Ihnatko says Apple tablet could play hero to comic books

Speculation based on rumor can be frustrating. But when the rumor is of Apple's fabled tablet, and the speculation is of a new golden age for comics, the 13-year-old kid in me comes alive.

Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Andy Ihnatko says there are hints that Apple is getting into the digital comic book market, a statement he likens to saying "Apple is helping to create the digital comic book market." Digital comics today, he argues, are where digital music was in 2002. Legitimate businesses are so fractured, clumsy, and behind the times that pirated comics (online illegally one day after hitting store shelves) provide the best user experience.

Enter LongBox, a company that has made the rounds at comic book conventions this year pitching an iTunes-like store for buying and selling digital comic books. Ihnatko talked with LongBox CEO Rantz Hoseley, peppering him with questions and looking for reasons that LongBox was doomed to failure. What he found instead was a company that respects the comic book as a medium, that has made publishing to the LongBox format (.LBX) as simple as adding a plug-in to the software publishers already use, and that has plans for outfits as big as Marvel or DC all the way down to the lone artists publishing on their own.

On what will people read these digital comics? Next month's expected roll-out will start on the desktop, though plans for all sorts of devices are in the works.

But comics need a screen bigger than the iPhone's or the Palm Pre's. They need a tablet like the one Apple is thought by most people on the planet to be making. After an hour with Hoseley, Ihnatko thinks LongBox has a deal to be on Apple's tablet. The CEO doesn't mention Apple by name, though he does tell Ihnatko of an agreement "with a seriously large company operating in the media space." He also told last weekend's Long Beach Comic-Con that LongBox was working with a company that "all of a sudden leaves (LongBox) with a multinational launch with literally millions of installed users."

Ihnatko follows Apple and loves comics. He likely gets talked-up by companies all year and he's not an idiot. The appearance of smoke doesn't always mean fire. He thinks the idea of attaching a digital comic book store to the iTunes Store has merit, and LongBox may be in on it.

[via Chicago Sun-Times]