2004 - Z-Cult fm Comics Torrent site begins.
Z-Cult was a members only messageboard forum and torrent tracker started by a young man simply known as Serj. Members could post their torrents of shared digital comics. Just as Rich Johnston predicted, this was when downloading comics reached epidemic proportions.
At it's peak Z-Cult had over 70,000 members and new weekly comics were downloaded by the 40,000 people. The all time champ was Sin City with almost 100K downloads. Weekly DCP (Digital Comics Presevation) torrents of the new Wednesday comics reach the 40K range of downloads.
Eventually, in 2007, the site was asked to stop all torrenting of Marvel and DC comics. The site tried to make a go of it as a legitimate source of comics from other companies, as Serj explained, the site was not able to sustain itself.
Well, a decision was just made to call it a day. We had no legal threats since all those ones you covered but the site was dead in the water due to no Marvel or DC comics etc. After Marvel and DC tried to sue us, we decided to remove those [links to] comics, then every other publisher started sending us e-mails so we removed those too. In end we were left with a tracker but not many torrents on it. ~torrentfreak
Here is one members memories of Z-Cult:
Right up until Z-Cult received the simultaneous letters from DC and MARVEL a member could find absolutely anything there. Whether it be just released and still on the comic book shelf for you to go and buy if you so chose, a few months old, a few years old, still in print, now out of print, even items from the silver and golden age of comics. You could find all of them in it's place on Z-Cult. In some cases you may have needed to ask an admin to re-host it, a request not for the newly minted or weak of heart mind you, but if you wanted it then someone there had it or knew the person who had it.
I didn't discover Z-Cult until just a few months before it's demise and even then I got the feeling that the long term members knew it would all come crashing down as if the genie had been let out of the bottle. In a way it had. You see, Z-Cult was a bit like Fight Club in that, it's first rule was to not spread the word or talk about Z-Cult out in the open, in places like public forums or large chat sites like Twitter or Facebook.
It quickly became evident that everyone feared the worst. Newly uploaded comics lacked descriptions of any kind, in their place instead would simply be simple phrases such as: "Download it while you can." or "Don't wait, it won't be here forever." and nearly every post had at least one comment about not telling non forum members about Z-Cult or the comic.
Then one day a board wide post, readable on every topic, told the story of the letters and how they had stopped all activities while those in charge "figured out what to do". There was plenty of chatter about what might be done to sideline DC and MARVEL and keep Z-Cult open and functioning. There was talk of moving the entire community to another site, talk of this, talk of that, but Z-Cult would stay down for quite a while (I don't remember exactly how long somewhere between 3 - 6 weeks) before there was new chatter about all the comics that they could host legally.
There were comics they could host legally, older properties that were now in public domain, and even limited titles from other publishers such as number one issues, previews, and specials that a publisher would give permission to Z-Cult to host but as the genie had truly been let out of the bottle the magic was now gone.
2005 - Flashback Universe started
Yeah, I know what you are thinking - "Hey man, you can't put your own site in this article. That's like totally gauche!..." To which I would say, let's review a few facts...
Fact 1: We were the first people to specifically design comics for cbr format.
Fact 2: Over 123,000 comics have been downloaded from our site
Fact 3: We originated the term Paper Comic DeathWatch
Fact 4: Our comics are now distributed via iPod and Archos Tablet
So, yeah, I think it's safe to mention the creation of my site when talking about events that impacted digital comics. :)
Part 4 - Three Sites Begin Selling Downloadable Comics2006 - Wowio launches
"WOWIO is today the only source where readers can legally access high-quality copyrighted ebooks from leading publishers for free. Readers have access to a wide range of offerings, including works of classic literature, college textbooks, comic books, and popular fiction and non-fiction titles." ~Wowio
Where are they now?
Caine asked them that very question on this site in August...
2006 - PullBoxOnline launches
No, you don't.
And you know how I know you don't? Because not a single solitary soul has mentioned PullBoxOnline in any of the articles talking about LongBox. (Even though they are very similar) Observe...
So, let me refresh your memory - PullBoxOnline was established by Devil's Due Publishing to be their answer to be the comic book version of iTunes. (A phrase that keeps coming up in all the LongBox articles.)
From a PullBoxOnline Press Release
PULLBOX ONLINE features exciting titles such as Zombie: Feaste and CVO from IDW Publishing, Hack/Slash, Voltron, and Family Guy from Devil’s Due Publishing, Jim Mahfood’s GRRL Scouts and Stupid Comics, and coming soon, Nexus by Steve Rudeand, plus much, much more! New publishers and creators are popping up weekly! ~BrokenFrontier
Is PullBoxOnline still a live site?
I don't think so.
My attempts to download comics from them a few years ago was a complete disaster. (they charged my visa card, never sent any comics and then never responded to email inquiries about my order.)
You'll notice I don't have a link to the site...here's why...
2007 - Eyemelt launches
EyeMelt.com is your best bet for downloadable comics! We offer comics and graphic novels in a variety of genres, from established SLG creators as well as new artists you’ll want to check out. Prices start at only 69¢! ~Newsarama
Started by Dan Vado of Slave Labor Graphics, EyeMelt was a great step in the right direction for digital comics. The site was easy to use, and you could pick the format you wanted to read your comics in (pdf or cbr).
However, Dan later decided that having a separate site for digital comics ran a little cross purpose with his business, so he rolled EyeMelt up into the main SLG site where you can still buy digital versions of many SLG comics. :)
Part 5 - Digital Comics Hit the Big Time2007 - Marvel Launches Digital Comics Unlimited
I covered Marvel's DCU pretty well here back in 2007. What I'll say today is I am VERY impressed with how well Marvel seems to be doing keeping this site going and putting new and/or original content on the site. (like this cool free Preview of the Siege Prologue )
I would love it if it weren't in Flash. I've grown accustomed to how the site works, but I still think the Flash thing is going to be a showstopper if and when the iTablet (or is it the iSlate now?) finally gets sold by Apple. I say that because you still can't view Flash on an iPhone or iPod Touch. Still, maybe Apple (or is it Adobe?) will have worked out whatever the problem with Flash is by then.
2008 - 2009 - Comics in your Pocket
And speaking of iPhones and iPods, I think it's safe to wrap up this decade long look back with a few links to some of the Comics on iPhone/Android phone articles that came out in the last 2 years...
Early 2008 - ComicZeal launches - ComicZeal gives people a way to read cbr files on their iPods or iPhones.
October 2008 - PanelFly launches - PanelFly begins selling single issue comics via the iPhone.
November 2008 - iVerse Comics launches - Like PanelFly, iVerse begins selling single issues of comics via the iPhone. Most notable are the huge success they had with Atomic Robo and the Star Trek Movie Prequels.
December 2008 - Comixology's iPhone App launched - sort of app version of a social networking and news site for comic fans.
March 2009 - Robot Comics launches - A Comic reader for Android (Google) Phone platform.
July 2009 - Comixology's Comic Reader launched giving users a comic store on the iPhone. iVerse and PanelFly follow this format as well now.
October 2009 - Marvel Comics comes to the iPhone/iPod Touch - on all PanelFly, iVerse and ComiXology. Currently the selection is a bit limited, but the reading experience has been pleasantly enjoyable!
December 2009 - Saturn Knight, Knight Before Christmas distibruted via Robot Comics for Archos 5 MID and Android phones.
What will the future bring?
Here are my predictions for the next decade:
- Apple will announce an iTablet in January, with a target release date of March. Prices will run from $700 to $1000 dollars making the device a little out of the range of most comic buyers. So, it won't be quite the paper comic killer I've expected it to be.
- Inspired by Apple, Google will release an Android Tablet device for $500. Other companies will jump on board as well.
- DC will finally get off their ass and release comics in some digital format. Either via the web or a distribution deal with Apple (or some other tablet maker.)
- eReaders will disappear as people flock to more utilitarian devices, like the iTablet.
- One of the big four (Dark Horse, DC, Image or Marvel) will completely stop printing monthly paper comics opting for Digital and/or Trade Collections only.
Have a great weekend!