"E-book sales triple year-over-year, paper books decline in every category" - recent headline at engadget.com.
Are physical books an endangered species? I hope not. I like holding them. I like the way they look, feel and smell. But my preferences won't stop the changing tide. Within my lifetime physical books might become akin to LPs (which often include a CD, or code for digital download). Still around, but in fewer stores, and for collectors.
I recently bought the physical graphic novel Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D - the adventures of a minor Marvel character, written by Brian Michael Bendis - my favourite writer in the medium (who I've described in another post), drawn by Alex Maleev - my favourite artist in the medium (whose sequential art I've featured in another post).
Bendis' graphic novels frequently feature the equivalent of DVD bonus features - sketches, interviews, discussions, the story behind the story. And there I found out Spider-Woman had been released as a series of "motion comics" through the iTunes store, categorized as a TV show, and outsold actual TV shows week after week. What??
So I bought the first issue ($2.99) and watched it. And later found out it's on youtube as well (which raises the question of how this technological innovation might work to replace the declining revenue of physical comics and graphic novels when they at least some will download them and share them for free). You can see the embedded first issue below.
What is a motion comic? The panels, drawn like in the regular issues, are slightly animated. It's mostly a series of tableaus, a few parts of which move some of the time. With some background music. And dialogue voiced by actors (in a Batman one I found, they aren't - word balloons come up, like in a regular comic). The lips don't move. The limbs stay still in a fight. A vehicle might go across the panel. There might be "camera" movement - a slow pan across a panel, or a gradual close-up.
Does it work? Well, I still prefer the physical thing. I'd rather voice the characters' lines in my head (I'm not crazy about the vocal performance of Nicolette Reed, who does Spider-Woman's voice). Also, the digital version leaves out some of the dialogue. I like having the time to take in the art at my own pace. But I do love seeing Alex Maleev's art enlarged on my wall thanks to my LCD projector. And the story comes across.
And as usual with Bendis, the story is top notch. We see the main character more in her regular clothes, as Jessica Drew, than in her superhero costume. There's an actor credited as the model for her too. A great deal comes across through drawings of her face, accompanied by interior monologues. The violence isn't presented with kid-gloves. There's blood. There's death. And it's never gratuitous. Violence seems horrible and traumatic. And the story hooks you. Or at least, it hooked me.
I'm curious to see if this will catch on. In the meantime, enjoy.