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The Rise of Motion Comics Online

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Somewhere between standard cartoon strips and full-blown animated work lies what’s known as the “motion comic.” This emerging style of entertainment is increasingly being put to use online, either to promote big-name offline works, or in some cases, just to make an extra buck.

Motion comics look like traditional comic books, but incorporate voice acting and a musical score. And only certain elements of the “page” are animated: a zoom-in, a pan, someone raising their arms.

The most recent example of this style can be found in the “graphic video” version of Stephen King’s short story N. The first three episodes are out, and there will be a total of 25 released each weekday until August 29th. It’s all to promote King’s upcoming book of short stories of which N is a part.

Warner Bros. has been a big believer in the motion comic. It used the style to create animated prequels for Will Smith’s I Am Legend. The studio is also giving the motion comic treatment to the acclaimed graphic novel Watchmen, releasing the animated version on iTunes in advance of the feature film due out next year, as well as the Batman story Mad Love, which is available through Xbox Live. Warner Bros. is also digging though its massive comic book archive to find other properties that it can deliver this way.

And they aren’t the only comic book publishers getting into the game. Marvel is co-producing N, and MTV is doing a motion comic series around the Image comic Invincible.

Is this just a trend or are motion comics here to stay? This first generation is admittedly crude, but there is enough “motion” in these motion comics to keep the viewer’s attention, and so far the music and voice acting have been great. Plus, the level of experimentation and sophistication will grow as more are produced.

I don’t think motion comics will be a huge moneymaker, or replace traditional animation, but they are so easy to produce (compared with full-blown animation and live action) and these studios have thousands of stories to choose from, so there’s no reason not to create them. Plus, they are perfect for the web, and when you allow embedding (like N), they can be a cost-effective, entertaining way to promote a bigger project.

34 Responses to “The Rise of Motion Comics Online”

  1. Chuck McCann called the limited animation of the 1960s and 1970s “illustrated radio.”

    Some people here have compared motion comics to such things. I think that’s a bit unfair, especially for ones that don’t incorporate sound (voice, music) at all.

    AMC is pimping The Prisoner with one:

    AMC’s The Prisoner: Digital Book Is Now Live!

    All you people here doing motion comics, drop a Comment at my blog so I can take a look.

  2. Sammy

    There is also a motion comic called Godkiller that they showed a preview at Fangoria’s convention last month. It’s based on the sci-fi comic and stars Lance Henrickson, Cally from Battlestar Galactica, and the girl from all the Halloween movies. Looked really cool.

  3. I think that the future of motion comics will be shiny as a new way to communicate. But we need to focus on the fact that comic makers have to create something more than standard comics rather than something less than animations. Furtheremore, goes without saying that in order to gain success it has to be money worthy. Take a look at website in mid May…

  4. im DLing the watchmen “motion comic” now, i hope its worth it. but from what ive read, motion comic is more of like your old comics with music..and SOME animation. so, it is the first generation. as it is being produced by studios like warner, there must be real potential in motion comic or at least a new way to market or advertise entertainment/media.

  5. I’m working on a motion comic adaptation for a UK publisher’s series and from my point of view it certainly has its place. A place that is very exciting actually.

    It allows you to pull focus where you can’t in static print formats. You can guide the reader the way the original writer intended the panels to be seen, drive the emotions with the soundtrack and add drama with camera motion.

    It’s a mix of various genres. Audio books, music, graphic arts, animation. The key here is to cast your voice actors well. And have voice actors, not just announcers. Get a great soundtrack that makes it unique. And lastly the original property should be worth the effort, if it’s a turd it will stay a turd, no matter how much you polish it.

  6. I’m a little bit disappointed with the article because for more than a year the Heroes Transmedia Department has been doing this with a great sucess. It’s a huge case of solving the gaps from paper to digital. You should do a better homework.

  7. Scooby Dooby Doo

    I think the idea is really cool. Just like reading the watchmen with a little motion and some good voice acting. Works best in an IPOD format, I’d guess.

  8. At LA TV Fest on Wednesday, YouTube Director of Partnerships Jordan Hoffner was asked what type of online content has the best upside for monetization. He answered: “Animation.” It’s relatively inexpensive to produce, has an audience that loves comics, manga, etc., and is easily dubbed into different languages for international distribution. Smart.

    The Watchmen “Motion Comics” on iTunes are cool, too.

  9. This is hardly the first generation; comic book companies have been putting comics awkwardly into Flash for years and years, with very little interest on the part of the readers. Heck, the old Spiderman cartoon was essentially what’s being called “Motion Comics” today.

    The problem from my position is that once you animate it, it ceases to be a comic book, and becomes an animation. And you wouldn’t call comic adaptations of animation “static animation,” or some such, would you?