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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"What's the deal with..." Motion Comics

Okay, so we know what Mobile Comics are: sequential art on your phone/eReader; static images of scanned in comic book pages with transitions between panels. Basically still a comic book, just in a digital format.

Motion comics, however, have more in common with cartoons/animation, and in their own way, are more enjoyable to watch, but a lot of creators question whether something that moves, speaks, and has music (thereby requiring no reading) is still a comic book at all.

I'm not going to get into that debate here. No, I just want to evaluate what is out there and available in this new electronic comic format/medium. I'll try and keep it chronological for the sake of witnessing the development of the technology and see who did what first.

I Am Legend. Watchmen. Batman. Obviously with Warner Brothers backing DC Comics (now more than ever as part of DC Entertainment) they were an obvious forerunner to Motion Comics.

I recall first seeing original Motion Comics promoting the movie 'I Am Legend' and upon searching could only find these two: I Am Legend: Isolation & I Am Legend: Awakening. The art is good and it's entertaining, I particularly like the jail story in Isolation, but they didn't do much with it past when the movie premiered. Although I have just learned they are on the DVD as extras, and as one reviewer said, they're good pilots for sequels without Will Smith.

Then the un-makeable, comic book, anti-superhero epic Watchmen was to be released, and Warner Brothers decided to put out the story as Motion Comic Webisodes. The good thing is there's a whole site based around the project, which is available on iTunes, Amazon Video on Demand, as well as a DVD release. I watched the first episode on the Black Freighter/Under the Hood extra DVD that was released after the movie, and it was pretty faithful and well done. The only complaint I can drum up is that it's treated as an audio-book with one guy doing all the voices, even for the ladies.

I watched previews of Batman: Black and White, Batman Adventures: Mad Love, and Batgirl Year One last night on my iPod touch. I've only read the Batgirl Year One in print and I really loved that story, seeing it in action is really amazing. It's available here on Amazon Video on Demand and iTunes. The other Batman stories seem cool as well, but I'm not the biggest Batman fan. Batman: Black and White is available here on iTunes and Amazon Video on Demand.

Here's a link to Time Warner's info on their webcomics/motion comics.

They've also released Superman Red Son on iTunes and I've watched some snippets of the webisodes/chapters of the stories, but I'm hearing some bad things, technical and story editing-wise, about these so it seems that Warner Brothers has some work to do to learn how to properly market and put out their stories. It does show, however, that they know which high profile comics/graphic novels to push (not hard to figure out if you look at sales, I suppose). Here's a little snippet from YouTube.

SyFy Channel has been airing the Street Fighter & Voltron (both originally published in print comic form by Devil's Due Press) Motion Comics as part of their Ani-Monday lineup (Monday night at Midnight) both of which have been released on DVD earlier in 2009 by Eagle One Media.

There isn't a lot of animation here and unless you're a huge fan of either one I don't think you'll be that entertained by it. I enjoy it as I am a huge Ken fan, and the art is really cool (in that post-modern American manga sort of way), the voices, sfx, and music are fine, but in the end it's Street Fighter and Voltron. So there you go.

To buy these on DVD (and many other motion comic DVDs, including CrossGen Comics [whatever happened to them?]) click here Eagle One Media.

Then we come to Stan Lee, who will never give up putting something out there, and so his company POW! Entertainment teamed up with Disney to produce TimeJumper which is available on iTunes. Below is the sneak peek of episode one, and it looks good, but generic-- much like most of what Stan Lee has put out in the past few years (*cough* Striperella *cough*).

And apprently Striperella is its own iPod/iPhone mobile comic, and you really need to watch this video.

This brings me to Marvel. They offered Spider-Woman: Agent of SWORD for $1 for two weeks, before bumping the price up to $2, which is still half of what a print comic costs these days. And in a cool marketing move, they released this comic as a motion comic first, then published in print a month later. The big deal here is that this is an in-continuity story that's released in digital format before it's put into it's regular print format.

The Astonishing X-Men Motion Comic trailer; the art and animation seem really cool, advanced way beyond what's come before it (in some respects), and kind of worth a buck or two. The good thing is they're keeping the releases of their motion comics coming out every two weeks, with Spider-Woman leading up to the launch of Astonishing X-Men, which with Joss Whedon and John Cassaday on the writing and art respectively, and it being the X-Men and all, this is definitely their most mass media/comic fanboy friendly project.

This, to me, looks awesome. I know some other comic fans that disagree with me, but I definitely enjoy the extra level of detail that went into animating this. It may be even closer to animation/cartoons than some of the other motion comics above, but that's what I love. It retains the same art and storytelling as the original comics, and then adds in extra drama with the voices, music, and animated action.

Marvel knew they'd have to go the extra mile to pimp out this badboy, so here's a clip from Marvel.com of the premiere of Astonishing X-Men Motion Comic on October 28, 2009, held in Union Square. I've heard mixed (a little on the bad side) reviews of this event, but I think it was mostly due to the weather. There was a signing with Chris Claremont, Dan Slott, Neal Adams, Frank Tieri, Paolo Rivera, Jacob Chabot, and my boy, Reilly "Big Time" Brown. Watch the merriment upon Reilly's face as he sketches and chats with fans!

They really wanted to sell this to not just comic fans, but also to the video game, music video, anime loving crowd, and so, released this music video on the G4 Channel.

All in all, a pretty decent media push from Marvel and a great digital product to go along with it. Marvel even held an animating contest through a website called Aniboom looking for motion comic animators. They've narrowed the contest down to five finalists which they have posted for your viewing pleasure here.

They seem pretty interesting, and you really get a sense of how motion comics can be directed really well, or really poorly. If you look on Aniboom's website you'll see some of the less than stellar results which I think is just as interesting as the well done ones.

Here's a few more articles on Marvel's Motion Comics and Motion Comics in general:


Marvel's Motion Comic Spider-Woman at Newsarama

Inside Warner Brothers Digital Comics

iPhone Saves Small Press?

Kindle 2, iPods, and Comics Future


Motion Comics: Graphic Novels in the Digital Age

Now, if we follow this trend, imagining that iPod-ish technology will catch on and never go away, digital floppies (or singles, issues, etc.) should be the standard comic book weekly Wednesday and then collected trades, hardcovers, omnibuses to be released regularly in print AND digital. The only problem is that the print weekly comics can never fully go away, as that was always the fun of going to a comic store. Buying these things online is a novelty, but I still hunger for a physical storefront. But maybe tomorrow's generation won't mind a world without stores.

All this makes me wonder one thing: when are we going to see Sam Keith's MTV produced The Maxx series on DVD?! (Which really did this whole thing 13 years ago.)


1 comment:

  1. The australian itunes store doesn't have the motion comics so i have to wait until they're available on youtube or dvd.

    I too have been waiting for maxx, i had the video so made a digital copy which does okay but it really is quite strange that they haven't brought this out yet.