CCI EXCLUSIVE: Panelfly Spreads its Wings

Early comics app developer Panelfly returns with a new concept, as seen in their "Burn Notice" comic app

Panelfly was launched in 2009 as one of the first multi-comics apps for the iPhone, its slick user interface and library of indy graphic novels quickly earning it praise from critics. When the iPad was launched, Panelfly's developers, Opsis Distribution, LLC, announced their plans to release a version which took advantage of the increased screen real estate, but that did not materialize. Instead, Panelfly stopped releasing updates and was eclipsed by other multi-platform digital comics apps such as comiXology's Comics, iVerse's Comics+ and Graphicly.

Now, Opsis has joined forces with Dunebuggy Media LLC to create a new company, Panefly, Inc., that will relaunch Panefly as a multimedia app for smartphones and tablets. The company includes the original developers of Panelfly, Bett Dovman, Wade Slitkin and Stephen Lynch, as well as Dunebuggy Media principals Edward Lang, who is the CEO of the new company, and Don McGuire, who is CMO.

The new Panelfly, Inc., plans to release an improved comics app in early August, and in October, it plans to release Panelfly Plus, a more sophisticated product that will include videos, news and social media, as well as original content.

The company already has one product in circulation -- the Panelfly team were the developers of the iPad app that includes "A New Day," a comic developed by USA Network and DC Comics based on the USA television show "Burn Notice." The 12-issue comic, which is also available online in addition to the app, fills in the story between the fourth and fifth seasons of the TV series. The iPad app, developed by Panelfly, includes not only the comic but also character profiles, video clips, interviews, a news stream that includes blog posts and Tweets from the cast and staff and a roundup of mentions of the show on Twitter.

Lang told CBR News that the Panelfly developers stopped updating the original app when the company's entire concept of the app changed. "Instead of just releasing an update, we really wanted to develop a unique product based on feedback from publishers, studios, comic artists and fans," he said. 
"About a year ago, Panelfly realized that a comic-only approach was only the first step in delivering the ultimate fan experience," he said. "By challenging ourselves to push the envelope and take advantage of new technologies, we are creating a completely evolved consumer experience on a new platform that will deliver on our vision of an advanced interactive, multimedia experience to serve the super fan."

Panelfly will launch its updated comics app, Panelfly Prime, in about two weeks, and the company will demonstrate Panelfly Plus at Comic-Con International in San Diego this week. Panelfly Prime, Lang said, is a comics app with a more intuitive user interface and several added features, including social networking and an expanded catalog of content. It will be available for smart phones and tablets, including both iOS (iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch) and Android devices.

Panelfly Plus is a multimedia app that includes comics, videos and social networking. The app is cloud-based, which means that content is stored on Panelfly's servers and can be downloaded or viewed as streaming content. The app, Lang said, "offers an even deeper user experience with multimedia assets, deeper links to social features and sites and a broader device profile including seamless TV integration and interactivity."

When asked why is this better than a simple comics app, like comiXology's reader, Lang responded, "Currently there is not a single product/offering that brings all these elements together. We link the content assets in the context of their stories. For example, in a blockbuster franchise we would link the comics to the film with additional in-depth, behind the scenes content to dive even deeper if you are interested."
The "Burn Notice" app offers an example of how this can work -- the user can simply read the comic or go deeper into the story in a variety of different ways, including watching trailers, getting background information and updates on the show and chatting with other fans about it. "We believe that fans are looking for an immersive experience around comics," said Lang. "Panelfly products will give you not only the reader, but also the multimedia experience. As a user, you can choose how far in depth you want to go. If you want only the comic reader, you will still be able to enjoy that product on its own."

The Twitter feed incorporated into the comic is only an early example of the interactive component, Lang told CBR, adding, "We plan to have more interactive elements as part of Panelfly Plus."

Lang describes Panelfly Plus as "device and OS agnostic," but at launch it will be available, like Panelfly Prime, on iOS and Android tablets and smart phones. He said that other platforms, such as a browser or Adobe Air-based app that could be used on Macs or PCs, would be added over time.

In terms of the catalog, Lang said, "Panelfly will stay true to our mission of supporting and celebrating great stories by developing content from a range of talent, whether indy or blockbuster. We are also expanding our programming and have already begun to collaborate with artists to publish original content that utilize the multimedia capabilities of Panelfly Plus. We plan to announce details around those projects soon."

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Tags: dc comics, usa network, panelfly, burn notice, digital comics, itunes, iphone, cci2011

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