Living up to the “idea” portion of their name, IDW Publishing’s Director of ePublishing Jeff Webber sat down with iVerse Media CEO Michael Murphy and writers Tony Lee (“Doctor Who”) and Tom Zahler (“Love and Capes”) at Comic-Con International in San Diego to show fans what IDW’s digital movement has in store.
Webber brought fans up to speed on where he and his digital staff stand. So far the IDW digital team have partnered with over 20 different technology and distribution partners, including iVerse, Apple and Nokia, to make the IDW experience what it is today. Since 2009 IDW has had one of the more prolific presences in digital comics distribution. With over 900 series available and 4,000 individual issues, IDW is close to reaching 4 million downloads.
The IDW digital team attributes this to having multiple apps within its widespread digital market places. “We have a Transformers app so you can download just Transformers comics, because in the world of digital comics we’re getting a lot of people that aren’t natural comic book buyers,” Webber shared. “So instead of just including everything inside one IDW app, we’ve made a lot of these separate branding apps like Transformers because those fans may never go into comic shops.”
After catching up with fans — and allowing Tony Lee to finish his witty conjecture about buying “Doctor Who” comics with his iPad — Webber made several announcements about IDW’s new line of apps. In addition to the separate apps for the Transformers property, licensed titles “Doctor Who,” “True Blood,” “Star Trek” and “G.I. Joe” would all be getting their own app presence. The new “Star Trek” line will feature cast members from J.J. Abrams’ film, but tell stories from the classic 1960s series. “30 Days of Night” artist Ben Templesmith will also be receiving his own app.
One of the more ambitious announcements Webber mentioned was the crossover between IDW’s licensed property “Star Trek” and DC Comics’ “Legion of Super-Heroes,” which Webber describes as “just an awesome concept in itself.”
Further announcements involved the inclusion of Ape Entertainment’s “Pocket God” into the “Infestation” crossover event and never-before-seen “30 Days of Night” digital content, which will receive its very own app, available this fall.
Webber then passed the torch to iVerse’s Murphy, who announced the release of iVerse’s latest update for all their app. “We’ve made a lot of changes to app internally,” Murphy said. “Now it’s incredibly fast, and all of the apps that are currently out are being powered by this.”
Murphy briefly switched gears to announce their partnership with Diamond Digital. “Diamond Digital is a program that’s going out to allow retailers to sell digital copies both in store and online,” he said.
Quickly bringing things back around to IDW, Webber announced that content will now be available on the Blackberry Playbook tablet via CoMix on-the-go.
On the creative side of things, IDW has been experimenting with bringing fans different styles of comics, like the cult classic Sunday strip “Bloom County,” in new and interesting formats. “We formatted these so that they’re formatted differently that the print version, one strip per page, said Webber. “On a lot of the strips, [creator] Berkeley [Breathed]’s gone back and [added] annotations explaining things.”
Webber then turned the wheel over to writers Lee and Zahler to go through the creative process of writing for digital. Zhaler began with his early days writing. “When I started it was in the dark ages, before the iPad, and I self-published [‘Love and Capes’] before IDW picked me up at issue #13,” he recalled. “I wanted to make is as easy as possible for people to get the comics. So I broke it up in an eight-panel format where every fourth panel is a beat. From a writing standpoint, it becomes a metronome to say ‘One, two, three, be funny.'”
Zahler went on to describe his creative process of formatting his material for digital access. “What I did [was] I cut the book in half, and every page has been sectioned up into two different strips,” he said.
“Doctor Who” writer Lee gave perspective from his point of view regarding the writing process for digital. “With digital it makes it a bit more fun,” he said. “When it first came out everyone got really excited because you don’t have to worry about being where every page is a right-page turn. It gets down to every single panel is a right-hand turn.
“I try to keep it about five to six panels a page, quite compressed,” Lee continued. “It’s a nightmare with David Tennant because David Tennant’s Doctor likes to talk. A lot. And if I’m going to be the Doctor’s voice, he’s going to talk a lot. Which means a lot of speech balloons. Which means a lot less art. Which means artists try to punch me in the face with a fork.” Zahler then chimed in and said, “But the letterers love you.”
Lee wrapped the panel’s discussion with a motivational message praising the creative realm of digital comics and how it’s an important part of the comics industry. He summarized by saying simply, “You can do whatever you want.”