Comic books are on a journey, Paul Levitz says, and we're all along for the ride.
At the Motion Comics: Graphic Novels in The Digital Age panel at Comic-Con International, panelists talked about this new medium for comics that takes a standard comic and adds motion, voice-overs and music. Panelists discussed what they knew, but they also wanted to hear what the fans thought about the way motion comics should work.
"I think it's great to have you guys in this room, to help us shape this medium," Levitz said.
Panelists included Dave Gibbons ("Watchmen"), Paul Dini ("Batman: Black and White," "Mad Love"), Levitz (DC Comics), Stephen Fedasz (art director of Perpetual Studios), Dylan Coburn (director of "Superman: Red Son"), Lydia Antonini (director of digital development for Warner Premiere) and Jake Hughes (director of "Watchmen" and "Juiced").
Along with the discussion on motion comics, the crowd was also treated to two DC motion comic debuts: "Batgirl: Year One," and "Superman: Red Son." Also announced at the panel was the debut of DC Comics All-Access, as well as a free episode of "Superman: Red Son" on iTunes at www.itunes/TV/Superman, available to comic fans around the world.
"One of the challenges of motion comics is, for those of us who grew up in the craft, we're married to (regular comics)," Levitz said. "It's challenging. When we showed "Watchmen" to Dave, we told him, 'This isn't what you did, but maybe it'll open it up to a new audience."
Gibbons said the motion comic did just that, and he had a specific example - his two step-daughters.
"I remember Paul phoning me, very mysteriously, saying he wanted to meet me in London, he had something to show me. I didn't know what to think (upon seeing the motion comic)," Gibbons said. "I was very flattered, seeing my drawings move. But I wondered; is it necessary?"
"I showed it to my two step-daughters, and they were like, 'Wow, this is great! What happens next?'"
The panel agreed that motion comics open up comics to a new demographic - like Gibbons' step-daughters - a demographic that might not have previously been interested in comics. It might also satisfy the die-hards.
"For those of you who wanted to see all of ("The Watchmen") in the movie, it's all there in the motion comic," Gibbons said. "It's what? Six hours?"
The panel was asked about the kind of budget that motion comics are allocated. Antonini said it was a moving target, based on the newness of the medium.
"It's an evolving art form. The guys (who did "Watchmen") did five hours, 40 minutes in 13 to 14 months. Since that process, we've learned how to do it better."
A question postulated by the panel was wondering how frequently major comics would be made for the purpose of being a motion comic first, a print comic second.
"It's a wonderful thing to have creative people reinvent your work. It's another thing when they build something for that purpose," Levitz said. "There are a couple top talents chomping at the bit to do that."
Clips from both the "Watchmen" motion comic and "Batman: Black and White" were also shown to the audience.
It was asked of the panel why they chose to include word balloons with "Watchmen" while they haven't used them since. Antonini said there weren't any projects on the horizon that did use word balloons. Jake Hughes, director of Watchmen, said they made two versions, one where they used word balloons and another where they only used Rorschach's journal, since it was part of the art. He said the version with word balloons always looked better to him.
Gibbons said the timing of watching "Watchmen" compared to reading "Watchmen" was interesting to him. By having an actor narrate the panels, the pace of the book is left up to the director, not the reader.
One thing he really enjoyed was watching the "Watchmen" motion comic on his iPhone. "It works on the small screen because the size is almost the exact same proportion as the panels," Gibbons said. "It's really rewarding to watch it on the iPhone."
Coburn, the director of "Superman: Red Son," said the key to a successful motion comic is to be true to the source material. The second key is to find the spirit of the characters in the voice actors. "The voices really drive the whole thing," he said.
Gibbons raved about the medium, and about the work of the creators who reinvented his and Alan Moore's seminal work.
"(Hughes) and his team, like everyone else involved with "Watchmen" over the last few years, they told themselves they were going to give it their absolute best shot. I'm really happy with the way it turned out," Gibbons said. "We're in the beginning stages of this. It might not evolve into one medium... it might evolve into multiple mediums."