He's Got Your Number: McCloud launches 'The Right Number' online

He's helped you understand comics. Then he went and showed you hot to reinvent them. He even tackled online comics here at CBR. Now, he's ready to take online comics to the next level.

Scott McCloud has been pushing the envelope of comics for years. Since the emergence of the Web as a force for ecommerce and entertainment, McCloud has been trying to find a way to bridge the two, believing micropayments is the weay to go. Micropayment are a means by which to pay small sums, as little as pennies on the dollar, for the content you want. With a good micropayment system in place, McCloud said he'd tackle online comics once again, offering up each episode for mere pennies. That time has come.

Late Monday night McCloud sent out a press release detailing his latest online venture, "The Right Number."

"On June 30th, at 9:00 pm, West Coast time, I uploaded Part One of my online graphic novella 'The Right Number,' on sale to readers all over the world for just 25 cents.

"'The Right Number' is a project I've wanted to create for years; a dark psychological drama about math, sex, obsession and phone numbers. Each panel is embedded in the previous panel of this comic -- you actually zoom through the panels to read them! But despite the experimental format, it was the story that ultimately drove the project forward for me. I became more deeply involved in this character's inner life than in any comic I've written since the early 90s, and I've worked hard to ensure that the artwork matched the intensity of the story.

"BitPass, the micropayments company I'm working with, launched at the exact same time as The Right Number. Their founders contacted me in November of 2002 and showed me what they were working on and I've been consulting ever since. I'd talked to maybe a dozen companies and individuals over the years who thought they could pull off micropayments, but one look at what BitPass had planned and I was convinced that if anybody could do it, they could.

"How will the ability to charge as little as a penny for webcomics change the landscape? It's anybody's guess. But one thing's for certain: It's going to be an interesting Summer!"

As fans of McCloud may remember, he changed the way people thought about webcomics with his own "Zot! Online" here at CBR a couple of years back. For "Zot!" he created a unique navigation scheme, using trails to instruct the reader where to go next, instead of the standard side-by-side panel system. As you might expect, McCloud has once again reinvented the way you read a comic with "The Right Number." For each page or panel you read you'll actually zoom in, providing a more interactive feel than most comics, while not crossing the line into animation. No side-to-side or up/down scrolling for the reader. Simply click and read.

Through this new micropayments system, McCloud now has the ability to charge just $.25 cents for each episode. When registering with BitPass, you essentially buy the equivalent of a pre-paid calling card and then the $.25 cents is deducted for that episode from your balance. Don't worry, you can read each episode multiple times. Each $.25 cent purchase is good for 180 days. You can purchase as little as $3.00 worth of credit and can pay by PayPal or Credit Card.

Now that you know how the technology works, we caught up with McCloud quickly to get him to expand a bit on the story readers will fine within "The Right Number."

"What if, when you dial a wrong number but you're only off by a digit or two, you don't get the person you're looking for, but you get someone a lot like them?

"I have a long-standing obsession with obsessive characters -- maybe because that's a part of my own personality," McCloud told CBR News early Tuesday morning. "The story will also explore the futility of perfection, a theme I played with in my series Zot!, especially regarding the character of Dekko."

McCloud said "The Right Number" will last three episodes and they're all scripted, but he does expect to make changes as he creates each new episode. There will be roughly five weeks between each episode.

At this point McCloud doesn't know exactly what to expect response wise as this is a bit of a grand experiment, but he does have plans to do more in the future.

"I'm definitely doing more, and I'm bringing back my feature "The Morning Improv" soon. The comic will stay free, but I'll be accepting micro-contributions for its upkeep and for other little goodies here and there."

To learn more, visit McCloud on the Web at http://www.scottmccloud.com/.

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