GOING NATIVE While digital comics don’t feature ads, the technology has made it much easier to create and distribute free branded comics – the medium’s answer to native advertising. In 2014, Bacardi hired two of comics’ biggest names,
Comixology’s Steinberger. “Generally speaking, at the end of every second page, a great comic is setting up some sort of tension, so that when you turn the page you get a reward. We have a lot of folks say that with Guided View every single panel feels exciting, like they don’t know what’s coming up next.” “With Guided View, page turns no longer matter,” Gillen agrees. “It’s more like your comic now has a hundred pages instead of 20, because each panel transition is effectively a new page.” There are comics being created specifically for digital that take advantage of this. Comixology has a range of ‘Guided View native’ titles that can uncover or overlay elements of the page as the user swipes, or use repeated frames with subtly different artwork to create an animation-like effect. For now, though, these comics are the exception rather than the rule on digital, and the reasons are entirely pragmatic. “If you do a digital-only comic which really uses the medium, that you can’t resell in print without serious reworking, you cut away every other source of money,” says Gillen. “And that’s the big problem. Digital
has to grow to a point where something which is entirely native can be worth the investment and time.” It’s exactly this challenge that the newer players in digital comics are trying to turn into an opportunity. Stela offers “100 per cent original content designed from the ground up to be read on a smartphone,” Suna says, rather than “the glorified PDFs and JPEGs” available on other digital comics services. According to Moore, Electricomic’s opensource platform lets creators make “paneldelivery comics, scrolling comics, infinite canvas comics, hypercomics, game comics, multicursal comics, guided-view comics, motion comics, and comics like Sway, where you tip the iPad to let the character fall out of one timeline and into another.” In short, mobile provides an opportunity to expand comics, in almost every conceivable way: by bringing down the barriers for new readers, by changing how stories are told, and by broadening the kinds of people who those stories reach, and are written for. For a medium best known for its brilliantly coloured heroes, the future of digital comics is appropriately bright. MM
Warren Ellis and Mike Allred, to tell the story of the company’s founding family. While a few physical copies were created – and printed with a rum-infused ink, just to top everything off – the resulting comic was mainly distributed online, through a Bacardi microsite. More recently, KFC teamed up with DC to create a series of one-off issues starring Colonel Sanders. These brought the fast-food mascot into DC’s superhero universe, alongside the likes of Batman and Superman, in adventures that pay homage to some of the publisher’s classic stories.
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