The world of digital comics

Comics, like the rest of the publishing industry, have undergone a huge shift in the last decade. There was a time not so long ago when you had to march down to a specialty comic book store, make sure you had a “pull list” so you wouldn’t miss the latest foil-cover collectors edition of Hawk & Dove, and dedicate physical space to a growing set of boxes containing your favourite 4-coloured funnies.

The emergence of tablets has changed the game. You can now easily download conventional comics through Comixology, DC and Marvel apps, and other means. More than that, people are using the malleability of digital to create new forms of comics, from Batman ’66 where you can reproduce the “BIF! BAM! POW!” of the old show to guided reading and augmented reality.

I have no idea where all this is going, but if it’s anything like the rest of media, there are a few likely outcomes. For one, a lot more independent and self-published content will become available, just as happened with webcomics in the past and is happening the e-book space at present.

On the other end of the scale, bigger companies like Marvel, DC and others they partner with can continue with new ways to use tablets and other platforms. The Big Two also have the advantage of huge stables of beloved characters, which they can (and will) exploit in as many ways as they can. Can’t really blame them.

Of course, a slice of humanity will always want to read a comic on paper, to feel the pages run under their fingers and smell the ink. I can understand that, and I sometimes feel the same way, doubly so when it comes to books. But there’s something to be said for having an entire library in a tablet, and having an entire run of a comic series in a virtual folder.

I think it’s inevitable that this convenience will win out over nostalgia, just like it did with movies and music and books. We may lose the physical aspects of reading, whether its words, pictures, or some combination of both, but I don’t think we’ll ever lose the love for the medium, no matter what form it takes.

Bookshelf Doctors!

In an attempt to keep being creative, I’ve been looking into making comic books. However, my drawing skills are (at this point) minimal at best so I’ve started putting together photo comics using objects I have at hand. Unsurprisingly, that means Doctor Who action figures are being drafted to comedic effect, as seen below:

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Comic books!

I’ve recently been on a kick to learn how to create comic books. I have a bunch of ideas rattling in my head for stories and sagas and most of them would require a Hollywood budget and unlimited free time to manifest themselves as moving images.

But where film denies me, comic books provide. The budget of a story in a comic book is essentially limitless, but there is one problem…it requires art. And I am no artist, at least not when it comes to drawing anything past a stick man. So I’ve tried to concentrate on writing, which I can actually do with a modicum of skill.

Of course the best thing about writing is avoiding writing by reading books in a serious, chin-stroking manner, so I’ve tackled Write or Wrong by Dirk Manning, The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics and How to Make Webcomics, as well as Writers on Comics Scriptwriting, Volume 2.

The most practical advice is found within the pages of Write or Wrong, where author Dirk Manning advises newbies to concentrate not on multi-part sagas but 5 to 10 page, self-contained stories. Make it in black and white, and for the love of all that’s holy…avoid superheroes. He’s right about all these things, and I hope to explore all of these limitations/creative kicks in the pants in the next little while.

Of course, I’ll still need to find an artist, otherwise it’s just all words on a page. So first comes the writing and the agonizing and the giving up and the starting all over again….and then I have to find someone who can draw. Any volunteers?

Platformer – Episode 10

Patent madness this week, and a deep dive by Todd into the machinations and tribulations surrounding high tech and patent law. Here’s a pile of links for you on that subject…

- Samsung and Apple’s battle means worldwide grief for the Korean tablet maker

- more grief for Samsung in the EU

- Google’s Andy Rubin plays fast and loose with violating patents

throw Apple cops, Cory Doctorow on online identity, Amazon tablets, and Michael Arrington being a dink into the mix and you’ve got our first one hour show!

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Watchmen triumphs

As a preamble, let me just say that I’m a massive fan of the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I picked up the original 12 comic run when it first arrived in comic book stores in 1986, and it (along with Frank Miller’s the Dark Knight Returns) blew my 15 year old mind.

Of course Hollywood being the avaricious creature it is, plans were soon put in place to make Watchmen into a film, but if ever the source material for a movie could be deemed “unfilmable”, Watchmen was it. The plot jumps back and forth over forty years of history, the supposed superheroes are at best washed-up and at worst psychopaths, the story delves into philosophy, human nature, politics and serves it up with dollops of sex and violence. Oh, and one of the main characters is a detached Superman who sees time differently than mankind and walks around with his (blue) dink hanging out.

Miraculously, Zack Snyder has taken all of those unfilmable elements and made a stunning bit of cinema. Snyder stuck very closely to the source material (even setting the film in 1985, as per the comic), and it’s paid off in spades. Watchmen’s alternate universe (explained brilliantly in an opening-credits montage that tours the audience through decades of could-have-been 20th century events) is a feast for the eyes. Add to that standout performances by Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan and especially Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach, and Watchmen does not disappoint. I have a few minor quibbles, like the presence of Ozymandias’s cat Bubastis (which makes sense in the comic but seems out of place in the film), but my tiny complaints pale in comparison to standout sequences like Dr. Manhattan recalling his life on Mars, or Rorschach revealing just what drove him over the edge from grim vigilante to full-bore lunatic.

Opinion on the film seems to be split; geeks love it, and critics scratch their heads, admire the pretty pictures, and go back to worrying about their increasingly irrelevant jobs and worshipping French art films. I think we know where I land on this debate.

See Watchmen. Revel in its geeky fidelity to the original comic, but enjoy it on its own terms as a bold, visually stunning, thought provoking superhero film of the kind you never thought Hollywood could make. I plan to see it at least once more in the theatre.

Roger Ebert likes Watchmen

The reaction to Watchmen has been mixed amongst those who have seen the film, with a sharp division between geeks expressing adoration and film critics giving it a “glossy but meh.” But now Roger Ebert, who is about the only film critic I have any respect for, has given the film four stars (or “thumbs up”, for those of you who miss At the Movies.) I was a little worried that the story I’ve waited more than 20 years to see on the big screen would be a visually arresting failure, but Ebert’s endorsement is reassuring. I’ll know tomorrow, when I finally get a chance to see the film.

Radio Free Skaro Presents: An interview with Pia Guerra

Pia Guerra is widely known as the artist behind the award winning “Y: The Last Man” comic series. But she’s also the artist on “Doctor Who – The Forgotten“, a new series starring everyone’s favorite Time Lord (in multiple incarnations). Oh yes, and a devoted Whovian. Radio Free Skaro‘s Warren Frey visited Pia in her Vancouver studio and got a peek at the creative process behind the comic (and her truly daunting collection of Who figures.)


Radio Free Skaro Presents: An interview with Pia Guerra from Warren Frey on Vimeo.