Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Writing on Newsarama, Lucas Siegel notes that starting this summer, you will be able to purchase new items within applications with the iPhone 3.0 software.
"That may not seem an explosive announcement at first, but it has huge possible ramifications," he explains. "Right now, most of the comics you find on the app store are done as individual apps. You buy that app, you can read that comic on your iPhone, usually a panel at a time. If you liked it and want the next issue, you go back into the app store and buy the next one as a separate app.
"The new process will allow for a new scenario. Now, an individual comic company or a larger central distributor could make an application just called “IDW Comics,” for instance, and within this one application, you could buy individual issues of any IDW book, download free previews, subscribe to specific books or even the whole line. This eliminates a couple of steps, reduces clutter in you App list, and could even allow for what everyone’s been waiting for: a single app that acts as an iTunes style store for comics."
This is big news for iPhone users but of course comics on mobile from companies that have set their sights beyond the admittedly popular iPhone already offer a range of comics without any need for application download. Selected ROK Comics' strips are offered via WAP subscription, for example, and the company, although pared to the bone for now in terms of development, is still selling WAP comics services to partners, the latest being AirTel in India - a huge market where English is widely spoken and there is no need for comics translation.
Still, the improvements to the way comics can be delivered to iPhone are good news and as Lucas says on Newsarama, the upgrade is putting a lot more of the technologies in place to accurately provide what users have clamored for, however, and it will be interesting to watch how publishers in both these fields respond. Things may get even more interesting if, as predicted, Apple also enters the e-Book market, paving the way for more ways to deliver comics digitally (see this Newsarama story)
Saturday, 28 March 2009
"A Japanese language version of my Lafcadio Hearns Japanese Ghost Stories book is now out in Japan, in two formats," Sean, who lives in Japan, told downthetubes. "As an e-book and an edition for mobile phones.
"Both formats are big business in Japan," he notes. "The revenue from such mobile phone downloads has more than doubled in the last few years. They company making the files in that format and releasing them is called Mobile Phone JP."
A PC downloadable version of Sean's book, called Kaidan Koizumi Yakumo, can be seen and bought here at the Papyless web site store, which is the main ebook/mobile phone release company in Japan.
"I also recently got a contract to do a manga book for Kodansha," enthuses Sean. "I believe I'm the only British creator to get that since Ilya and Woodrow Phoenix worked for them in the mid 1990's."
Congratulations to Sean on the sale -- we know it's taken him a long time to break into this market, even though he's resident in Japan. Hie perseverance has finally paid off!
One of the latest to make a cull is Ontario, Canada's London Free Press, which has just re-organised its comics section, keeping some strips and adding new ones, its editor Paul Berton thankfully recognizing that comics are an intrinsic part of what makes a newspaper's whole.
"Experienced newspaper people know it is not necessarily good journalism that sells papers, but a good overall package," he notes, announcing the changes today. "News and information, of course, but also entertainment: puzzles, comics, games, horoscopes... Diversions such as these have become an important part of this newspaper and most others over the years, and we tinker with them at our peril."
But, he explains, the paper has been forced into making changes due to economic pressures and focus more on spending on local news gathering - its core activity - rather than shelling out for syndicated content.
All of which makes me wonder, just how much are these newspapers - and national newspapers here in the UK run strips that feature nationwide in the US and Canada, too - paying for these syndicated strips that it saves them that much money?
Let's face it, though -- it's not just the economic downturn that's brought on decisions to cul some of them by newspapers, either. There are syndicated strips which have been running for decades and are, perhaps, well beyond their sell by date: some are old, tired, and postively lame and should have ended years ago. Some have certainly become the subject of ridicule, as a quick visit to sites such as The Comics Curmudgeon quickly reveals.
The syndication companies who distribute most of the comics that appear in US newspapers, of course, have recognised the decline in sales of their strips. It looks to me that companies such as uClick are thankfully taking steps to find new blood via the Internet, utilising developments such as ComicsSherpa on their GoComics site to provide a platform for aspiring cartoonists that could lead to them gaining a wider audience and, perhaps, syndication sales. This wider circulation could also, of course extend to sale through GoComics iPhone Comics App, a new means of 'syndicating' comic strip material that iVerse, ROK Comics and others are also all trying.
Newspaper strips, are, I'd suggest, in peril -- but with a good editor with a good feel for his audience, as well as one who wnats to use strips to hep attract new as well as retain existing readers, there are plenty of ways they could do this without adding huge costs to their editorial budget. They could, for example, employ a local comics team but, as with some UK papers, allow then to control the ad spots around their strip to a limite degree, enabling those creators to make up for a perhaps lowerr page rate by advertising their services or merchandise relating to the strip: it's well known that artists in need can quickly sell 'local views' to earn money, so why whouldn't cartoons set in recognisable locales for a newspaper's audience be any different?
Newspapers should be looking at the way webcomics creators and mobile comic creators are monetizing their creations - some admittedly better than others -- and trying to adopt those methods for print, so they don't lose a valuable part of the "Unique Selling Point" canny editors like Paul Berton clearly recognises.
It's well known that few local US newspaper run local cartoonists strips - strips that are actually a reflection of local news and issues. According to a 2008 Media Research Association poll of North American newspapers with circulations above 50,000, among the 10 most popular cartoons are: Garfield, Zits, For Better Or Worse, Dilbert and Baby Blues - all national, not local strips. Cartoonists in the UK, such as Steve English, have told me thay have unsuccessfully tried to sell a 'local' strip to a local paper, usually getting the response that there's no money for it. (Nick Miller and I tried to sell The Really Heavy Greatcoat, above, to local papers in Lancaster, to no avail, although to its credit the Lancaster Guardian has employed a local 'single panel' cartoonist).
But surely buying in a locally produced strip that reflects a local paper's core interest for readers - its coverage of local news - would actually enhance that paper?
It would be great to see some local newspaper editors taking the plunge and engaging with their local comics community and giving that 'local' talent a try, rather than relying on old and perhaps has been standbys...
• Discuss this on the Mobile Comic Creators Forum
Thursday, 26 March 2009
On the panel, moderated by Dan Goldman, author of the award-winning webcomic Shooting War, were award-winning artist, author Molly Crabapple (the founder of Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School), UClick CEO Douglas Edwards (pictured right), Google/Android Staff Software Engineer Dave Bort, writer, artist, editor, designer Rantz Hoseley (CEO of the LongBox Group) and cartoonist Richard Stevens, creator of Diesel Sweeties.
Primary concerns at the panel were the formatting of comics for mobile, especially the size of lettering, with many comics proving illegible on a mobile device as fonts were too small. "You have to wonder if we've actually seen the first comic made for the mobile platform," Hoseley commented. Devices like the iPhone are unlikely to get much bigger, physically, so the screen size will stay the same. Therefore, CBR reporter Chris Ulbrich noted in his report on the event, comics will have to work on that size screen or something very close to it. Many of the panelists agreed this was the case, with Goldman providing one caveat: “What's best for the device isn't always what's best for the storytelling." Audio comics - the idea of speech balloons being read out by the mobile device, which is being done by some cartoonists, was not seen as a solution, with panelists arguing this diverged too much from the visual and textual nature of the comics form. There seemed to be little other matters discussed but it's clear getting comics onto phones in a way that readers will accept remains a challenge for many, and the over riding concern above revenue streams and other matters. It will be interesting to see how the form develops.
"You have to wonder if we've actually seen the first comic made for the mobile platform," Hoseley commented. Devices like the iPhone are unlikely to get much bigger, physically, so the screen size will stay the same. Therefore, CBR reporter Chris Ulbrich noted in his report on the event, comics will have to work on that size screen or something very close to it. Many of the panelists agreed this was the case, with Goldman providing one caveat: “What's best for the device isn't always what's best for the storytelling."
Audio comics - the idea of speech balloons being read out by the mobile device, which is being done by some cartoonists, was not seen as a solution, with panelists arguing this diverged too much from the visual and textual nature of the comics form.
There seemed to be little other matters discussed but it's clear getting comics onto phones in a way that readers will accept remains a challenge for many, and the over riding concern above revenue streams and other matters. It will be interesting to see how the form develops.
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Games site Joystiq reports that Sony is surveying PSP users to determine a pricing model for what sounds like a major digital comics delivery system that may be offered via its Playstation Store.
A promotional video (above) touts “instant access to thousands of comics,” offering users a way to “never miss an edition ever again” via “the world’s largest comic store.”
PSP previously released Metal Gear Solid as a digital comic (comics site ICV2 reported on that in their feature “Digital Comics a Growing Comic-Con Presence”), spruced up with some animation, music and sound effects.
The PlayStation Store currently has just one digital comic available for download: The Cryptics, for $2.99.
The survey reportedly asks whether a subscription or single-issue purchase model is preferable.
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Working in partnership with TokyoPop, the free app seen as a way to give potential customers a taster of the Uclick mobile comics delivery format for iPhone.
"We're making Dramacon 1.1 free because it gives us a chance to show off our panel-by-panel reading format with a very popular book from our lineup," explained Uclick CEO Douglas Edwards.
"The Uclick comic apps offer the slickest and most intuitive comics reading experience on the iPhone and iPod Touch, and we offer the widest variety of titles and genres on the Apple devices.
"We want users to have the chance to try the reader for free and experience it for themselves, then check out our library of more than 100 titles and find more great comics."
Dramacon is Svetlana Chmakova's story of a manga artist attending her first fan convention. As her status quo unravels, encounters with her manga idol and a mysterious stranger take her life in an unexpected and exciting new direction.
"This is a very popular manga title with a large, loyal fan base," said Edwards. "The story is instantly accessible and emotionally addictive, which makes Dramacon a great fit for all kinds of audiences, from diehard manga fans to those who've never read manga before."
"Svetlana's work has touched hearts and tickled funny-bones worldwide," Diaz-Przybyl said, "so Dramacon was an obvious choice when it came to launching a new series through the App Store. We look forward to both current fans and new readers discovering the joy of Dramacon in this exciting new format!"
The Dramacon Volume 1, Part 1 app is the first free application from Uclick and TokyoPop, comprising a full-length comic book application featuring the first of five installments that make up volume one of the international bestselling manga. Most of the Uclick comic apps are available for $0.99 (US) cents, with other popular comic app titles from Uclick including Bone, Ghostbusters, Pibgorn, GODLAND, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the recently-launched Garfield Minus Garfield.
The free Dramacon app for the iPhone and iPod Touch features tap-and-swipe, panel-by-panel controls. The Apple devices' large Multi-Touch displays enable a clear, high-resolution presentation. The zoom feature allows an even closer look at any panel.
• To receive the Dramacon free app and other favorite comic books, manga, webcomics and graphic novels for the iPhone and iPod touch go to the Uclick Web App by typing Uclick.com into the Safari browser or visit the App Store on the iPhone or on iTunes.
Star Trek: Countdown #3 (of 4) features 82 screens of Star Trek action. This mini-series, plotted by by JJ Abrams, Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman, with script by Tim Jones & Mike Johnson and gorgeous art by David Messina, sees the movie prequel crank into high gear after earlier issues explored the origins of the Romulan villain Nero, revealing just why he has such a grudge against the Federation and sets out on a vengeful crusade against it.
Still available are Star Trek: Countdown #1 (90 screens), introducing Nero, the mysterious Romulan who will ultimately threaten the survival of the entire universe, and Star Trek: Countdown #2 (87 screens) which sees tensions between the Romulan and Vulcan empires reach a breaking point.
iVerse Comics is a digital comic company that produces digital long form comic books for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It's ongoing mission: to partner with established creators and new talent to produce original content for the iVerse format.
• For more information visit: www.iversecomics.com
The Kamikaze! comic and graphic novel reader from Genus Apps, announced last month, allows you to read comics and graphic novels on your iPhone or iPod Touch. The demo video above, posted on YouTube, shows how it can display full page layouts, double page spreads, text zooms, and automated slideshow.
Described by Mike Raub at ComicMix as "the coolest Comic iPhone App so far", Genus have licensed Will Eisner’s comics from W.W. Norton for the platform, including A Contract with God, and also offer Zombies versus Robots by Chris Ryall & Ashley Wood (via IDW Publishing).
The Kamikaze App was developed by Melissa Pope and Helen Cho Anthos, co-CEOs of Genus Corp who point out that, unlike the rival Uclick App, Kamikaze makes use of all of the iPhone functionality — the easy swipe, pinch and scale-up functions as well as functionality specifically designed for Kamikaze.
At last month's New York Comic Con, Pope and Anthos revealed they were in the process of negotiating new licensing deals to bring more comics and graphic novels to the Kamikaze.
• Web Link: www.genusapps.com/kamikaze.html
Viewing comics on the Kindle is still limited -- even with the Kindle 2, you only get a 16 tone greyscale screen and, says PW, comics can "look dim and small; word balloons are often difficult to read even when enlarged." Kindle’s zoom and enlarge feature is often inadequate for comics reading.
Still, greyscale is fine for most manga titles as most aren't in colour, and publishers experimenting with the device include
• Yen Press which has released at least two titles in Kindle editions, James Patterson’s bestselling teen fantasy adventure series, Maximum Ride, illustrated by NaRae Lee, and The World of Quest by Jason Kruse.
• Original manga publisher Go! Comi has released Japan Ai: A Tall Girl’s Adventures in Japan by Aimee Major Steinberger. (Go! Comi has its own "manga viewer" to read some strips on its web site, which has a similar look to myebook.com).
• Paul Auster's City of Glass (with drawings by former Daredevil artist David Mazzucchelli) is available as a Kindle edition through Macmillan's Picador imprint.
• Pantheon has released Craig Thompson's Goodbye Chunky Rice
All the publishers report mixed fortunes with Kindle editions, but some felt the technology would improve. Meanwhile, the delivery of comics on other devices such as the iPhone is on the rise. Several commentators have noted the Kindle for iPhone App coulld also deliver comics - and in colour, too.
As we've mentioned previously, there are a number of iPhone comic reader Apps now available, including one from GoComics which has sold well through the ITunes App Store. Genus Apps launched its Kamikaze comics reader last month and iVerse has its own App, too, and of course it isn't limiting delivery of its content to the iPhone, while ROK Comics offers delivery of comics via WAP and download to its commercial partners.
Thursday, 5 March 2009
Ninjatown: Adventures of Wee Ninja is written by Art Balthazar and Franco Aureliani, with art by Balthazar, Aureliani, Bill Halliar and Bob Renzas, who are also the creative team behind the fan favourite Tiny Titans all-ages comic book series from DC Comics.
"The colourful, comedic adventures presented in the Ninjatown comic book app are fun for everyone," says Uclick CEO Douglas Edwards. "The Wee Ninjas have won ardent fans from all over the world. We're happy to offer iPhone and iPod touch users the chance to see what all of the buzz is about."
The Wee Ninjas of Ninjatown are the creations of Shawnimals designer Shawn Smith, and stars of the hit Ninjatown video game for Nintendo DS, which has been nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Strategy Game, has been voted one of the top games of 2008 by msnbc, and won an IGN.com's Editor's Choice Award.
So far, Uclick has released more than 100 comic book, graphic novel, manga and webcomic applications in Apple's App Store, covering a wide range of genres and interests, with everything from Ghostbusters comic books to webcomic hits like Garfield Minus Garfield. Ninjatown is the latest in a growing lineup of Uclick titles geared toward fans of all ages.
Other all-ages titles include Jeff Smith's critically acclaimed Bone series and manga-style comic books featuring classic teen sleuths Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys.
Most of the Uclick apps for iPhone and iPod touch are available at $.99 (US) cents each and feature tap-and-swipe, panel-by-panel controls. The Apple devices' large Multi-Touch displays enable a clear, high-resolution presentation. The zoom feature allows an even closer look at any panel.
• To get Ninjatown: Adventures of Wee Ninja and other favourite comic books, graphic novels and manga for the iPhone and iPod touch go to the new Uclick Web App by typing Uclick.com into the Safari browser or visit the App Store on the iPhone or on iTunes.
• You can snag right now over the iTunes App Store direct by clicking here
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
The company's Comic Reader is a generic comic book reader for Apples iPhone / iPod Touch, and gives the user a wealth of options in a very naturally feeling application, including the option to 'peel back' the art to see how it was developed, from original pencils, to inks to final form.
Using Comic Reader, an iPhone user can view each comic panel as a feature rich, full colour delight and with the iPhone or iPod Touches backlight screen, the colours literally jump out at you.
Simply swiping your finger across the screen moves you from panel to panel, without spoiling the excitement of seeing the climax on the opposite page, but that's not all. Swiping your finger vertically allows you to peel away each layer to reveal how that particular panel was put together, from initial concept sketch, to inking and final colouring.
A number of other options are available with just a quick tap on the screen. These allow you to turn off and on the speech and textual captions, add your own bookmarks direct to your favorite section in the story, or select from the chapters section with small icon images of the beginning of the chapter to quickly find your way.
The Reader, developed by a team that includes 2000AD artist Paul J. Holden, also includes an options tab that offers the ability to change the transition effect of going up or down through the layers and actually sliding the layer out or fade one layer into the other.
If that wasn't enough, the Reader also offers audio commentary -- in fact, two forms of audio on the Comic Reader. First, you can listen to the artist, writer, comic publisher, or whoever you want can give a commentary on the development on that particular panel within the comic. It might have been a totally new direction the comic was to take and needed some strong decision making. Now creators can let your readers know why this decision was taken.
The second audio option is for voiced actors to play the parts of your characters, enabling voice over and removing the subtitles. From here you can click on the "Play/Pause" button to allow automatic panel switching. This last option really does allow your reader to get into the feel of the action onscreen.
"If you think that something like, voiced actors, would never take off, just think of broadcast radio shows," say Blue Pilot. "You have no idea of what the actual scenario is like, or what the characters are wearing, you leave that to your imagination, which can sometimes lead you astray. Here, you can hear the action as it happens and the images give you the missing visual clues needed to really get into the action."
If you're an independent comic book writer/designer or a major league within the comic fraternity, you really should be looking at the Comic Reader to get your material into the hands of the iPhone/iPod Touch community.