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How Madefire Is Changing the Visual Grammar of Comics 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the artist-discretion-is-advised dept.
waderoush writes "When you read a comic book or graphic novel on your tablet device, you're usually looking at a static reproduction of a print page, not a 'born digital' creation with serious interactivity. Madefire, a new startup in Emeryville, CA, is working to change that with the release today of its new iPad reader and comic-book authoring tool. Featuring seven original titles at launch — including one from Watchmen creator Dave Gibbons — the Madefire platform largely abandons traditional panel layouts in favor of 'sequences' in which the action progresses through the addition of image layers, as well as sound effects and music. 'We want to make people look at the fabric of storytelling—left to right, top to bottom—and break that fabric,' says Madefire founder Ben Wolstenholme. The company is also avoiding well-known superhero titles in favor of new characters and storylines. 'This century needs its new creations and its new myths and legacies,' says chief creative officer Liam Sharp, a veteran of X-Men, Spider-Man, Spawn, and other well-known traditional series."
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How Madefire Is Changing the Visual Grammar of Comics

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  • 'We want to make people look at the fabric of storytelling—left to right, top to bottom—and break that fabric,' says Madefire founder Ben Wolstenholme.

    Ah, so he wants to make manga?

    • Crap. Forgive the self reply. I've no idea how I let Dark Horse Motion Comics [darkhorse.com] slip my mind.
      • by Ghostworks (991012) on Friday June 22, 2012 @06:21PM (#40417157)

        I remember when Marvel did stuff like this in '90s. Does this company do it better? Maybe. But it's still not that novel an approach, and I doubt the reason these motion comics failed to take off before was because of a lack of good tools. There comes a time when you either want a comic, or a cartoon, but not something that's an awkward combination of the two. When you get right down to it, wants the difference here between the Flash cartoons that have been around for ages (Aside from starting with prettier cutouts drawn by professional illustrators)?

        The main problem with comics on a screen (any screen) these days is that humans can focus in close on a printed page fairly easily, but readers suck at zooming and moving around a large image. So you can either see the page art then zoom in to actually read the text (repeated), or you can read panels at a time (zooming in to see, say, 1/6th of the page) and miss the full impact of the occasional full-page or two-page spread. There's still some room for technology to move in and help the issue -- maybe allow publishers to tag pages as "shock spread" so you see the full art first, no matter what, before returning the reader to a close-in panel view -- but screen resolution is a limit to the experience.

        • Well now they have the technology they need to make it...badass! After all, everything is better on an iPad, right? /sarcasm

        • by ifwm (687373)

          "The main problem with comics on a screen (any screen) these days is that humans can focus in close on a printed page fairly easily, but readers suck at zooming and moving around a large image. So you can either see the page art then zoom in to actually read the text (repeated), or you can read panels at a time (zooming in to see, say, 1/6th of the page) and miss the full impact of the occasional full-page or two-page spread."

          I really have no idea what you're talking about, I have a 22 inch monitor and I ca

    • Looking at the example they have out ( http://vimeo.com/44280691 [vimeo.com] ), it appears they want to make really bad powerpoint presentations.

    • by eriklou (1027240)

      no he wants a visual novel ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_novel [wikipedia.org] ) for western audiences.

  • Left to right?!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 22, 2012 @05:55PM (#40416997)

    I'm totally used to right to left from manga these days. You know - the comics with actually good stories :-p

    • too bad that's where all the talent went. japanese video games have sucked a fat one for the last 5 years at least
  • by eggstasy (458692) on Friday June 22, 2012 @06:02PM (#40417041) Journal

    Computer games have done that since the dawn of time. *grabs cane*
    Why, back in MY day, being able to watch VIDEO on your computer was HUGE!
    We didn't have animations. Overlaying things and doing transitions was the norm.
    So yes. A lot of what you youngsters call "cutscenes" was made with static images, not video or 3D data.

    One of my favorite games still does that: http://defendersquest.com/ [defendersquest.com]

    • Computer games have done that since the dawn of time. *grabs cane*

      That makes sense. Most amateurs and internet-generated comics do it that way too. It's way cheaper to reuse the same drawing 50 times by sliding it than having to draw the same object 50 times.

      Creating new characters is way cheaper too. Who has the budget to pay a franchise for the rights to an existing character anyhow? Very few publishers do. It's far better to create your own characters, and then pretend that your character will be good enough so that others will be willing to pay outrageous sums of mone

  • Amazing! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 22, 2012 @06:02PM (#40417043)

    I came up with a great name for this amazing new invention: "cartoons".

  • Haven't seen this thing, but to me it seems like they're basically adapting comics to computers and imo there's huge amount of prior art in games already.

  • Remember Flash animation cartoons?

    "The God and Devil Show" [mondominishows.com], from Mondo Media.

  • After watching it I thought the novel format would be the future of graphic novels. Some 10 years later these guys are just starting to get somewhere with multimedia comics.
  • I didn't know that slashdot was taking paid advertisements. Well this one is excellent a blend of interesting tech fact, geek interest, and in your face sales (our product is better than the competitors).
    Well I have some bio-gas generating land in Florida for sale. I will write a scholarly article about how a grid of microbial fuel cells could power a server farm and the water abundant environment can be used for green cooling. Get in before Oracle buys it all up.
  • Mediafire (Score:4, Funny)

    by slazzy (864185) on Friday June 22, 2012 @06:23PM (#40417171) Homepage
    Did anyone else think that said "mediafire" or was that just me?
    • by vlueboy (1799360)

      = Movies

      Now that there's a huge apps landgrab, it looks like they're cashing in on the fact that the "multimedia" story-telling was forgotten somewhere along the way. Without reading the article I'd say they're just re-implementing the nineties' land grab that low-res animations + voice tracks + music introduced... and they'll discover that without CD-size media to deliver all that, apps will need either multi-meg bundles or slow and pricey bandwidth requirements.

  • Only for IOS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    No android

  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Friday June 22, 2012 @06:53PM (#40417363)

    Why have an article about how revolutionary the 'visual grammar' of the layout is, if you aren't going to show any examples of how it's different?

    Ryan Fenton

  • By concentrating on sound effects, music, and visual effects, they're doing exactly what Hollywood has been doing for years: flashy crap triumphing over the substance of good writing.
  • availability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iroll (717924) on Friday June 22, 2012 @07:19PM (#40417517) Homepage

    Yay! It's available for iPhone and iPad and... that's it. Congratulations, you've made something that I won't ever use.

    I mean, I'm typing this on a MacBook and I can't even check out a preview of one of their fancy e-motion-2.0-books, so I bet you can imagine how excited I am to buy one. Really, you can't make a browser app so that I can at least try it out?

    For all its warts, these guys should take a cue from Spotify: it's available on all platforms, and damned if I don't have it running on an android phone, a MacBook, an assortment of Windows (XP, Vista, 7) computers at work and home, and a Debian box.

    And I couldn't be happier giving them my money.

    • by Grayhand (2610049)
      Ah it's not their fault that Apple is the only one right now supporting the advanced features. It's very expensive to redo them for multiple formats since there aren't tools out there to output to more generic formats like HTML 5. It sounds more like sour grapes because you don't own an iPad. They are targeting for one market, deal with it. I swear these days if they don't support every format they should be burned as witches. I'm developing similar projects and I'll tell you from first hand experience that
      • by Anonymous Coward

        They're releasing these motion comics in HTML 5. You did catch that, didn't you?

      • I mean, I'm typing this on a MacBook and I can't even check out a preview of one of their fancy e-motion-2.0-books...

        Ah it's not their fault that Apple is the only one right now supporting the advanced features.

        Ummm... You know Apple makes the MacBook he was referring to, right? It even has several browsers that run on the same base rendering engine as the iPad app is using.

        InDesign is the premiere tool and it doesn't support this type of interaction.

        InDesign is from Adobe (read slow as shit to adopt any new tech they did not invent) and it is focused on the print magazine industry. You might want to look at their Flash replacement tools instead, whatever they're calling PhoneGap now that they bought it.

    • by Zaelath (2588189)

      I tried to give Spotify my money recently. They tried to get me to sign up with Facebook and rely on an external service to provide the authentication, a service that would have no financial motivation to solve my problems if there was an issue.

      Needless to say, they didn't get my money. Perhaps you can find a better example.

      • by iroll (717924)

        I said it has warts, and I'll agree with you wholeheartedly that that's probably the biggest one of them. I would be less critical of them if it was just for people using the free version (maybe they get some revenue from FB), but for the paid version they should be able to handle their own business.

        • by Zaelath (2588189)

          Yup. I find the strangest part of that is they're still (as I understand it) supporting the existing authentication infrastructure they had before, so they still have all the cost of supporting that, but removed the choice for new customers to use it.

          I think they swear up and down they get no FB kickbacks (doesn't make it true I realise), but they certainly don't seem to care that "improving the user experience" is losing them paying customers.

          Maybe that's what G+ is doing wrong, they should insist you have

  • Too bad you need an iPad (or install iTunes??) to even see what the article is talking about. Nope.

    Oh, hey look [vimeo.com]. It's crappy.
  • Futurama had comic + motion + sound effects* in Fry's Delivery-Boy Man [theinfosphere.org].

    * (well, not "good" sound effects)

  • So... Americans finally figured out what anime is?
  • Can anyone chime in on why a front facing camera is needed at all? Big #fail or too resource hungry and it was their way of stripping my ages old first gen iPad?

  • Pick one and do it well. Primitive animation can be funny or cute, but it needs to be designed with that in mind - as a low budget animation, something which will be shown on screen rather than in print. This can work on a small screen quite well. If you want to make a comic though, tacking on a few sound effects and screen wipes really adds very little, and is more likely to disrupt the experience.
  • Seriously, flash/gif-based webcomics like Homestuck [mspaintadventures.com] have been doing this for a while.
    • by Myself (57572)

      I remember discovering the animated treats within Dead Winter [deadwinter.cc], on the 100's. Link goes to 199, so you can read a bit of the story before clicking Next to hit 200. (Story is violent and text in strip 200 is definitely NSFW.)

      How did a product placement make it to /.'s front page? Le sigh.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    These are called visual novels, VN. There are enough of them to have their own database. I guess they are becoming the next Japanese thing to catch on. The majority are essentially choose your own adventure books with images depicting setting and characters with simple animations. Some have fancier animations, some have voice acting, some have actual gameplay attached to them like 'Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors' for DS. In my opinion the best games of the last 5 years have actually been VNs. Se

  • This guy is comparing some random app for Apple with the masterpiece that is the first Star Wars trilogy?

  • This sounds a lot like flash animations and gifs, especially as seen in Homestuck, but also occasionally seen elsewhere (Questionable Content, DrMcNinja, for example).
    Basically, people who work in a medium on the internet understand that they have fewer limitations than print artists. Then when they end up getting their things printed, they have to somehow work around the animations and/or differently shaped panels.
    This sounds like nothing new at all, just a restricted way to have people view comics that c

  • (OMG!) If this is real, than this (bang, pow!) would be amazing! Paul [theoatmeal.com]
  • "Madefire, a new startup in Emeryville, CA, is working to change that with the release today of its new iPad reader and comic-book authoring tool"

    Translation: this is a well-executed publicity piece masquerading as news.

    "This century needs its new creations and its new myths and legacies,' says chief creative officer Liam Sharp"

    Translation: we couldn't afford any licenses.

  • Didn't Showtime have something like this about a campy nerd girl jumping around being all super heroine like?
  • by allo (1728082)

    http://comics.cyberneticevilstudios.com/ [cybernetic...tudios.com]

    choose flash-comic-page-select in the top-menu and choose "first page" to get started.
    Really nice comic, sad that the author is no longer making new comics.

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