Comic strip fans, rejoice! Universal Uclick’s GoComics has debuted a free app that enables you to read comics on your mobile phone or tablet. While Doonesbury, Peanuts, Pearls Before Swine and The Boondocks are among the offerings, it’s Calvin and Hobbes that undoubtedly will generate the most excitement.
Slate.com‘s Will Oremus notes that it appears to be the first time Bill Watterson’s beloved strip has appeared (legally) on mobile devices; presumably it’s with the cartoonist’s blessing. However, while Gary Larson’s Far Side would seem perfect for phones, he’s yet to make the leap to digital.
As we finish off Year Five of digital comics (depending on how you count things), the distribution method is positioned to bring in a continually growing sector of new readers.
comiXology, the market leader, is ending 2012 as the third highest-grossing app of the year for the iPad. That’s up from the 10th spot last year, which is even more remarkable when you consider virtually no other app made an appearance on both lists. I can’t imagine that could be accomplished strictly with purchases from direct-market customers crossing over to digital. And when you take into account that direct-market sales have also been improving, that couldn’t happen even if every reader in comics got a big raise this year and was buying both digital and print copies. Worst-case scenario, we’re winning back lapsed readers. But mixed within those two groups (current and lapsed/returning readers) has to be a third, even if only a small percentage at this time. It seems too good to be true but it’s becoming more and more likely that the elusive new reader is being reached.
As digital sales continue to grow (“getting close to 25 to 30% of print sales,” for Robert Kirkman), several elements are in place, or just about in place, that could be creating a perfect storm to increase that new readers section of the pie.
Madefire, the company Dave Gibbons mentioned in his recent interview with us, this morning launched a free iPad app with new motion comics by the Watchmen co-creator, Mike Carey, Liam Sharp, Robbie Morrison and others.
The Madefire App debuts with the first episodes of the “Motion Books” Treatment: Tokyo and Treatment: Mexico City, by Gibbons, Kinman Chan and Robbie Morrison, and Mono, by Ben Wolstenholme and Sharp. Subsequent episodes will be available twice a month. There are also previews of future comics by Carey and David Kendall, Haden Blackman and Gary Erskine, and others.
“Madefire is igniting a new era by creating a modern, dynamic reading experience and bringing that to the millions of iPad users around the world,” Gibbons said in a statement. “It is exciting to be able to bring this robust storytelling into the 21st century while also democratizing the ability to publish comic books.”
Watch a video demonstrating the “immersive experience” of the Motion Books below. The Madefire App is available for free from iTunes.
With the launch of the Kickstarter campaign for Sullivan’s Sluggers, by Mark Andrew Smith and James Stokoe, it seems only fitting that ESPN’s Visuals blog should spotlight another baseball-themed comic, Ryan Woodward’s upcoming “animated graphic novel” Bottom of the Ninth.
An animator, storyboard artist and professor whose film credits include The Iron Giant, Where the Wild Things Are and The Avengers, Woodward has crafted the story of Candy Cunningham, the 18-year-old daughter of an aging baseball star who herself boasts phenomenal athletic abilities (as well as a temper). The futuristic tale follows her rise to fame and glory in Tao City as she grapples with identity issues and the true meaning of happiness.
The rather novel blend of comics and animation is planned for release as a series of apps, with a prologue set to debut sometime soon. In the meantime, you can watch the incredibly slick trailer, and check out some of Woodward’s art, below.
DC Entertainment has rolled out details of its new monthly kids magazine and mobile app built around Cartoon Network’s DC Nation programming block, touted at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.
According to Variety, the 64-page DC Nation Super Spectacular will debut on newsstands next month, featuring new comics based on DC Nation shows like Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series, as well as programming details and exclusive content, like “DC Nation Secret Files.”
The DC Nation app, meanwhile, boasts free digital first issues of such comics as Batman Adventures, Superman Adventures, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! and Tiny Titans, as well as the first six installments of “DC Nation Secret Files.” In addition, more than 100 kid-friendly DC titles, including Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade and the original Young Justice, are available for 99 cents. The features appear virtually identical to those of DC’s LEGO Hero Factory app, which debuted in January; Warner Bros. Interactive’s upcoming video game LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is sponsoring DC Nation Super Spectacular.
The trade paper notes that since debuting in March, the DC Nation animated block has improved Cartoon Network’s season-to-date ratings 32 percent among boys 6 to 11.
DC Entertainment and LEGO this morning announced that several of the publisher’s all-ages titles, including The Batman Adventures, Tiny Titans and Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, on the LEGO Hero Factory app created by DC and sponsored by LEGO.
As the name of the app suggests, the emphasis is on digital comics based on the LEGO Hero Factory toy line — they’re free! — other kid-friendly DC books like Teen Titans Go!, Young Justice and Superman Adventures are also available for 99 cents per download.
“LEGO Hero Factory is all about building heroes so it’s the perfect match for an app that also features DC Comics Super Heroes,” Hank Kanalz, DC’s senior vice president of digital, said in a statement. “We’ve had a great, longstanding relationship with LEGO Systems and we’re really excited to bring these comics to kids through the LEGO Hero Factory app.”
Oh, the delicious irony of it: Sydney Padua, creator of the delightful quasi-historical webcomic Lovelace & Babbage, has launched an iPad app, thus bringing the parents of the computer to its most recent incarnation. The app is free and includes one complete story, with another available for $2.99.
Like a long-form Kate Beaton comic, Lovelace & Babbage casts Charles Babbage (inventor of the first programmable computer) and Ada Lovelace (the first programmer) as steampunk heroes fighting a variety of evildoers under the aegis of Queen Victoria herself. Padua sets up her stories in an alternate universe but brings in plenty of real historical figures, and both the comic and the app are graced with plenty of footnotes. Padua has a talent for picking out the odd but interesting bits of history, so while the footnotes are scholarly, they are not dry.
Here’s some more good news for Lovelace & Babbage fans: Padua recently announced she is taking time off her day job to focus on her comics, an effort that has already borne fruit in the form of Vampire Poets, a prologue in rhyme accompanied by a few actual contemporary poems about her heroes.
Graphicly has launched an application that enables publishers to embed a comic on their Facebook pages. Called, appropriately enough, Graphicly on Facebook, the app is geared toward exposing new and casual readers to comics through the social networking site.
“Most of our users are actually new comic book readers who have never been exposed to comics before,” Graphicly CEO Micah Baldwin tells Venture Beat.
The free app, which features panel-by-panel viewing, full-screen zoom, commenting and network sharing, is now only available to publishers using the Graphicly platform. However, that’s likely to change. “I think we’re gravitating to a model that lets anyone use the Facebook app to showcase their work,” Baldwin says.
Graphicly’s stable of publishers includes Marvel, Archie Comics, BOOM! Studios, IDW Publishing, Top Cow and Archaia.
Barcelona-based developer Klicrainbow has launched SuperGay & the Attack of His Ex-Girlfriends, an app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch billed as “the first video game about a gay superhero.” I didn’t look into the assertion, but I can’t think of any other gay-superhero video games.
The comic book-inspired storyline follows Tom Palmer, an idealistic young scientist who works at Genetic Corp. with his beautiful fiancée Ilsa Himmler and her father Dr. Arnold Himmler to develop a cloning project for humanitarian purposes. But when he discovers that Ilsa and Arnold have been secretly negotiating with foreign leaders to sell their work for military purposes, Tom searches for an escape. When a failed experiment transforms the young scientist into SuperGay, “the greatest superhero of all modern times,” he uses his newfound abilities — including Gay Power and Rainbow Ray — to try to stop his evil ex-girlfriend and her clone army.
In the game, SuperGay races, fights and … dances … his way through 32 levels to stop an imminent nuclear war. Check out the trailer and additional game art after the break.