Privacy in Peril: The Private Eye


, , , , , , , , ,

Privacy in Peril: The Private Eye and Recent Developments in Privacy, DRM, and Copyright

One of my classes this semester deals with telecommunications policy in the USA. Now, even though I am late to the party on The Private Eye, I spent an evening devouring all ten issues of the digital comic book series this week. I was pleasantly surprised to discover it deals with many of the concerns we have discussed in the telecom class. Our first discussion centered around two articles on mobile apps that either lack adequate security or mine your device for your personal data and contacts; specifically “Beware of Leaky Apps” and “NSA Spying on Apps Shows Perils of Google+, Candy Crush.”


The Private Eye series addresses relevant privacy and intellectual property concerns not just in its content but in its form. It comes to us from author Brian K. Vaughan (who wrote such critically acclaimed series as Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina, and wrote for the TV show Lost for a time) with art from Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente. It is available at as ten individual issues and now in two 150-page volumes which collect the complete story.


First, the content of this science-fiction/mystery adventure deals with privacy and the internet. It proposes a future where all the information people stored about themselves in “the cloud” was exposed through an event called “the flood”. Dialogue reveals that making people’s search histories public destroyed their lives. As a result, the internet exists no more, and people are quite paranoid about protecting their privacy. Just as people do today in online forums and multi-player video games, people in this future use physical costumes and fake names to mask their identity and explore their fantasies, sexual kinks, and other aspects of identity they want kept private. Photographing people without their consent has become a crime, a crime the story’s hero commits for cash as a private investigator. The story’s villain wants to [spoiler alert] bring back the internet.


But besides the privacy conflict at the story’s center, the distribution of this series also ties in with concerns about copyright, digital rights management, and the ease of sharing content through the internet. The series is only available digitally, and it is sold on a “pay what you can” basis. Readers choose their own price, even if that price is zero dollars. This addresses the sales problem of digital content: How do you get people to pay a specific price for digital content when it is so easily downloaded and shared among users? Here, there is no problem. If people cannot or do not want to pay, they can still get the series directly from the creators without skirting the law, and those who can afford to support the work can choose to do so.


The download files, made available upon payment, are given free of Digital Rights Management, a system of protecting copyrighted and trademarked works which has proven problematic for users and courts. Recent headlines have shown how silly DRM takedown requests can get, with Forbes reporting in August that “Columbia Pictures, the studio behind the critically-panned movie Pixels, has succeeded in getting a number of utterly unrelated videos pulled from Vimeo – but the only actual footage from the movie to be taken down is Columbia’s own official trailer.” DRM takedown requests have become the occupation of lawyers who can file them without any actual investigation, leading to such ridiculous outcomes as random videos that mention the word “pixels” in ways unrelated to the film having been forced offline. Headlines in August also revealed UK legislation which is so technologically mis-informed that it would criminalize making a back-up copy of your own mp3 music files library. The creators of The Private Eye have sidestepped this nonsense and simply made their files available without DRM restrictions on the files.


The Private Eye, besides being an excellent and entertaining read, highlights the growing divide between how large, institutionally entrenched corporations are dealing with these concerns compared to the way independent creators are looking for new and more flexible solutions. This is taking place alongside a surge in advance sales (such as Michael Gira’s band Swans releasing limited-edition, handmade concert recordings to fund the production of upcoming studio albums) and crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter which help secure funding before a project is finished rather than trying to control “piracy” after the fact. These solutions favor creators who understand the unique technological environment of our time and want to maintain creative control without resorting to the cumbersome and ill-advised measures favored by the industry giants, their lawyers, and our legislatures.


To close on a visual note, I especially appreciate that The Private Eye is the first digital comic I have seen which looked awesome on my monitor due to the horizontally wider aspect ratio. Comics made at the right aspect ratio for print just never look as great on my screen. I have to zoom in to read the text, and thus can’t see the whole page at once, which is part of the joy of comics. The Private Eye fixes this beautifully and lends itself to creative page layouts that take full advantage of its aspect ratio. Go pick up the two collected volumes and pay what you can!

No DRM, no encryption, just plain files optimised for on-screen reading. Available in English, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese & French.


library of female pirates 9


, , , , ,

library of female pirates logoIn today’s installment of The Library of Female Pirates, we take a look at a few pages from Angus Konstam’s Piracy: The Complete History. Though we return once again to the familiar subject of Anne Bonny and Mary Read, this book is notable for questioning the romantic yet brutal tale of these two female pirates. Unlike some other texts in our series, Konstam finds fault with the “far-fetched” and “sensationalist” story passed down to us courtesy of Daniel Defoe’s General History of the Pyrates.

Konstam points out that a pirate’s occupation was generally short-lived, due not only to its rough nature but to its being a temporary economic solution for most sailors involved. Thus, Konstam doubts Mary Read would have spent nearly 23 years at sea. He also points out we have little record, other than their trial documents, to verify anything Defoe has told us. Konstam makes these criticisms in pages 185-188, reproduced below.

Piracy: The Complete History begins in the 14th century BC, with a band of sea raiders who troubled the ancient Egyptians, and continues up to the modern time of 2008, when it was published. It’s an enjoyable read, and its modern language makes it more accessible than some of the older texts covered in this series.

piracy complete history angus konstam_0003

piracy complete history angus konstam_0004

piracy complete history angus konstam_0005

piracy complete history angus konstam_0006

piracy complete history angus konstam_0002

Supergirl vs. Space Pirates


, , , , , , , ,

supergirl space pirates in adventure 415- (2)

In this 1970s story from DC’s Adventure Comics #415, Supergirl gets abducted by evil space pirates to serve as their captain’s unwilling wife while the rest of Earth is destroyed. These creeps find out soon enough that they picked the wrong woman to mess with!

The Saturday-morning-cartoon tenor of Supergirl’s 1970s adventures makes them somewhat dull for an adult reader, but they are occasionally impressive in their portrayal of her character. This story shows of a range of heroic qualities besides her super-cute costume and classic beauty. Supergirl is powerful enough to hand out beat-downs to the pirates, but compassionate enough to try and reason with a misguided member of the crew. She uses her intelligence to deduce their plans, and her might to unravel them. Even the male-dominated Planetary Galaxy Patrol shows her respect, and suggests that word of her “innumerable accomplishments” has spread far beyond Earth. Supergirl is the only female in this story (other than in a panel on page 3), so you won’t find it passing the Bechdel Test. But she certainly commands the stage!

If you would like to see more scans of vintage Supergirl tales from the 1960s and 70s (including Action Comics, Adventure Comics, and her short-lived self-titled series from 1972), then head over to The Supergirl Project!

indie comics spotlight: princeless


, , , , , ,

princeless coverThe new issue of Action Lab Entertainment’s Princeless goes on sale today at Comixology, and you can also pick it up directly from Action Lab’s site. This second issue of the fourth volume of Princeless is called “Comical Misunderstanding,” and it lives up to its name. Rarely do we encounter a book that keeps us smiling from start to finish and delivers laugh-out-loud humor on nearly every page. Writer Jeremy Whitley and artist Emily Martin have mastered comedic timing for sequential art—not an easy feat. Whitley’s dialogue and characters come to life under Martin’s pen, and even the horses are hilarious in this story.

princeless sample page 1

We often see independent releases suffering from poorly done lettering that can turn crisp dialogue into a train wreck. This is not the case with Princeless. Emily Spura’s lettering contributes to the comedic timing by placing all the dialogue in the perfect place to deliver the humor naturally. Combine that with Brett Grunig’s color palette, and you can easily imagine Princeless leaping off the printed page and into full animation. It would not surprise us to see Princeless gracing the big screen someday.

princeless sample page 2

We don’t often find an all-ages comic book so enjoyable as Princeless. Without ever resorting to profanity or graphic violence, Whitley and Martin deliver action, adventure, and engaging characters. Princeless also passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. If you’re looking for an entertaining adventure about female characters instead of a comic book that relegates females to mere plot devices for males, then it’s about time you started reading Princeless.

Princeless Volume 4 #2 goes on sale today at Comixology, which has a great selection of the back issues if you are just now joining this series. You can also order digital and print editions directly from Action Lab Entertainment.

indie comics spotlight: ugli studios presents


, , , , ,

ugli studios presents sample coverIn June of 2012, we enjoyed interviewing artist Jason Lenox about his then-new project Ugli Studios Presents. Since then, Lenox has successfully managed several new Kickstarter campaigns to produce ongoing issues of this independent anthology series, and two collections of his artwork. (We were quite pleased to be quoted on the back cover of The Art of Jason Lenox: Volume One.) Most recently, Ugli Studios celebrated the funding of a Kickstarter for issue number three, and we took the opportunity to get print copies of all the issues and both art books for our collection.

ugli studios presents sample page 1

But it takes more than a Kickstarter to make your indie dreams come true, and Lenox has shown great dedication in promoting his work through many convention appearances. As proof, we can read a list of them on the back of the awesome t-shirt we got for contributing to the Kickstarter for Ugli Studios Presents #3, from which today’s sample pages are taken.

ugli studios presents sample page 2

Even so, hard work is not always enough, and Ugli Studios demonstrates the importance of collaboration. By teaming up with other artists and writers, Lenox has broadened the range of stories he can tell through his distinctive visual style and, to compare it to music, shown he can manage a band, not just a solo act.

ugli studios presents sample page 3

If you haven’t seen what Lenox and the Ugli Studios team have been producing, we encourage you to visit the Ugli Studios Store and join Lenox on Twitter to get word about his upcoming projects. In an age where small press comics come and go, Ugli Studios serves as a role model for the kind of dedication, professionalism, and collaborative effort it takes to turn the dream of self-publishing into a sustainable reality.

indie comics spotlight: robbie burns witch hunter


, , , , ,

Robbie Burns Cover LargeIn June, to promote their inclusion as award nominees by the Scottish Independent Comic Book Alliance, the creators of Robbie Burns: Witch Hunter made a preview of their work available. We read it, were immediately hooked, and ordered the book. One reviewer on Amazon has compared the artwork to Mike Mignola’s style on Hellboy, and we will agree that if you like Hellboy then you will love Witch Hunter.

The story begins with the humiliation of poet Robbie Burns, a historical figure Witch Hunter brings to life in fiction. Soon, Burns stumbles across a pagan ritual in an abandoned church, a ritual matched in its sensuality only by its pure evil. There, Burns is rescued by a pair of experienced dispatchers of hellish hordes. And so begins his adventure. (Burns composed a horror poem you may know: Tam O’Shanter, first published in 1791. It serves as the inspiration for this tale.)

robbie burns witch hunter sample splash

Did we mention how much we love the artwork in this book? Let us say it again, to give artist Tiernen Trevallion his due. After all, writers Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby did win the Scottish Independent Comic Book Alliance ‘Best Writer’ awards at the Glasgow Comic Convention, Beeby won ‘Best New Writer’, and the book itself won ‘Best Graphic Novel’. But it’s Trevallion’s artwork, along with Jim Campbell’s lettering, that brings the rollicking script to life for us on the page.

You may recognize co-author Gordon Rennie from his work on Rogue Trooper, a classic 2000AD series we have featured on this site. So, if you are a fan of that unique Scottish comic-book sensibility which brought readers in the States such popular writers as Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, or if you are a fan of 2000AD comics in general, that’s just one more reason to read Witch Hunter.

robbie burns witch hunter sample page

We don’t mind telling you our favorite character is Meg: tough as nails, quick with profanity, great with a crossbow, and seemingly unafraid to ride into the very mouth of hell itself to do battle with the demonic forces of the underworld. Meg stands in sharp contrast to the vacuous ladies Burns pleasures himself with in the opening pages. She’s every bit an action hero with a sharp mind and a sharper tongue, and her inclusion in this tale endears us to it all the more. And to think that Meg was merely the noble horse in the original Tam O’Shanter!

robbie burns witch hunter sample panels

Fast-paced adventure with an outstanding cast of leading characters fighting the hordes of hell make Robbie Burns: Witch Hunter an enjoyable and unforgettable read. We look forward to more work by these creators and from Renegade Arts Entertainment.

You can order Robbie Burns: Witch Hunter directly from Renegade Arts Entertainment, or you can find it on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle editions.

tigers and traitors: classics illustrated 166


, , , , , , , , , ,

tigers and traitors jules verne - classics illustrated 166_0001

Classics Illustrated #166: Tigers and Traitors adapts the Jules Verne story The Steam House. Verne’s loquacious style and many of his scenes are simplified and compressed in this 1962 adaptation for younger readers, but the main plot and adventure remain intact. A British group hell-bent on shooting many tigers travels India using a steam-powered mechanical elephant.

Verne uses a historical figure named Nana Sahib in this story. Nana Sahib took part in the Sepoy Revolt, which you can read about in the text pages following the main story. (Today, this event is often called The Indian Rebellion of 1857, and Verne’s original narrative refers specifically to events in Cawnpore and Lucknow.) Nana Sahib’s fate following the revolt remains a mystery, and Verne takes that mystery as the starting point for this fictional adventure.

tigers and traitors jules verne - classics illustrated 166_0005

As a tale of two cultures, The Steam House seems to favor the British imperialists as the heroes of the narrative. In the original text, Verne spends a bit more time exploring the culture and religious beliefs of India as encountered on the journey. Verne’s original description of the Sepoy Revolt also spends time describing the horrors committed by both sides. But, his scenes which build sympathy for the Indian characters are largely eliminated in this adaptation. And, as a work of historical fiction, one can hardly fault The Steam House for portraying the British as the victors of the central conflict.

Nevertheless, a student of the culture and music of India will undoubtedly find this adaptation sadly one-sided. If the treatment of Indian characters and the wanton slaughter of animals for sport are offensive, then we should perhaps reserve our offense not for the book but for histories of exploitation and the attitudes of the ruling class which Verne portrays in this story. In the final panel, ending the life of an Indian man is counted towards a goal of murdering 50 tigers, a statement which says less about the ferocity of the killed man than it does a colonialist attitude that the men they ruled were no better than beasts.

tigers and traitors jules verne - classics illustrated 166_0042

The story also has little use for women other than as motivating factors for male revenge, with Colonel Munro and Nana Sahib each having sworn vengeance for killing the other’s wife. If you’re looking for a strong female lead, you won’t find her in this book. The steam house is a boys’ club on wheels, a glorified version of a fort or treehouse with a ‘no girls allowed’ sign hanging on the door. (Plus, the back-up story about a German king in this issue fails to include a single female anywhere in the story, not even in faces in the background.)

tigers and traitors jules verne - classics illustrated 166_0008

But, as lovers of the visual splendor of comic book art, our biggest criticism of the adaptation is the lack of huge, awesome panels dedicated to the majesty of the mechanical elephant. Surely the wonder of this steam-powered beast merits the reader’s and the artist’s attention, not to mention the savagely ironic imperial subversion of the form of the welcoming elephant-like Indian god Ganesha for use as a tool to trample and ravage the continent, its animals, and its people. (For a modern take on the mechanical elephant, visit the page of the French theme park full of mechanical animals, including a giant walking, rideable elephant that sprays water from its trunk: Les Machines de L’Île.)

tigers and traitors jules verne - classics illustrated 166_0017

Gilberton Company, the Classics Illustrated publisher, printed this book three times: in 1962 (identified as HRN 165), 1964 (HRN 167), and 1966 (also HRN 167). You can find them in MyComicShop, though they are rarely in stock. We ordered this copy from a Canadian seller on eBay at a steeply discounted price due to the torn cover. Depending on condition, this comic typically retails for $6 to $30 or more. (We also discovered some unrelated illustrated adaptations of the story, one in Spanish and one in Turkish, but we have yet to see those publications.)

In the gallery below, you will find a cover-to-cover scan of the complete issue, including a brief biography of Jules Verne, a text page about the Sepoy Revolt, a text page which concludes a short story by Guy de Maupassant, and a five-page illustrated history of the German king Frederick Barbarossa.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 567 other followers