Friday, January 2, 2009

2009, the year in which Rob tries 2 new things at once

I received an ITunes gift card for Christmas. Yesterday I used it to purchase a small handful of 99 cent IVerse Comic Reader comics, and downloaded all the free ones as well. I wasn't sure what to expect. Frankly, I had figured that it would be a clunky affair that involved upsizing and downsizing constantly. They get around the need to do that by cutting the page up into custom panels, and making each of those panels a separate page. It is an interesting effect, and I think you can both lose and gain a good bit through that presentation.

The really cool part about viewing these custom panels separately is that you really get to focus on the panels apart from the whole page. That in turn creates an effect that could be good or bad depending on the comic. You can't see where it is heading, you have no greater context, and anything that would have been conveyed by the whole page layout is lost. There is also a good bit of cropping, so you are not seeing the entire page as printed. In the comics I have read so far (all of them for the first time) I see the presentation of these single chunks as a pretty cool and effective thing. You really get a chance to appreciate the skill of the artist this way. It really allows you to pull a great deal of emotion from the individual panels, as well as creating a bit of suspense by having to view it bites.

Neozoic #1,2 - Ens, Korim & Lam (Red5 Comics) - I have been trying to get this comic for a while to no avail. I was thrilled to see the first two issues offered through ITunes. I have an IPhone for work, and now it has comics on it. It is quite a happy IPhone now.

The idea behind the comic is good solid science fiction stuff. In the Neozoic world, the moon was hit by an asteroid 65 million years ago. It has a giant bite taken out of it (I am forced to think about the Tick at this point and giggle, although in Neozoic it isn't done in a funny way.) Mess with the moon and a lot of things change. Dinosaurs and giant beasts share the planet with humans and other humanoid creatures. People live in walled cities and have a mixture of modern and archaic technology. The society is built up around a religion, etc.

So far I love this. I have only read the two issues, but it is awesome. There is a sort of military, or military like structure, a monarchy, a rabid media, a society that is at odds on a number of issues, with it's share of protestors and dissenters . There is another race or offshoot of people that live outside of the walled city, possibly underground. There is a lot to build upon.

I am not always a fan of things that mix dinosaurs and people, but this was really good stuff. I am genuinely interested in continuing to read this. It has action and political overtones, and perhaps the single most attractive female character ever. You want honesty from me... right? Well, you get it anyway. The character Lilli, who seems to be one of the primary characters, if not the main character, is absolutely stunning. The art in this is pretty amazing. Many of the characters, male and female alike, give off that vibe. (See the cover art above, which is not from either of the issues I read, but it is lovely so I used it.)

In addition to the amazing illustration is the color. Red5 comics, at least Atomic Robo and Neozoic, really seem to value color. The color in both of those titles is really like another player in the game. It isn't so much that color themes are used to convey specific things as it is the color is so perfect that you notice it's quality on equal footing with the art it is embelishing.

I took a sample page from the publisher's site I then cut it up in photoshop to pretty much match what you get on the iphone. That is them running down the left side of this pasge. I think it works really well. I know that for me there was a greater sense of immersion with viewing this way. It sort of takes the comic and presents it to you like storyboards for a film. I don't have an issue with reading comics like this if they are all done as well as this one is, and offered for free or at a very reasonable price (99 cents is a good price for a comic. Getting the issues in this way also gives a bit of the sense that you are owning something you can keep. I think there is room for improvement, and we will probably see this develop over time. I don't love the fact that every issue is installed as a separate application on my phone. I would prefer to launch the app and pick issues from a library for example.

The only other comic I have read so far is the first issue of David Hutchison's OZ the manga. I think this may really be a format that the manga style really just shines in. There is a lot of movement in the panels, and a lot of reaction and expression shots, and getting those isolated in their own screen has a great effect. If I can find some sample pages of that I will chop it up similarly and post one to show how well it works.

I am happy so far, but I will keep you posted.

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