Comique is a free app created by Sam Gwilym. It’s listed as having “in-app purchases” on the App Store, but don’t let that put you off, there’s no trickery to entice you into bulk-buying digital currency so you can expand your battle force.
The App itself is just a platform. Though having written that just now, I’ve realised it’s more of an idea, or a medium. It’s a library for comics, but it’s different to any other comic app I’ve ever seen on a phone. The comics available on it are designed specifically for digital viewing and cost around £1.50 to £2.00 each. There’s no gimicky interaction—no buttons to press, or flashing bits (because comics are for KIDS!), and as far as I can see, no adverts, which is a blessing. It’s simple and clear, and that’s all it needs to be.
Each comic is like a reel of film. There’s no up and down, you just scroll across the comic strip. Sometimes this offers you panoramic views of one scene and sometimes it’s just a regular page turn, without the crappy visual of a page actually turning. I honestly prefer this ongoing scroll to reading a regular comic. Maybe I’m lazy, or maybe it’s the part of me that agrees with my mum: “It’s just too confusing for me; I can’t tell where to look next!” I think it’s a bit of both, but I like each panel being contained on the screen. I can’t accidentally-on-purpose skip to the exciting bits further down or across the page.
Maybe I should say that I’m not a seasoned comic reader, but this is probably the reason—I can’t handle a busy page. It stresses me out!
Comique eliminates this and for the first time in…ever? I actually finished all of the comics I read on there. It probably helps that they’re short, but then Comique is an App, which implies to me that it’s built for quick and easy accessibility. Maybe for a commute if you’re that kinda person who doesn’t get seasick on any mode of transport. That said—with my sister as my witness—I read three comics on Comique in the car over Christmas without having to wind down the window and stick my head out, which even text messages lead me to most of the time.
Maybe I should also give a nod to the comics themselves holding my interest to the end, seeing as they overcame fear of nausea, and there’s no point in you, dear reader, downloading the app if you don’t fancy the comics. Although there are only a handful available so far – listed by author with a thumbnail for each – there’s still quite an array of styles in terms of story and depiction. On going back to re-read them I realised that the app quite handily saves your place even after exiting the comic for the main page, apparently indefinitely, so long as you haven’t reached the end. If you scroll past the final page you’re returned to the main list and the comic is reset to the start.
Once you’ve selected a comic, you’re only aware of Comique if you drag a navigational bar down from the top, allowing you to return to the main list or share the page you’re viewing by email or social media. Said bar is easily hidden again and not at all imposing on the reading experience. Maybe a button to return you to the first page would be handy, but it’s simple enough to scroll back to re-read pages.
Palmbug is the only story that felt complete and that I didn’t finish with questions lingering. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it—or any of the others for that matter—but just that it’s a lovely little self-contained story that doesn’t need anything added to it. The art, in my opinion, is delightful, colourful but subdued along with its protagonist and managing a lot of great facial expressions with what is a fairly simplistic style. It’s funny in parts and very human, and has a cute, satisfying ending, but honestly, what appeals to me most is just how nice it looks. I’m a fan of lines, and the lines are just lovely. The personal thank you from the author Muriel Fogarty on the last page is also pretty lovely.
Thoughts In Gray by Gloria Rivera has a very sparse drawing style, which gives the comic a very ethereal feel, and no surprise as it appears to be about two not-quite characters. I have to be honest—I do not understand it, even after scrutiny, but I feel like that might be sort of the point. It seems more like a sketch of a story, like a hazy epilogue, or a memory, and considering it claims to be Part One, maybe that’s the case. If it’s not, then maybe I’m just too literal of a person to quite connect with it, but even if it isn’t a straightforward story it has a very memorable atmosphere to it. It’s like you’re listening to songs about legends, underwater. It’s an experience if nothing else, and I’ll be interested to see if Part Two is any different, as the end implies it could be.
Washed Away is the comic I made a beeline for when I scrolled through the covers—I love dark things, literally dark. Noir, I suppose, is the technical term. The aptly named Will Tempest conveys the atmosphere of gross rainy weather and bleakness even just with the cover. I’m English so of course I love rain, especially wind whipping in your face, no signs of life around kind of rain. Washed Away doesn’t have a single bubble of dialogue; it’s almost entirely the surveying of this post-apocalyptic, flooded, grey urban scene. The only splash of colour is the dull, almost bloody red clothes of the only character. It’s silent, but you can hear the rain and the echo of his gun as he cocks it in an empty bunker. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s the kind that leaves you with lots of questions you know Mr Tempest will not answer.
The Golden Harp by Jesse Tise is the opposite, but also caught my eye. It’s very brightly coloured and flows along seamlessly, a lot of effort clearly having gone into making it a Comique comic. It’s like a children’s book where you meet a new character on every page, or Scooby Doo, with its scrolling background, but a lot more sardonic; the protagonist seemingly having literally fallen into a story quite different from her own by mistake. It’s silly and colourful and thus enjoyable as hell, though it only lasts under a minute. Although it ends with “The End,” and is quite funny because of it, I would happily read another chapter or just more of the same style.
Each comic is the standard 69p (as far as I saw) which seems very reasonable to me. There are a handful of others worth exploring as well, and I’m sure more to come. On top of that, as of quite recently, any Tom Dick or Sally can become a contributor at http://artists.comique.co.
If you’ve got a smartphone I’d definitely give it a try, and see if it suits your tastes as well as it does mine. If not, your friend with the short attention span might like it.