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  1.  (9428.1)
    • CommentTimeJan 17th 2011
    Great article Paul, and thanks Warren for loaning out your web-space. As someone working in animation I would pretty much agree entirely with Paul's argument. Motion comics often remind me of animatics too, and when the greats start turning storyboards (like Pixar) into animatics they go through rounds and rounds of development as it's a great leap in medium from stills to moving image. I understand storyboards are not comics but the Dragonball Z quality to motion comics doesn't work for me. I adore fully fledged comics and animations and think anything in between is often, unfortunately, a compromised halfway house crippled by lack of time and funding, as, if they had these, the piece would be fully animated... no?

    I'd love to see the more interactive ideas Paul's alluding to at the end of the piece. The web and gesturally controlled experiences (ipads..etc) will soon deliver wonderfully immersive ways to experience story.
  2.  (9428.3)
    Good stuff, and I completely agree with Paul.
    I know some people (like Motherland) do an excellent job producing motion comics — but at the core the technique doesn't really work and indeed falters somewhat between 1960s "Hanna-Barbera-on-a-budget" and "exceedingly detailed animatic", all to try an capture the art style pur sang in animated form.
    • CommentAuthorsteevo
    • CommentTimeJan 17th 2011 edited
    Great article Paul. Thanks for writing. I haven't seen much of motion comics, but (and correct me if I'm wrong here) they seem to be books on tape on screen. They are read by an actor, or actors, and some animator makes the pictures move slightly, that about right? I feel like taking a comic and simply giving it a(n unintended) flow time is kind of a slap in the face to the author/illustrator who spent heaps of effort trying to make their book move like a comic, not an episode of South Park.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with adapting a piece, but: Why call it a comic? And why try to stick to conventions that are designed to work within comics?

    ETA: Man, I also may have just put my foot in my mouth with the "slap in the face" thing now that I think about it. Especially if the author/illustrator want to make it a motion comic. It just seems to me to be a way to appeal to a larger audience without having to do much rethinking about the new medium it's being presented in. Who knows, I can be, and have previously been, very wrong about such things.
  3.  (9428.5)
    Thanks for saying it, Paul. I've been trying to nail down why I'm so utterly disinterested in motion comics and that was it precisely.
      CommentAuthorHEY APATHY!
    • CommentTimeJan 17th 2011 edited
    Hey Paul & Warren. Thanks for the article, always interested in creator’s thoughts. I also agree with Paul’s argument about motion comics but wanted to say that despite all the criticisms and my own initial repulsion towards the cheap animatic technique, I was still mesmerized and found myself thoroughly intrigued by the weird presentation. I think I watched 10 of them in one night, even though I don’t particularly like them. There will be an evolution in this genre, and possibly one with appealing results. "Persepolis" was amazing and it was not much more sophisticated in it's animation than a motion comic, the drawings and story make it. Plus it won’t be long before we all stop reading and kids have to get this stuff somehow (kidding)

    On a side note, Paul mentioned he had a background in animation in the article, is it possible to see any of that work? Just curious. Thanks
    • CommentAuthorroadscum
    • CommentTimeJan 17th 2011
    Motion comics? Wouldn't that be Messrs McKean and Gaiman's Mirrormask? I doubt that it's possible to watch the film version enough times.
  4.  (9428.8)
    Without being disagreeable, let me jump in with both feet and add some dissenting opinion to the conversation.

    I don’t think that motion comics are targeted toward comic fans any more than movie adaptations are targeted toward readers. The movie version is typically something less than the reading experience, and yet there is a large potential audience for the stories that will never read the book. The question is does the motion comic introduce the story to a wider audience than the comic alone would have. Does the wider audience lead to greater revenues for the creator and is some of that audience driven to pick up the source material or other comics?

    As far as the argument that a motion comic is simply a compromise on the way to a full animation, well it’s undoubtedly true. On the other hand look at Marvel’s full budgeted direct to DVD animations. The very cost and time required had the added effect of seeing those stories and art neutered almost beyond recognition to be safe for the widest possible audience. The three motion comics Marvel have released were relatively uncompromising retelling of the comics. With Extremis the violence alone would have probably given that animation an R rating.

    We are working on our second motion comic series now, and I feel comfortable it is 2-3 large steps beyond the first. At this point it’s all experimental, accumulating techniques that work and throwing out the ones that don’t. There are moments of extreme awkwardness in all the motion comics that have been produced, but most also have moments that really work – where art that is much more detailed and nuanced that typical animation is up on the screen and the story is being retold as faithfully as possible considering it is a translation to another media.
  5.  (9428.9)
    Thanks for the response guys, and thanks to Warren for putting up the article! :)

    "Persepolis" was amazing and it was not much more sophisticated in it's animation than a motion comic

    Um... I'm not sure you're appreciating the amount of work that goes into frame-by-frame animation. Persepolis was visually simple yes, but don't let that fool you into thinking the production was also simple. It's fully drawn, carefully framed and beautifully animated - a world apart from the simple cut-and-move techniques that characterise the majority of motion comics, both in technique and budget. It's actually a good discussion piece though, because in a way, it is indistinguishable from what motion comics are trying to achieve: it's an animation that makes use of certain types of visual techniques found in comics, which adapts a pre-existing comic, and takes designs and sometimes even framing from the original. The difference is that Persepolis as an animation was still re-designed and re-drawn from the ground up, specifically for the purpose of being animated.

    Motion comics? Wouldn't that be Messrs McKean and Gaiman's Mirrormask?

    Mirrormask is a film made by creators who have also worked on comics, which I don't think qualifies it as a motion comic in the sense that we're talking about. To be honest, if you weren't told who it was created by, there'd be nothing to mark it out as a particularly comic-influenced film even. Dave McKean is as much an illustrator and film maker as he is a comic artist

    I don’t think that motion comics are targeted toward comic fans any more than movie adaptations are targeted toward readers.

    That's not really what I was trying to say, or what I meant by "reader" and "watcher", I just meant a hypothetical someone who could potentially be reading and/or watching. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if motion comics remain as low budget animations (a medium that to be brutally honest, requires time, skill and money to achieve high quality in), it's likely that they won't ever add anything substantially creative to their source material. Consequently, I'd rather our potential reader/watcher read the original instead watching it as a motion comic. I know it's not as simple as an either/or, since an audience might be partially shared, but I wonder if the effort and money isn't better spent trying to find ways to expand the audience for the original directly?

    Although that being said, I know nothing I say is going to increase the budget for motion comics, or stop people trying to make extra money off them. As an idealistic guy I value artistic integrity and vision over franchise and revenue (even if the revenue is my own to a certain extent), and I know that's impractical when the greatest proportion of any industry has to be dedicated to the bottom line.
    • CommentTimeJan 18th 2011 edited
    The one area I think Motion Comics might be nice is where they are aimed at kids who haven't learned to read yet, or pre-literate adults. I've seen a couple of Neil Gaiman's kid's books recreated as Motion Comics and the whole effect is quite pleasant. A person could look at the moving pictures and asssociate them with the narration before moving on to reading alongside. I think they have legs more as a Motion Book than a Motion Comic. :)
  6.  (9428.11)
    Thanks for the reply Paul, I certainly wouldn't try to convince anybody to like motion comics. With the comic apps taking off they might just be a passing blip in the search to get a comic based digital product on the inter-webs. For me, at a bare minimum they kept some good animators employed during a bad economy and an outsourcing binge that took out most of the other animation houses our size. I can’t say they have been terribly profitable, but they have been enjoyable to work on.

    Having been peripherally involved with some of the discussions about what stories to adapt into a motion comic, I can say that Marvel is looking at properties that are excellent stories whose sales life is essentially over. I think they are actively trying to avoid the hypothetical someone who is trying to decide between the comic and the motion comic after their first experiment with Spider Woman. When Extremis came out as a motion comic they took the opportunity to reprint the comic series as a Director’s Cut and to put out a new hardback, indeed hoping to drive people back to the source material.

    Again, looking at what typically gets released these days as a "full budgeted animation", a sanitized kid’s product drawn at near starving wages overseas, personally I’ve found the motion comics to be an improvement. Even the ones I didn’t work on. : )
  7.  (9428.12)
    Yeah, good point, the strings that come attached with budgets often tend to be restrictive too, although not necessarily always. I hadn't considered the idea of reviving old titles by putting them in a new medium either.
      CommentAuthorHEY APATHY!
    • CommentTimeJan 19th 2011 edited
    ooops- yeah Persepolis is pretty intense, in my mind I remembered it looking like Rocky and Bullwinkle but I just watched the trailer again, nevertheless you're right :

    it is indistinguishable from what motion comics are trying to achieve

    though I expect the motion comics to catch up soon.

    Also thought I’d also mention DILBERT. It’s a bit different being a newspaper funny, but it has seamlessly and successfully been transcribed into a motion comic.
    • CommentAuthorZeebo
    • CommentTimeJan 19th 2011
    I've always thought there was a bit of a motion comicky feel to several of the more recent point-and-click adventure games like Machinarium. In such games, the user nominally controls the speed of consumption, as in a comic, but it is couched in a need to solve puzzles rather than outright choosing to turn a page. In that model, I like to think that motion is a reward for careful observation of the environment. It's a bit of a bassackwards way to go about the "I left you a clue 3 pages ago and you don't know it until now" paradigm that I've always loved about comics.

    The need to click and solve puzzles is a fundamentally different manner of interaction than typical comic or movie consumption, but I think there's something to be said for appending interactivity to a story and artistic endeavor. Granted, most of them lack any writing to speak of, but that doesn't mean they all do, nor need they.
    • CommentAuthorroadscum
    • CommentTimeJan 20th 2011
    Dave McKean is as much an illustrator and film maker as he is a comic artist

    Mr Duffield, thank you for your patience.

    When you're in the kitchen cooking dinner, you're a cook. If it's a good dinner, you're a good cook.

    Mirrormask for me was the closest thing to a comic made real as i suspect i'm ever likely to see - it just happened to be one drawn by Dave McKean, that's all.

    Admittedly i don't follow such things that closely, these days i just read, watch and listen to the things i find entertaining, without usually paying much attention to the creative processes behind them. Still, i am left with the suspicion that 'motion comics' is more of a new way of describing something than a new thing in itself.

    I shall now wander off muttering to myself about 'young people today' and 'edged digging implements' and 'kraken bloody whassisnames'.

    • CommentTimeJan 20th 2011
    I would have thought motion comics were a way to put comics in another medium in order to attract the eyes of people who weren't typically to be found at their LCS's on a nearly religious basis every Wednesday.

    That is, it's a bit much to try to shoot marketing of comics to people who've never been into comics and typically pooh-poohed anyone who was. But it's not foolish to try to recapture audiences who have drifted away from comics by reminding them of the pleasure of the stories and characters they once sought out more eagerly. Since someone who has once been a comic book reader may have been "meaning to" check out the latest comics for quite a long time, the creators help themselves by finding another avenue into the mental space of such an off-the-habit reader.

    YEah, I was trying to avoid making comic book marketers sound like drug pushers. It didn't quite work, but there it is. I wonder if Marvel could measure any turn over in sales after their motion comics came out. Somewhere in junior high I gave up on X-Men and even when I heard of writers I already liked taking it up I wasn't particularly tempted to go back. But then I watched the episodes that Joss Whedon originally wrote and I started eyeing the title again.
    • CommentTimeJan 20th 2011 edited
    > I've always thought there was a bit of a motion comicky feel to several of the more recent point-and-click adventure games like Machinarium

    Yes, this. I'm in favor of seeing more products that "embrace and extend" the motion-comic concept to add hypertext and interaction. I'm torn because from a creator's point of view, developing anything like this for a property you're already basically done with has to be mostly a pain in the ass, especially when it just comes out as a Web freebie or DVD extra or something, but I'd love to see more series purpose-built from the ground up for a simultaneous existence as a serial comic and a motion-interactive online supplement. Perhaps a degree suck factor behind the motion-interactive stuff potentially just comes because it is too often the media equivalent of the toy in the cereal box and not an actual part of the work, or at minimum is done as an adaptation.

    Great article and discussion, Paul.