Graphic.ly: Boulder-based start-up aims to become the iTunes of comic books

So present-unwrapping is over and you're freshly stocked up on new socks, kitchen utensils and copies of the soundtrack to Glee, but is there a tiny, immature part of you that's still hungering for something that's just pure fun? If so, Graphic.ly is your answer. The Boulder-based start-up is all about taking all the wonder and beauty of comic books and graphic novels and bringing it into the digital age.

Graphic.ly is a product of Boulder's super-successful TechStars program, and until recently shared an office with another TechStars alum and Westword feature subject Next Big Sound. And just like how Next Big Sound is turning heads in the music industry, Graphic.ly is starting to look like the freshest thing since ol' Peter Parker got that nasty spider bite.

Through Graphic.ly, folks can buy digitized comic books from a selection that now numbers more than 1,000 (not bad considering the enterprise launched last spring). Even better, those books can be read anywhere -- on the web, through a desktop program, on an iPad and, soon enough, on iPhones as well as Android and Windows 7 phones. While the programs offer all sorts of gizmos such as the ability to leave comments in the books you're reading or check out what issues your friends are paging through, the real treat lies in the way the reading material is presented. Framed in austere black and programmed so you can zoom in from one panel to the next, this is an undertaking that treats comic books as art. Art filled with laser beams and buxom ladies in skin-tight spandex, but art nonetheless.

Best of all? The program is free, as are an ample selection of the digital comic books. Is the experience equal to the feel of those cheap, ink-stained paper pages flowing through your 12-year-old fingers while at summer camp? Not exactly, but it's pretty darn close.

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