A screen capture from “The Watchmen” motion comic
I’ve written in the past about the exciting work that my friends Michael Jantze and Kelly McNutt are doing in exploring the transformation of static comic strips into a format for the 21st century. The challenge is to figure out a way to translate the traditional strip comic into a multimedia format that keeps the original feel and function of the strip and is both visually arresting and relatively quick and inexpensive to produce. The idea is to bring strips into the age of the internet by making them deliverable by e-mail, web or cell phone in a Web 2.0 format. They call them “Audio Comics”. Here are some examples using Micheal’s “The Norm” strip:
I think they are brilliant, combining the images and sounds of actual newspaper elements with simple but interesting animations and voiceover. They are on to something here.
Comic strips are not the only cartoon print media trying to break away from the page and rediscover themselves in limited animated form on the internet. Editorial cartoonists have been dabbling in animation based cartoons in online newspaper websites for some time. Here’s one of those by cartoonist Chappatte:
Lately comic books are trying to get into the action. Warner Bros. Digital Distribution and Warner Premiere have produced several “Motion Comics”, which are in a similar vein as the examples above… namely taking the static images of existing art and combining them with animatic-like limited animation, music and voiceovers to create a “multimedia” comic. “The Watchmen” is now a motion comic series available on iTunes.
There is also a series called “Batman: Black and White” on iTunes featuring art by Alex Ross from the comic of the same title. Individual episodes are about 25 minutes long and cost $1.99 each.
This concept is interesting but still in it’s infancy. Both the motion comics mentioned above have good and bad points, and they differ in their approach. “The Watchmen” includes the word balloons and text, which appear as the narrator reads them. The animations are limited anamatic style motion, pans and zooms that do not try and be an animated film but more a reading of the comic itself. “Batman: Black and White” tries harder to be animated, with more layers of moving images, some individual articulation of characters like moving arms, etc, and no word balloons or text boxes.
Of the two approaches, I think I favor The Watchmen‘s less involved approach. I don’t mind the text boxes and animatics… it isn’t tying to be something it isn’t. I don’t understand why they just have a single narrator reading all the individual parts, however. It would be much less distracting to at least have a female reading all the female parts, if not a full cast doing all the parts. Having a male narrator doing a bad ‘female’ voice takes away from the experience.
“Batman: Black and White” uses more of a vocal cast and then eliminates the text entirely. That makes for more of an engaging experience. Some of the images are very busy and kind of hard to figue out what’s going on… there are lot’s of extreme close ups of very tiny parts of panels which demonstrate the limitations of this approach.
Sorry I could not embed any teasers of these “Motion Comics”, but the copyright owners don’t permit that kind of thing. You can see short teasers of each episdoe on iTunes. The motion comics themsleves are interesting forays into a possible future of comics, so you can decide for yourself if you want to plunk down the coin to watch them.
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