The vast majority of digital comics still either start out as print comics or are destined to become print comics at some point in their lifetimes, but that’s likely to change as the medium matures. DC Comics pushed that maturation a step further this week with the announcement of two new digital comics lines that both use digital-friendly techniques.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine any way to translate the DC2 comics into print: Rather than moving from panel to panel, readers will tap the screen to bring in the next storytelling element, which could be a word balloon, a pictorial element, or a whole new scene. As DC’s Jim Lee told Wired blogger Laura Hudson, “What’s cool is that you really get to challenge the rules of traditional storytelling. You aren’t beholden to a strict left to right western culture narrative. You can have elements that leap back and forth.”
Dropping in a new visual element with each swipe isn’t a totally novel idea—it’s a technique that Mark Waid has used in Thrillbent and Marvel’s Avengers vs. X-Men Infinite, and webcomickers have been using variations on it for years (the one that stands out in my mind is Dan Goldman’s Red Light Properties).
The DC2 line will launch with Batman ’66, which is based on the classic 1960s-era Batman TV show, and it’s easy to imagine how the show would translate into a digital comic, with pop-up sound effects and goofy transitions.
DC2 Multiverse, on the other hand, will basically be choose-your-own adventure comics for digital (which should be a lot easier to follow than paperbacks that constantly have you flipping to another page half a book away). The first series in this new line will be Batman: Arkham Origins, which ties in with the upcoming videogame. The appeal to gamers is obvious: Readers can change the story as they go, then return to a branching point to see how it would play out with a different set of decisions. But DC plans to take that interactivity a step further:
“We get feedback based on how readers navigate through these stories, and what story branches are most appealing to them,” said Lee. “That’ll give us meaningful input as we create additional chapters for the multiverse storyline, to the point where you can have people vote on the fates of certain characters. The interactivity isn’t just on the screen itself; it’s between us as publishers and readers as fans.”
Indeed, Techhive’s Andy Ihnatko says that the comic will send data back to DC about the user’s choices, which is a little creepy (although the data will be aggregated and won’t be tracked back to the individual user).
In announcing these new comics, Lee and DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson also mentioned the growing importance of digital comics to DC’s overall picture: “Now there are a million downloads a month of DC stories from our digital publishing. It’s not an insignificant business anymore,” Nelson told Wired, while DC’s press release quotes Lee as saying “since the onset of Same-Day-Digital our print and digital sales have both risen by double and triple digits, respectively.”