Los Angeles Times writers Alex Pham and John Horn take a look at how a new wave of digital comic books designed for mobile phones, tablet computers and other devices stands to impact the publishing industry and independent retailers — not to mention devoted fans — in a page-one story in Friday’s paper.
It’s a book! It’s a cartoon! It’s … digital comics!
Technology, which has already upended the music, television and movie businesses, is now gripping the comic book world. Publishers are unleashing a torrent of digital comic books across smart phones, tablet devices, game consoles and digital book readers, portending major changes in how comics are made and marketed.
These new comics — many of which are being showcased this week at Comic-Con International in San Diego — in some cases come with choreographed presentations that zoom or pan across panels, full-color animated characters, audio from professional voice actors, heart-thumping soundtracks and even the ability for readers to leave comments on the pages.
With change come its twin companions: angst and exhilaration.
Traditionalists argue that “experiments” with animation and sound effects threaten to undermine the aesthetic foundation of comics and wipe out comic book stores already struggling to stay afloat — in other words, to do what the iPod and iTunes did to record shops.
Enthusiasts dismiss such fears as nonsense. Digital distribution is not only bringing a desperately needed infusion of young comic readers but also giving birth to a renaissance of innovation in a medium that some say badly needs updating.
“Digital distribution is our new newsstand,” said Chip Mosher, the marketing director at Boom Studios, which is converting its entire library of several hundred comic titles for online reading. “It’s a way to get our product in front of a mass audience.”
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Photo of Meltdown Comics manager Chris Rosa: Rick Loomis, Los Angeles Times
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