The Rise of Motion Comics Online

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.