The Next Big Thing – Motion Comics?

Over at NewTeeVee.com, Chris Albrecht takes a look and compares the motion comics released recently, specifically the Watchmen comic (available in iTunes for free) and the recently released Invincible series (discussed in this week’s episode of iFanboy with Robert Kirkman). These recent releases show yet another way to leverage the characters and stories from comic books into a consumable media format.

But does it work? Chris’s post got me thinking, and after watching the Invincible and Watchmen motion comics, I can only say “I don’t know.” When Invincible came out, it got a lot of criticism for being no more advanced than the animated cartoons of Marvel comics in the 1960s. They’re not animating Invincible here, rather taking the original art and moving it around and adding sound effects. Watchmen is a bit more involved, with actual animations of some panels, but then just zoom effects of others. Where Watchmen fails is that it’s basically an animated audio book, with one voice for all the characters, which was fine until Silk Spectre showed up and then it just got silly.

Is this yet another glimpse at the future of comics? I don’t think so. I think this falls in the category of something that can be done, and if it grabs an audience, great. Hopefully they’ll go check out the comic book and then other comics. The problem with experimentation is, you never know what may happen. Kirkman shared this view in our interview with him, stating that who knows? Maybe the Invincible series will grab some teenagers and move them to the world of comics. Anything and everything to help the medium get new readers. Hopefully the loyal audience though doesn’t reject these attempts too much. Because without this sort of experimentation, how will we ever find the mythic “future” of comics?

So what do you think? Leave a comment with your thoughts on this new form of entertainment.

 

Comments

  1. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Aside from the singular voice problem, the Watchmen animation really impressed me with some sophisticated ideas like blurring the foreground or background for the illusion of rack focus.  And the moving ink blots on Rorschach’s mask were pretty effective as well.  

  2. It’s a neat experiment, and nothing more. I did enjoy watching the Invincible one, but more than anything it made me want to go back and read the original source material. The beauty of comics is that they AREN’T movies, and you can read them at your own pace. The best writers and artists guide you and help create a sense of pace and time. These take that out of the mix. 

    I can see this being done with a few more comics in the future, but nothing that’s going to create it’s own fanbase and culture the way web comics have.

    Still kind of neat though…

  3. Did they do the entirely of the Watchmen?  I’ll check it out simply because I haven’t read the book in a long time, and don’t own it.

  4. i bought the season pass for Marvel’s N on iTunes. I haven’t watch any of the first five episodes yet, but I’m such a huge Maleev fan it was really a no-brainer.

  5. I think the achievement with Watchmen was that they were able to leverage so much from the existing artwork. Maybe its not the next thing to replace comics but it is alot closer to the source material than a movie can ever be. If they do the entire Watchmen series and each chapter is 25 minutes, that’s FIVE hours of material. That gets you every plot point and all the pacing of the original. I might consider using this as a way to lure someone into comics.

     I’m already sold because I’m a fan of audio books. I would never replace my comics with this but I might be down to throw it on as an alternative once and awhile.

  6. Aside from the aforementioned voicing issues, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Watchmen episode, and the effectiveness of the dramatization and the thoroughness of the adaptation – I think it deepened my appreciation for some of the panels and beats. I will almost certainly buy the season pass. On the other hand, I wasn’t taken by the approach to Invincible and didn’t even finish the first ep (though I’m in the minority that didn’t get hooked on the series itself). So far the, a mixed bag, but I found myself less resistant than I expected, as dedicated to actual books as I am.

  7. I think the criticism of them not being much beyond the Marvel animated shorts from the ’60’s is a little harsh but honestly pretty fair.  I mean at least the 60’s shorts had those awesome theme songs. 

  8. I actually kinda like the Invincible series, even though I thought it was a bad idea when I saw the trailer.  Could it be better? Yes, but it could also be a lot worse. As for it being the "future" of comics? No.

  9. @ChrisNeeseman I agree with you about pace. Pace and delivery seemed totally wrong for the Invincible thing. I don’t think I like motion comics. I think it’s just a cheat to avoid doing an actual animated series. But, hey, whatever gets comic books out there, is fine by me.

  10. I remember being able to buy things like motion comics on cd where panels were animated at least 10 years ago. It’s strange that this idea has come back again and being presented as something new, maybe it will work out better being distributed on the web.

     It may look like the marvel cartoons of the 60’s with things being drawn across the drawn across the screen on strings, but I thought that was all the rage in cartoons now. There’s not as much detailed animation out there.
    The Invincible stuff looks like someone’s having an epileptic seizure, while the watchmen and stephen king stuff is better, it kind of destroys the panel layout design for Watchmen.

    Some of the motion comics promo almost makes it seem like regular comics are too boring and need to be improved which I don’t like. 

  11. I gotta say, maybe it’s because I am feeling all sick and surly, but I absolutely HATE these things. The Invicible one was just so annoying–look, I don’t need to read words if they are being spoken.  I just don’t.  I am looking at the Watchmen sample as I download and it looks like more of the same. then I hear the BET production of "Black Panther" is ALSO going to be like this.  Personally, I think that there are plenty of great animators out there that could do a much better job for this kind of thing… I just…eccchtt.  I’m having, like, a violent physical reaction to this stuff.

     I think it’s worthless from an animated point of view and a comics point of view…waste of time…

    m

  12. I agree with that, if this is the style they’re going for thats fine but lose the word balloons if there is narration, it’s needless. 

  13. Here’s the Black Panther trailer:

     

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XvCCbpzc-o 

  14. I thought they did a good job capturing the feel of the Watchmen books (although, yes, the word balloons are unnecessary.)  However, I had a hard time with the Invincible episodes for a few reasons: 

    The Watchmen has an old-fashioned feel so the stop motion animation seemed to work, while the Invincible one, set in contemporary times, just felt weird.

     Also, the Watchmen is paced much more slowly and is more based on dialogue than action, which works better for this style.  I don’t think it works too well with fast-paced battle scenes.

  15. I want no part of this. If you want to sell comics, buy a commercial; don’t half-ass a cartoon. It’s like you took the panels and turned them into a Powerpoint presentation. Do it or don’t do it.

    And oh, sure. Everybody’s all, "Future of comics! Future of comics! Let’s make everything move and talk and blur and bounce around! Scrunch it all up into the iPhone window! F*** it up however it takes! We must ensure the future of comics!" But step up and say, "Hey… um… what if they just take the digitized comics art they already have and sell it to new readers as, like, PDFs? Without even really having to do anything extra?" and everyone wants to burn you as a heretic. Just put the comics in people’s hands?! Lunacy! Suddenly, everybody’s all, "I don’t like looking at screens, even though I do it 14 hours a day. I like holding paper. I only listen to music on the superior vinyl and only write when I can smell the delightful ribbon of the typewriter." Open your eyes! Yagh!

  16. It’s okay if they offer both. Animation is not a substitute for comics. It’s just something fun, like an old radio show. That’s how I looked at the Watchmen animation. It’s just a reading.

  17. I’m not really into it, I would rather read the book than watch one of these motion versions. I think the more hardcore comics fans aren’t really the audience for these anyway. If you look at the comments on itunes, invincible has almost all positive reviews so there could well be a market for them. Making comics more accesible to the mainstream could also very well attract more people to the actual books. I used to read comics about 10 years ago but stopped, and it wasn’t until I saw the Sin City movie that my interest was peaked again and now I am back on board reading a lot of comic books.

  18. The Black Panther trailer looks pretty good I have to say. But it’s not really the same as Watchmen and Invincible. It is clearly animating J.R. Jr.s art, wheras these other two are adding animated elements into the book panels. My main problem with Invincible (at least the trailer) is that I thought the voices were terrible. What I’ve seen of the Watchmen so far I like a lot better. Most of the voices are really good. Not Silk Spectre’s so much, but it would have been odd to suddenly switch to another actor.

    I think this is an interesting enough medium (is it technically a new medium? or just a new style of animation?) that we’re going to see more of it. I don’t know that it’s the future of the comics or animation or the bridge to digital comics, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

  19. i actually like the invincible series.  i think the voice acting is actually really good.  The part that I actually really appreciate is the music.  I think it captures the mood and tone of the comic really well.  If it were being sold on DVD would I buy it? No. However, it’s something that is fun to have on my ipod.

  20. @ THEHOCHE Was it different than the trailer? Because that just sounded terribly over-acted to me. The mom was the worst. 

  21. @patio do you remember the ALL CG Spider-man MTV did? The voice acting for Invincible is about the same, exept it’s not Lisa Loeb, Neil Patrick Harris, and Ian Zering. 

  22. @ THEHOCHE In the trailer mark sounded really young

  23. @ chrs7637 yeah, he does sound young, but he’s not quite in college yet, it didn’t bother me.

    another thing that I remembered why I’m diggin’  this whole Invincible the series thing, the sound effects. it’s nice to hear explosions and stuff instead of reading them on the page.

    is the first episode free? or just the trailor? i don’t remember.  if the first episode is free you guys should check it out.

     

  24. kinda made me feel more childish. i mean yeah I’m 31 and reading comics, but now i’m on my couch reading them on my big screen tv. maybe it was the production value that made it feel childish. hmm, maybe it was the idea that i was wasting valuable energy reading a comic on the tv while the book was sitting on my shelf. i don’t know, just wasn’t into it.  

     how about this? where is volume 4 hardcover!? 

  25. I find it hilarious people are complaining about the narration.  Who cares?  This doesn’t have the budget of a BBC radio drama.  I think this is the coolest adaptions we’ve seen since the trade.

  26. I enjoyed both as fun exercises in recreation.

    But as artisitic endeavors, they are lacking. They simply a means of marketing so as to generate interest in the books.

  27. obviously it’s another way to get the most out of their product. once the single issues are done, and the trade is done, and the HC is done, the files are just collecting dust. it’s another way to repurpose the product with very little cost. also, this "style" makes it very internationally friendly. it’s much easier and cheaper to translate and distribute a product like this than it is to manufacture new, translated publications. you save huge on materials alone.

  28. While I didn’t love the animated Watchmen, it was worth watching just to see the last frame. That was one great zoom out (pull back?) shot.

  29. So does anyone know if these things are available to those of us outside the US? last time i checked Watchmen wasnt. Im not a big fan of these things as a rule but i’d like to at least check it out..

  30. i guess here is where i should plug my own personal attempt at something like this, it’s a comic book music video.

    http://www.myspace.com/lahopkins8

    I liked doing this and i think it works but just as in comics it’s not does the medium work or not but how you use the medium that matters. This worked, others woun’t. 

     

    or maybe it didn’t work, i would love feedback on the site if you feel so inclined.

  31. I think it’s a new idea. But I’d rather see original works be like this. When I see normal comics done this way, I think "I should read that comic" but I’d love to see original Motion comics. That’d be something.

  32. One thing this will do is get people to understand the art of the comic industry and appreciate the whole medium and not just the writing or the art as two seperate entities.  I also think that the Watchmen animation is going to be great background material for people who have absolutely no idea what the Watchmen is about. 

    My brother saw the Watchmen cover (He’s a part time comic book reader.) and he said, "That looks stupid."  And  I would have to agree with him.  On first impressions, looking at those costumes makes the film seem a little silly to the non fanboy.  

    At least with this animation, people will appreciate the movie more when it’s released and possibly even read the actual book! 

  33. It’s funny, apparently it’s gotten real tough to find a copy of the Watchmen in Toronto since that trailer came out.

    Hurm.

  34. Jeez, lots of grouchies up in here.  Me, I loved the Watchmen thing.  It’s interesting to hear the line readings and to see the pacing of the story.  I would LOVE and Dark Knight Returns done like this with Kevin Conroy narration.

  35. Watchmen and Invicible are definitely enjoyable in any attempted re-formatting – but, this doesn’t feel new to me. It’s kind of how my brain see’s comics as i read them anyway. Don’t get me wrong. I think the format shows promise – especially as more and more pages are drawn digitally so the source material is on hand anyway. This might be the most feasible way to get a (non-pdf) comic book on your ipod that’s not a photogallery.

  36. The Watchmen one is pretty cool to…watch, all except the narrator trying to do a woman’s voice. It just sounds stupid. There’s a love scene down the road. How dumb will that sound? He’s making love to himself, but not in the way you think! Oh, and the rape scene that’s coming up. That would be…ugh. The guy’s a good voice actor, but get a woman to do the women’s voices, fhs!

  37. I love Kirkman’s stuff but I just couldn’t stomach the Invincible motion comic. I just really hated it. The watchmen was much better. 

  38. This is the first time I’ve heard of it, sounds awesome, I looked to try and buy them on Xbox Live unfortunately it’s done in a way that means that we in New Zealand don’t get it…. I think it’s part of the MTV shows portion of the TV section, and we don’t get any TV shows for download on XBL…. not sure why we are even paying for it sometimes :/

     

    Guess I’ll have to find another way to buy it 🙁

  39. That Black Panther trailer looks great.  I can’t stand the Invincble thing, though.  I haven’t watched the other ones, I think it’s funny that these are all popping up right now like it’s a brand new idea.  Remember the old Marvel cartoons of the 60’s?  The 60’s Hulk cartoon is a favorite of mine and bascially exactly the same thing they’re doing here.

     Here’s the first episode and most of the rest are on You Tube, too, check them out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3fEVgqoaok

  40. Too bad it isn’t on the Aussie Store. TV shows are but not this one. I want my Watchmen!!!

  41. Sad…Watchmen is no longer free…$19.99 for all 12 episodes.

  42. The BatMan Black and White Motion Comic is pretty good, great even.

  43. They only have 10 of 12 episodes available on itunes so far.