Reading and collecting comic books can get expensive: These days, comics run between $3 and $5, which adds up after umpteen issues of Iron Man and the Fantastic Four. As a poor college student, it's difficult to justify buying or reading comic books when you have to pay for, say, textbooks.

But if you must indulge your jones, think how your poor roommates will feel when they see all those pulp volumes strewn across your dorm room floor. Have you been wedgied lately? Look out.

With all the new apps on the iPad and iPhone designated for reading comics, it's that much more tempting to spend money on comics. But at least you can keep everything you'd ever want to read stashed in the confines of your iPad. What's more, you might be able to save a little money over the paper editions. Here's a look at prominent comic options available via the iPad.



Marvel and DC Comics apps

If you're a fan of the "guy in cape saves the day" genre and you want to read it on the iPad, you'll probably have to pay a little more. The Marvel and DC Comics apps are excellent comic readers, for sure. You can zoom in easily on different panels, there's a great selection of classic comics, and of course, there are those big names: Spider-Man, Superman, X-Men, Batman, etc.

The downside is the cost: usually $1.99 per issue. While that isn't bad, it definitely adds up. A full series of comics at two bucks per issue? That certainly isn't cheap. Granted it beats buying new comics at face value, and perhaps it pays to buy an entire series on the iPad. For example, buying the entire 12-issue series of All-Star Superman on the DC Comics app (when they release the entire thing; currently, they only have the first eight issues) would cost $24. The collective price for both paperback volumes is $26. Still, it's not a very significant cost saver and you could still buy both for $20 before shipping on Amazon. Plus, some newer editions go for $2.99.

However, a few cheap options exist. In fact, there are several free comics to flip through and select titles for 99 cents, many of them older.

Independent comics apps

Although DC and Marvel certainly have a stronghold on the comics market, plenty of other great comics are available on the iPad. Some of the big names in indie comics include:

  • Frank Miller's Sin City and 300 -- The two Frank Miller comics made into hugely popular films (one noir, one warrior-based) are available to read on the iPad, and cheaper than buying the books online. 300 goes for $20 on Amazon and $15 on the iPad app. The Sin City books (of which there are two volumes on the iPad) are around $11 on Amazon and $9.99 for the app. Not bad.

  • Scott Pilgrim -- Now a major motion picture, the Scott Pilgrim books are the darling of video game and comic nerds everywhere. Now, they're all located on the Scott Pilgrim app for iPhone and iPad reading. Every volume is $7, except the final volume, which came out last month and costs $12. The prices are comparable to Amazon's, although you could save about $5 on the latest volume.

  • G.I. Joe, Star Trek, and Transformers -- IDW Comics has a series of comics apps for books based on extremely popular franchises, including Star Trek, G.I. Joe, Transformers and True Blood. Like the Marvel and DC apps, most of these comics cost 99 cents or $1.99. They also have their own independent app, which features some of their other comics, such as Army of Two, Astro Boy and Dragon Age.

Looking at PDFs, comics on the web

Keep in mind that you don't necessarily need a comic-specific app to view comics on the iPad. Quite a few public access free comics can be read on the device. Tons of free comics available for viewing and downloading are linked up at The Collins Compedium of Free Online Comic Books. And if you're interested in really old comics, plenty of blogs offer free comics for copyrights that have long expired, including the Golden Age Comics online database. (Donations there are encouraged.) Of course, this list excludes brand new comics, but still offers some great classic reading material.

But the ever-present problem of piracy haunts iPad users; the e-reader gives an all-too-convenient home to pirated digital comics. Most of the downloaded comics are brand new, and if you have PDFs, you can just read them in iBooks (which isn't too different from listening to an illegally downloaded album in an iPod). Comic piracy definitely isn't new, but never before have such convenient, comic-sized e-readers with PDF reading capabilities existed.

So play nice, comic fans. If the issue you want isn't available online legally, go support the local comic shop instead of downloading them from torrents.

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