Baltimore Comic-Con 2012: How To Make Comics – The ComiXology Way!

Continuing our Digital Saturday here at Baltimore Comic-Con, we headed over to the “Making Comics The comiXology Way” panel, which of course, was about waffles. I don’t even know what that means, I’m exhausted and it’s only my second panel, so let’s get to the recap!

On the panel were founder of comiXology John D. Roberts, artist Reilly Brown, and writer Alex De Campi. Roberts opened things up doing a short presentation on the App, with a focus on their Guided View technology. He noted that as they were working on Guided View, they noticed some panels seemed to have seamless transitions. This led to creators, like De Campi and Brown, saying they wanted to make stories that took advantage of these techniques.

Roberts then laid out the three main techniques used in Guided View storytelling:

Panning: Moving piece by piece though a large image.

Zooming: Going from a close image, zooming out to reveal something else.

Dissolves: Going from one picture to another.

Roberts then talked about resolution issues, that every time technology upgrades, you need to redo the art for higher resolutions. For the presentation, Roberts hadn’t even had time to add in the new specs for the Kindle, and Brown and De Campi noted she wasn’t looking forward to the new iPad, and redoing everything again.

With the presentation over, Roberts turned to De Campi. “Hard as it might be to believe, not all of my friends are nerds,” joked De Campi, talking about how her non-tech friends had a hard time opening documents, or understanding how to read a comic on their devices. The Guided View, on the other hand, uses, “more of the language of cinema,” which non-comics readers have an easier time understanding. She added that you don’t want to use, “tricks for tricks sake,” but instead use the tech to help the pace and the tone of the story. In the case of her comic Valentine, she used transitions to force the reader to slowly read all her text to give a sense of slowness to the beginning of her story.

Roberts also noted that De Campi introduced fourteen different languages for the comic, with Japanese being the most difficult because the language is vertical – leading to all the balloons being reconfigured. The creative team was also careful not to add any words into the art, so that for Asian countries, the words wouldn’t be flipped when the art was flipped.

The discussion then turned to the line between guided view, and motion comics. “You want to read it, not watch it,” said Brown. “If it goes on without you, you’re not reading it,” adding that makes it not a comic. De Campi continued, saying that with a comic, you need to build towards suspense… With a print comic, there’s a surprise every two pages; with full page views on comiXology, you can do a surprise every page; or with Guided View, you can have one every panel.

On the actual mechanics of writing a book for Guided View, Brown said that when tackling his comic Power Play, it was too burdensome to break everything down by panels, so instead they aimed for “scenes.” He also found freedom in being able to just draw a new panel, if he found it was needed, rather than having to redraw a whole page to fix one little bit. “It does get dangerous to say, I could just add an extra panel here… And then you have way more work,” said Brown.

On the plus side, Roberts said that as opposed to print constraints on page numbers, you can have a “one page comic, or a seven page comic.” That even leads to more challenges, as Brown noted an artist is usally paid by page. “Now the new measure is going to have to be, how long does this take to draw?” said Brown.

Then it was open to questions. The first was about using music, which De Campi firmly believed it was a great idea as long as you can still control the time, and have the ability of turning it off. Brown also noted that because of expense and memory usage, it would be prohibitive to have original music in a digital comic. De Campi disagreed, saying she knew musicians would do it for experimental purposes, adding that it will happen, it’s just a matter of time.

The panelists talked about how just because you’re using digital tools, doesn’t mean the traditional comic book page is going away. Both De Campi and Brown said they love working with comics, and using regular panel structure when they can. On the other hand, Roberts noted that moving from a regular comic book layout, to a landscape layout has allowed comics to move more towards the way the rest of the world is laid out. “Our eyesight is landscape,” noted De Campi.

A fan wondered about the release of older comics through the App, with Roberts clarifying that it’s up to the Publishers what gets released… Particularly as it’s up to them to spend the money to convert their comics to digital. Roberts does hope that there will, someday, be an evergreen, service with every comic ever made available online.

The next question was about printing digital books, with the panelists mostly in agreement that you worry about one thing at a time: when it digital, make it work for digital; if print comes calling, worry about that then. Roberts, however, added that his current focus is on getting creators to work on digital first, with announcements to be made at New York Comic-Con. “We’re an experience company,” said Roberts. “We looked at what we had done, and said, this is not the best experience we can have.” It sounds like, TBA at NYCC, the App, and the way comiXology approaches digital, may be getting a full overhaul.

And then we were done! Off to the next panel with us! Maybe this one will be about waffles?