Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Madefire- It's about time you know about it.

 How well is the e-book market for comics doing? What is the market share of downloaded comics versus the number of print copies sold? I don't know. Maybe there is one place you could go to find all of those answers at once, but I haven't searched for it very diligently. What I do know is some of the e-books work to make the experience a little different from the traditional print reading and some don't.
 But there is a company working to take the digital comic experience to the next level. Since 2012 they have garnered rave reviews on their digital format/layout for comics. Some of the stories are originals. Some come form companies like DC and IDW. But they all look amazing when they have been given the Madefire treatment. It must be good when the App Store lists Madefire as one of the Best Apps of 2012, or when USA Today calls the Madefire books "groundbreaking." Madefore has gotten the attention of Wired, Time, The New York Times, MTV Geek, and the Wall Street Journal, just to name a few. They made major presentations at the New York Comic Con and the San Diego Comic Con.

 Comic artist and writer Liam Sharp introduced me to Motion books through our connection on Deviant Art. I follow him and ask him all kinds of questions, and Liam always very kindly replies with something very helpful or insightful. Liam promised that the motion books by Madefire "are going to be the wave of the future." Liam never has steered me wrong, so a few days later I made sure to check out his own book, Captain Stone is Missing. Beginning with the cover, this was different than what I was used to seeing. The images floated over each other- moving around the screen with the mouse would subtly shift the characters up, down and back and forth creating a 3-D feel. "Opening" the first page brought music and sound effects (Imagine that! The comic comes with its own soundtrack!) and clicking to continue the motion book brought small animations, light effects and changes to other panels that were visible but not yet read. The word balloons didn't always appear at the initial glance of the new page, but moving to each panel would reveal the script, a piece at a time.
 After reading the first installment of Captain Stone I sat back and thought about how this could/would change things and open up new roles in comics. The writer, penciler, inker, colorist, letterer and editor would all still have roles in this new format. But animators and musicians could be part of the team. An editor could get a "motions and effects assistant editor" to help deciding on how to take the static images and make them do something that adds to the story. In the bigger picture I imagine this would take programmers to continue to refine the tools used in these books, but also to create tools  and applications that the creative team could find themselves wanting or needing as they continue to explore the possibilities of motion books.
 And really, from this starting point, anything is possible. Imagine you are reading a Nick Fury story when your cell phone rings. You answer it, and what you hear is someone explaining the details of a dossier you see in the picture but didn't know what was in there. Suddenly, you have access to some of SHIELD's records and they pertain to the story. Or, what if the motion book included a small game that allows you to play out the fight scene to it's victorious conclusion on your tablet? Like that soundtrack on that motion book you purchased? Wouldn't it be great if it could be downloaded to your music list as part of the purchase?
 The ideas just keep coming!
 The only thing motion books haven't captured (no electronic format I know of has to date- correct me if I'm wrong) to date is the ability to be collectible. Print comics can be purchased and physically placed somewhere. They are limited in how many can exist. Their conditions vary, making finding the ones you want for the price and condition you want part of the hunt. Comics collections can move from person to person, whether they are handed down of sold. They have measurable value. But once a digital comic, e-book or motion book is purchased how does one grade the condition, limit the numbers, or find a way to pass them on or sell them?
 Still, Madefire is on to something big here, and I have to agree with Liam- this looks like the wave of the future! Madefire has a free app that allows you to read the books. They also have Facebook and Twitter and can be found on DeviantArt with many previews and some free issues. But check out their web page,, and see the media buzz, meet the creators, learn about the motion tools and see what is in their growing library.

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