The first experience most people will have with reading comics on their smart phone will probably be a preexisting story adapted from a printed comic book. And so it almost goes without saying that a lot of people are going to F#%^& hate reading comics on an iPhone (and/or competing hand held devices for the Apple haters out there).
There will be excess flicking, pinching and tapping to fully consume what would have taken mere moments on a 17 x 26 cm page. The fonts will be too small, the word bubbles will take up the entire screen to legibly read and you’ll chuckle in frustration at the thought of paying $0.99 for an entire issue. But in all honesty, comic book pages should never have been adapted to your phone anyhow… not without proper tweaks and re-proportioning.
However, if by chance your first experience reading a mobile comic was anything like Super Kaiju Hero Force, then it’s likely you were pleasantly entertained without feeling overwhelmed by the size limitation of the device. This is because Super Kaiju was created specifically for a smart phone — not a printed & stapled comic book. Even if the style of art isn’t your cup of tea and you loath anything having to do with a super-hero plot line, you have to give credit to the creators for formulating a thoughtful, multi-part story that utilizes the mobile technology.
I spoke to Casey Lau, Super Kaiju co-creator and founder of Crispy Comics, about his efforts and how creators have barely scratched the surface of this new medium.
TechGOnzo, of Geeks of Doom: I’ve been really impressed with what Crispy Comics has done on the iPhone…More than just the story matter, but you really seem to understand the medium you’re putting comics on… believe me that’s been extremely rare.
Casey Lau: I really studied what was out there and didn’t like any of them in terms of format. But then again we are developing original ones and not reformatting them.
GoD: Any specific examples of stuff that worked well in print, but not on a handheld?
CL: I don’t like pan and scan. You know when widescreen movies are reformatted for regular TV and then 2 characters are on either side and they have to slide across. That’s how I see a lot of the mobile comics. I wanted to make the experience more fitting to the device
I am going to release my Oktomica work on iPhone but I have all the Photoshop files so we’ll see how those come out. If you remember Oktomica we did 3 print comics in ’98.
GoD: Do you think it ruins the intended reaction of graphic fiction if you are having to zoom in to read the text?
CL: YES Absolutely. To me that is crazy. If a panel animates that would be neat. I’m very psyched for Bendis’ Spider-Woman. made SPECIFICALLY for motion comics.
I guess the most important part of all this is that mobile comics can actually be monetized. The App store has proven micro-payments are possible.
GoD: So let me ask you a more technical question about mobile comic production… what limitations have to set when telling a story within a single “issue”?
CL: I think length.
GoD: Print usually has 22-pages, two page spreads… which works on paper… but what about on a smart phone?
CL: I will be breaking Virtex up. It was 3 issues in print so I will be testing that theory. Two-hundred (200) screens for Bone #1? That seemed a bit much. And all pan and scan.
GoD: Yeah, I read the ‘new’ Shadowhawk… it was a bit long and I had to zoom, pinch and flick alot.
CL: Haha. Yeah. That experience is going to scare people off.”
GoD: So when you’re creating ‘app #1’ – what’s a comfortable amount of screens to tell the story? or is there one yet?
CL: I think you don’t want to get thumb numb.
GoD: I also noticed you never crammed more than two panels on any single screen. Intentional?
CL: Yes, A third panel could not fit any more word balloons. So if there is a third its for a reaction shot or a one-word reply.
GoD: How about the orientation? You keep screens vertical, I’ve seen a lot of flip flopping from the adapted comics.
CL: Isn’t that so interrupting? although have you read Gideon’s Walk? He twists the comic all the way around but its on purpose.
Comics are vertical, so the orientation should be vertical. iPhone books are also vertical, but then again we drew the panels specifically for this screen. Others are taking long horizontal panels and wondering how to make it fit without being too small.
GoD: So it’s more a conflict of “the medium is the message”… and in changing print comics into digitally mobile platforms… you’re changing the work itself.
CL: Correct. Its like flip flopping manga. You see how they eventually retained the Japanese formatting.
GoD: So lets talk a bit about the business side, ad supported or paid downloads… (or both?)
CL: Both. I like the free first issue and then pay afterwards. What we are doing is the singles are free and then we will collect the first 6 into a paid issues. (paid issue = a virtual TPB). But then the free ones disappear. From #7 on it’ll be free until we collect again.
I’m not Bendis or Gibbons my only marketing is free ;-)
GoD: So it’s borrowing the same themes as in the print industry… except at a much lower cost.
CL: It’s also so hard for the print industry too. That Diamond catalog is like throwing darts at a dartboard blindfolded.