I love webcomics. Some would say I’m obsessed, but I like to think of my love in a more positive light: I’m just voracious. However, I’ve also got an Android phone, so the comic apps I can access are somewhat limited. While I’ve been dreaming about the day when Comic Chameleon is finally available for Android, a fantastic app appeared on the scene right under my nose. Taptastic, developed by Tapas Media in 2012, is an online comics-reading platform that you can use on your computer, your iOS device or your Android. A whopping 6,000 creators now publish comics through Taptastic.
I was initially drawn to this platform because I discovered a comic called Alone by Olivia Stephens, and had to create a Taptastic account to read it. My first stroll through the website and the app revealed how simple it is to search through genre categories and find new titles. The website’s landing page features several popular series, and the browse features on the website and app are both neatly organized. Joining Taptastic also subscribes you to a Daily Comics Snack, a set of five staff picks. When I received my first “snack” in my email I was absolutely charmed by the idea, and now that I’ve got the app my phone notifies me when my snack is available. It’s like the best part of preschool meets comics.
The visual quality of the art is fantastic. When reading comics on my phone, I often zoom in on panels to look at details or read smaller word balloons. On Taptastic, the images are always clear and beautiful. However, if you’re reading a comic with busier or more complicated page spreads and want to scroll up and down, scrolling up pulls the top menu back into view, which gets a little annoying.
Comic apps are particularly fascinating not only because they allow readers to access high quality work with more ease and speed, but also because their formatting generates new creative possibilities. I was very intrigued by the difference in how artists are organizing their work.
For example, when you look at the table of contents for Alone, each heading represents an individual page. Comparatively, No End, a gorgeous post-apocalyptic zombie comic by artists Erli and Kromi, is split into half-chapters and chunks of pages. To move between sections you have to either pull up pretty hard on the screen or hit the down arrow. This forced pause allows artists to choose where the reader takes a breath, which is pretty cool! There is one drawback to this feature: if you’re reading a comic that updates with longer sections and you get interrupted mid-chapter, the app will take you back to the chapter’s beginning.
According to Ashleigh Baham, a writer who collaborates with artist Michael Natividad to create VuDu Legends*, these creative options don’t complicate the uploading process. Taptastic provides a comic guide that advises artists on how to best format their work for the app, and reminds you of their parameters on the dashboard. Adhering to Taptastic’s suggestions not only ensures that your work looks great, but “…is especially important if you would like to be featured on the Daily Comic Snack,” said Baham. “I have seen several comics benefit from it with the spike in subscriptions and likes. Following the guide is the first thing they look at to be selected for the Daily Comic Snack. This is a valuable marketing tool and should be part of the goal of creating comics for Taptastic.”
The Daily Snack isn’t the only feature Taptastic offers that supports creators. There are forums on the website that, in addition to offering readers tech support and opportunities for discussion, are filled with writers and artists providing and requesting advice. I took a peek at the “Tips & Tricks” category and it looked awesome; there are art tutorials, guides to marketing your content, tips on creating an effective Patreon, and pretty much anything you can imagine.
The app also has a built-in premium option, which operates similarly to Patreon. Creators offer a few pages for free and then require readers to pay a monthly subscription to see their entire comic. Subscriptions are pretty cheap–three dollars a month looked common–but I also saw several artists link to Patreon campaigns on their series pages.
It seems like most artists use Taptastic as one of multiple weapons in their marketing arsenal, a tactic that Baham felt was a good idea: “There is the ability for creators to interact with readers on a messaging level, but there isn’t very much you can do with the dedicated comic page,” she explained. “You can only create a post with a message for subscribers with an optional picture.” After scrolling through some artist’s main pages, I also didn’t feel encouraged to use the app to communicate directly. When I pick up a new comic I like to express my new-found love by tweeting at the artist, and that sometimes yields fun conversations. I’ll definitely continue this practice, even for comics found on Taptastic.
Taptastic hasn’t completely revolutionized how I read–many of my favorite comics are still only on Comic Chameleon–but my webcomic world is definitely brighter. I’ve found a few favorites, like Alone and Witchy, on the app, and I’m discovering new comics almost daily. Plus, any app aimed at creating a supportive community for artists as well as helping them monetize their work gets two thumbs up from me. Way to be awesome, Taptastic!
*This article originally named Ashleigh Baham as the artist for VuDu Legends, which is incorrect. She is the creator/writer, Michael Natividad is now correctly credited as the artist.