NYCC 2012: Digital is the Future- The Promise of NARR8 & Madefire

The future of comics is a precarious place, as print is still alive and well and should be for awhile, the digital format is making great leaps and bounds. From the advent of Comixology and its build in sales, not to mention Marvel’s success with their digital subscription, the winds of change have been blowing.

Kurt Christenson and Reilly Brown really began the rally in my eyes of what might be possible with the digital format through their comic POWER PLAY. Although Motion comics aren’t a new thing altogether. Even before Marvel started doing their motion comics, companies like Bryon Preiss Multimedia were playing with the idea of combining sound and motion in comics and during its existence Crossgen also worked on it, but the new tablet/mobile format, as well as advances in technology has pushed things to another level altogether.

Two new companies are at the forefront of the movement, MADEFIRE and NARR8 and currently both are offering their applications, as well as their associated books for free. I attempted in speaking to PR people for both companies to get a better understanding of how they got their investment capital and what type of profit return exists in terms of the future of the business, but to no avail. Saying that I did learn a lot of other things about each company and will explain why both are worth your time and quality of life to experience.

Madefire is the brainchild of marketing genius Ben Wolstenholme, founder of Moving Brands, long established comics artist Liam Sharp and Mobile Technology/Cloud Computing Guru Eugene Walden. It features some of the most well known and talented comics creators of both recent and legendary status with features that run from superhero to noir. Some of the folks involved are Dave Gibbons, Robbie Morrison, Jimmy Broxton (or James Hodgkins as rumors state), Sheperd Hendrix, Dougie Braithwaite, Angus McKie, Mike Carey and an assortment of other folks that any comic book fan truly worth their salt should at least marginally know of. The application currently features six series, my personal fave being what is also considered their lead feature, a book based in noir, horror, and war action in a wonderful pastiche of concepts from the one non comics guy on the brand, co-founder Ben Wolstenholme (although assisted by Liam). I’m also very intrigued by the Gary Erskine illustrated sci-fi story written by former video-game producer turned comics writer W. Haden Blackman tackling his first original IP. I am hoping in the future some of Blackman’s understanding of interactive entertainment may be used in Madefire’s future. The infrastructure of Madefire as a whole is actually truly fascinating. Moving Brands unsurprisingly helped a lot with the development of the product and its marketing and there’s an awesome web page dedicated to it in their portfolio.

On the other end of the spectrum NARR8 is a complete start-up full of unknown artist studios based in Russia. The website states that the founder is Alexandr Vashchenko, with the main investor being IMI.VC and naming Igor Matshyneko, the lead at IMI.VC as the CEO of NARR8. Alexandr is also the lead at one of the main arms of IMI.VC, mobile gaming company GameInsight. This suggests to me that they are all one company under the head of very creative, intelligent men and woman with headquarters in Moscow and San Francisco. At New York Comic Con I was more than fortunate to sit with the head of public relations on Narr8’s part, Alisa Faber and get a bit of a more hands on look at NARR8 and I have to admit, as much as Madefire is awesome because of it’s immense lineup of quality ,well known creators, NARR8 ups the ante in terms of interactive application and a new way of reading comics, novels and even magazines. In terms of the magazines they have a popular science magazine titled PARADIGM and a historical one called CHRONOGRAPHICS. In this issue of Paradigm, which was the first episode of season 1 (this is how they are marking issues, as episodes of a season) it showed off the optics how different animals view the world. Through an excellent combination of animation, interaction, well-written text and fantastic photography I could see how birds, butterflies, bulls, and insects among more see with an added bonus at thend of showing how each spieces would see the same exact scene. It was both fun and informative, which can equally be said of the history magazine. In the second episode of that series, the topic is a very vast look titled “Cortez and the Conquest of Mexico” which takes both a very serious look at the history, while evoking some fun with it through very clever animations. The work is broken down into date segments and almost has the feel of when reading through those historical txts in Assassin’s Creed games where you choose to emerge yourself in the world and accidentally get educated, here you choose to get educated, but also have fun while doing so.  Below here’s some soundless video that shows off Paradigm and Chronographics “in action”, just to give you a small taste of the awesome available.  The same work and energy went into the comics I speak of the next paragraph.

The comics I got to see were Final Feat, based in mythology and JAM, which is a mangaesque story based in Video Games and also features some awesome 8-Bit music. One of the cooler features is that when you stay on a panel long enough you’ll get to see some animation and in some cases clicking on the page will show off another interactive element. This was even more clear in the two prose features I got to scope in FEAR HUNTERS and MULTIVERSE. Multiverse actually really holds onto a tried and true concept on some of my favorite sci-fi novels, the random footnote, but displaying it through much more interesting and intriguing means, such as pop-ups or video animations within the screen itself. I am highly impressed that all this work is being developed from script, to art, to technology, music and animation as well as the proprietary engine within the Narr8 page which runs the HTML 5 data or in certain cases Unity.

Narr8 will hopefully be launching sometime soon, with over 11 titles which you should definitely check all of them out. Unfortunately at launch it will only be on iPad, but Android tablets will come next, followed by mobile and according to what I see, on the website itself as well. This last one excites me personally most, as reading comics while sitting at my desk is ideal.

New York Comic Con 2012: Day 1

I arrived at Jacobs Javits with time to spare on Thursday evening’s preview ensuring my press badge and getting on line to hit the show floor for a bit before heading down to the panel rooms for my one and only panel I had definitely scheduled for myself to be on.

I must state that the show did open with lots of confusion and clusterf**k of a mess up as a volunteer accidentally told regular 4 day passes to get on the same line as Press & Pros. In the long run this didn’t end up affecting me as I was in and on the floor show perfectly and happily by 3:01, but for the fans this was just a wreck and a mess for a short while. The staff did their best to correct it, but man was it insanity and not well connected at first. These messes and confusion happened all weekend, and staff tried their darnedest to stay on top of it, but security measures, crowd control and obvious fire hazards became completely out of control. I am sure many people walked away from NYCC saying “What a gyp” as those who walked away with the greatest experience of their lives. I’ll admit for me personally it was just that, an amazing great experience, but as a member of the press and a person who believes in New York Comic Con, I am saddened by the lack of control this year’s show had especially since last year things felt much more organized and people from staff, to volunteers to security were much better prepared and in power of keeping the con sane and safe.

That all said we shall get into my own adventures and I’ll leave complaints, feelings and suggestions to a letter to Reedpop which will also be filled with praise, but lots of vitriol on behalf of fans everywhere.

I had a rule to myself about photos this year, especially considering cosplay and that was “rare or unusual” or just so damn gorgeous I must have a photo. Early on I actually got one of those nice rarities in a full on Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka costume. The photo will appear in an a special edition of PCS called NYCC Rare Cosplay.

The area I rushed for quickly was where all the book publishers are. I grabbed whatever galleys were of interest to me (like I need more books) and got schedules for when other handouts were happenings, as well as signings so I could try to add them to my schedule. My walkthroughs here ended up garnering lots of great swag. Best thing I got at this time which I’ll talk about more soon was a MADEFIRE bag of goodies and printed material. I also ended up making my first of only four purchases when I got issue #5 of The Misadventures of ELECTROLYTE and The Justice Purveyors, an excellent comic by Patrick Reilly and art by Renato Grampa Jr. which I first discovered at New York Comic Con and have been happy to see a new issue when there has been one over the last few years.

I continued walking the show floor a bit looking at so much exciting things before heading down to the panel room a little late, but not too late to catch a TON of the Leaping Tall Buildings panel. A separate article is coming on that and I have ideas for titles, but the main one is “Christopher Irving would marry Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe”. It was an entertaining and informative panel with great quotes and a great moderator. I hope you folks enjoy reading that when the article is up.

I went back to the show floor and got to have some fun with a little of this and that. I tried to get a HALO dude made out of Megablocks to blow my brains out, but no go there. I got to play some of Ni no Kuni – Wrath of the White Witch as well as a bit of stealth awesomeness Hitman: Absolution. I didn’t do very good with either of them, but I blame that on the fact of being on the game floor trying to game. Although that doesn’t then explain that I zoomed through the absolutely enthralling beta demo of TOMB RAIDER. That thing just blew my mind away. I seriously want to play that game right now!

Other booths were checked out including Lego which almost stole the show with their Hobbit lego display and Playstation had a multiplayer demo of the new God of War game. I stopped by Marvel where there were some cool exclusives and Craftsman to get a print copy of that silly, but cool DC comic they did with them.

I had a per-arranged appointment with upcoming awesome comics and books app company NARR8. This indeed will be another separate article detailing some of the particulars of this awesome concept that will be free to use at first and has great comics and magazines all for the iPad and eventually Android and iPhone. Go look at the website for now, but promise better further details here on Pop-Culture Spectrum soon.

Eventually I felt it was time to get off the show floor after a bit more exploring, acquiring more swag and enjoying myself, cause I had to get over to Ben Folds Five in the IGN theater.

I was able to find myself a fairly comfortable spot to enjoy the concert despite the giant in the front row who probably had a VIP or Ultimate access badge. I recorded almost the entire ONE HOUR AND FORTY MINUTE concert (to make a best of montage of 20-30 min) which featured only about 3-4 songs off of the new album and the rest was songs from their three albums prior including “Brick”, “Rock This Bitch”, “Uncle Walter”, “Underground”, “Song for the Dumped” and much more. It was seriously like getting a full on Ben Folds Five concert for free on top of Comic Con. Absolutely mind-blowing and completely and totally awesome. The concert let out at around 10 PM, and yet there was still the convention starting the next day at 10 AM or earlier. I stopped in a diner, got a quality dinner which I couldn’t finish so it became my breakfast and headed home and crashed hard after making sure all was ready for the next day.