It sounds like they may be ditching the SyncDocs method in the future, which is nice. Syncing your stuff with it is definitely a hassle and one of the only downsides to the application.

      1. Okay, so I’m already feeling apologetic for the snarkiness.

        The honest truth is that there is not a better platform. ATM.

        I waited years for a smartphone that didn’t feel like it was raping my freedoms. I have a Nokia N900 now. It’s not perfect, but in the end the hardware can run whatever I can compile to ARM and bootstrap on the thing. The iPad, being congratulated for its ability to read standard file formats?

        Come on, man. Do you really not see an influx of flatscreen computer handhelds coming your way, with a million more freedom points than Apple cares to sh*t in a box?

        My initial reaction stands firmer than the freedom argument, though, because it is a direct design critique from the “untouchable” Apple:

        The screen is too small for reading pages. EOF (end of flame).

  20. Print is so important. It has to work in tandem. Like when u buy a print copy u get a digital copy for free with it. Or access to the digital copy from a code inside the print copy…

    But without the Print copy you have no option to possibly collect a physical object, that is a comic truly in the sense that any collector or lover of comics understands.

    If there’s nothing to bag up in plastic sleeves and back boards then you’re possibly robbing generations to come from the blessed hobby of collecting and appreciating the comic art form. Writer and artist work in tandem to create these unique things.

    But the digital option is awesome. When you spend ur ludicrously expensive 4.95 per comic u better get the best of both worlds.

  21. This must be a leaked photo of the top-secret iPad Pro (NOT MaxiPad).
    Judging by the relative size of the button, this will be a very large pad indeed.

    Captcha : is priest

  22. It’s not too small for reading pages if the layout is designed for the resolution and proportions of the iPad. The New York Times on the web isn’t formatted exactly the same as the print edition.

  23. Re. the lack of a mag glass to zoom in, that function would be a pinch. No need to duplicate UI functionality!

    Re. the lack of a double page spread, just flip the iPad on it’s side.

    It’s hard to get used to these new ways of interacting with a computer/application, but when you get used to them they do just make sense.

    I’d love to be able to have access to my “Shade the Changing Man” collection from an iPad rather than digging through the garage to find them. But I do want to always have the hard copy somewhere…

  24. I fully agree there needs to be a Linux-powered e-book reader where we can view already owned media no matter where we bought it. I love the idea of the iPad but not all the strings that comes with it. Or the price tag, for that matter.

    I work in a comic store, and what started as just a job has become a real habit. As much as I love print comics and will continue to collect them, the key word for many is “collecting”. E-comics would allow people like me to not only keep their books in mint condition but to read them on a reader on the bus without getting them dirty or torn.

    I’m a huge fan of the trend towards included a free e-copy of a book or comic with the purchase of the real deal. Comic book fans can have their cake and eat it, too.

  25. Please try my CloudReaders for iPad as well, which is absolutely free and does not resize images. The next update (version 1.02) supports file transfer over USB, which is really fast.

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