Talking Comics with Tim: Park Cooper

Yesterday Wicker Man Studios (WMS) announced the launch of a new website specifically for its flagship title Gun Street Girl "from which WMS is already offering its latest Gun Street Girl story, The Jealous Dead, on the iPhone App Store. According to WMS, "The Jealous Dead will cost 99 cents to download (in the US and Canada–other stores may vary), and can easily be read on the iPhone and the iPod touch with WMS’ own brand-new application, a comics reader which will allow readers using these devices to easily read stories panel-by-panel, simply by touching the screen and dragging the panels from right to left; tapping the screen will show thumbnails of all panels in a story so that one can, for example, easily pick up where one left off during a previous interrupted session."

Prior to the launch of the new website and WMS' new comics reader, I caught up with WMS' Park Cooper for an email interview. Barbara Lien-Cooper and Park are the creators of Gun Street Girl and owners of Wicker Man Studios. Park is also the Editor-in-Chief of indie comics company Septagon Studios, and of the website MangaLife. My thanks to Cooper for his time. Enjoy this special weekend version of Talking Comics with Tim and come back Monday for my regular weekly installment.

Tim O'Shea: How did you arrange the ITunes distribution for GSG?

Park Cooper: We had to submit the application and a story to Apple to get their approval. Actually, there was one panel in the first sample story which bothered them -- Liz's girlfriend Prana was, we shall say, just barely covered up top. Ryan drew an additional garment on top of what she was already wearing, and the resubmission was approved just fine. If it was what Apple needed to feel good about it, then what the heck. The original version is still in the archives, since this was the origin story we're talking about...

O'Shea: Can you discuss how the GSG crew developed the comics-reading application?

Cooper: The new application was created for us by an associate of ours: Dale Zak, a mobile software developer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. His website can be found at: http://www.dalezak.ca

O'Shea: Have you had to re-engineer the art or other narrative aspects to better suit the iPhone/iPod platform?

Cooper: Mmm, I will say that we've made some notes about things to keep in mind in future... [artist] Ryan [Howe] told me that he felt the brand-new story fit very naturally into the flow... of course, Ryan also pointed out that one problem is that if you figured out exactly what the best panel shape and so on would be for the iPhone, say, you might find later that it isn't perfect for another type of device later on. And if all your panels look alike... that's not really ideal for print comics, either... So at one point one just has to say "let's just write and draw the comic."

O'Shea: Just to clarify, just because GSG is available on ITunes, does that mean you need to have an iPhone/iPod to see it, or is viewable via other platforms?

Cooper: Yes; for those who do not own either of these devices, regular PDFs of each respective story offered via iTunes are also being offered at the new GSG site-- to be purchased, in the case of "The Jealous Dead," using PayPal. Also, Gun Street Girl's archives will still be mirrored at the main Wicker Man Studios site of www.wickermanstudios.com as well as continuing at Graphic Smash.

O'Shea: With recent business decisions made by Diamond, making it harder for independent publishers to work in the direct market, how important is the Internet to your future creative plans?

Cooper: I'd say it's quite important, but that sort of response can be overstated, too. Diamond's new policies reflect the changing nature of the direct market, and the internet is extremely important-- indeed, more than ever-- but enough customers still want printed ink on paper that Wicker Man Studios still wants to work with publishers, just as in the past.

O'Shea: What else is on the creative horizon for you in the near to long term?

Cooper: Our plans for the future are kind of top secret... although actually, I can tell you that Barbara and I are writing prose novels now and are working on shopping those around to agents and publishers. As for comics and manga, though, I can't say anything more just yet.

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