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NYCC: Comics for the iPhone and the Big Small Screen

by  in Comic News Comment
NYCC: Comics for the iPhone and the Big Small Screen
“Basic Instructions” and “Bone” are two of the many titles that have been especially reformatted by UCLICK for the iPhone and iPod touch

Last Friday afternoon at the 2009 New York Comic Con, a small panel assembled to discuss an even smaller device with a big future in the comic book industry. That device is the iPhone, and the panel included members of team UCLICK, the developer of the popular comic book reading application for the iPhone. On the dais were Uclick Creative Director Peter Maresca, President and CEO Douglas Edwards, VP of Product Management Jeff Webber, Comics Producer Shena Wolf and Comicraft President and comics creator Richard Starkings, who works with Uclick and has his own comic “Elephantmen” title available for download through GO COMICS, Uclick’s digital delivery system.

GO COMICS features two sides to its distribution system: There are daily comics, which are free and ad-supported. These include newspaper strips like the ever popular “Garfield” and “Calvin and Hobbes,” as well as editorial cartoons and web comics. In addition, for the price point of 99 cents, the store features full length comics for download. The GO COMICS store currently offers over 90 titles, ranging from Jeff Smith’s “Bone” to “TMNT” to Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Manga, to Starkings’ “Elephantmen” project and beyond.

A video tour of the app was played, showcasing its functionality. Comics are read panel to panel, rather than navigating an entire page, using the touch screen to move forward or back. Why panel to panel? According to Webber, this approach creates a more “fluid storytelling experience,” and that Uclick’s goal was to create a system that “someone should be able to learn in 30 seconds.”

Wolf, who works closely with creators such as Starkings to adapt print and online comics, said Uclick’s method is not simply about chopping panels up and displaying them one by one. Word balloons and other text are rearranged and stretched to fit, opening the panels up even further. It helps, she said, that most of their production team are cartoonists themselves, bringing an expertise to the process.

Starkings, the resident creator on the panel, added his two cents, noting that the iPhone and digital distribution – including illegally downloaded comics – is reeducating the readership in how to perceive comics. In addition, more and more comics content is produced exclusively on computers. And when that digitally created content is aimed also at digital distribution, it “will change the way I write a story, the way an artist illustrates that story, and how we all read those stories. It’s a part of our business we can’t ignore.”

Starkings also made sure to note that these are still nuts and bolts comics, not animated comics, such as the recently released “Watchmen” motion comic. He said that when you add motion and audio and voice tracks, it’s no longer a comic — it’s animation.

Edwards also touched on the future of mobile comics, saying that while the Google Android and other similar products are on the horizon, the Uclick’s app was developed “originally and specifically” for the iPhone. Uclick, he said, is committed to evolving that technology and providing writers and artists with the tools to create the content, and to cultivate and provide the audience with that content.

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