ScreeningA column article by: Regie Rigby
Look, I promise that this week I was honestly intending to put the self serving stuff at the end of the column. But I can’t do this without putting the self serving stuff at the front, so I guess that’s what I’m going to have to do. If you were around last week, then you already know I’m running in the London Marathon on Sunday to raise money for the charity Brain Tumour UK. My dad was killed by an aggressive and untreatable brain tumour last year, and I want to do whatever I can to help find a cure – or even an effective treatment – for this hideous disease. If you want to support me and this worthy charitable foundation by sponsoring me for any amount, no matter how small, you can do so by following this link to my Just Giving page. I’d love it if you did. But actually, that’s not why I’m telling you this at the top of my column this week. This is at the top because I want to thank all of the Comics Bulletin people – staffers and readers alike – who have supported me so far. Since I mentioned my run in the column last week*, a whole bunch of people have stepped up to help me increase the total I can pass on to my charity. So, Kat, Park, Thom, Jason, Dave and all the rest of you, THANK YOU! Your kind words and good efforts have made such a difference. I don’t deserve any of you. But now, back to the comics! Or at least, sort of comics. If you’ve been reading Fool for a while, you’ll know that I have something of an attachment to good, old-fashioned paper. I’ll be straight with you – for me, a comic only really counts as a proper comic if it’s on paper** that’s been folded and stapled. I quite like square bound stuff like trades and graphic novels, but they’re not really comics to me. So stuff on screens sits uneasily with me. I mean, I’m no Luddite***, I love new technology in all its glorious techie forms. But there are some things that can’t be improved on, and your basic comic – 22 pages, stapled together – is as good as graphic narrative gets so far as I’m concerned. That said, I’ve also never been much of a fan of cutting off your nose to spite your face, and if new technology allows me to get hold of stories I couldn’t otherwise get, or brings those stories to new audiences, or allowed me to take comics to places I couldn’t normally take them, well, I’d be an idiot to dismiss them. And so would you. Because the internet and digital technology have made all sorts of things available that would be pretty bloody hard to get any other way, and will now allow you to take comics with you to places they would have been to take in their original**** form. As it happens, there are a couple of things that have brought all this to the front of my mind. For a start, http://www.clickwheel.net>Clickwheel.net, which bills itself as the world’s leading digital comic provider, has announced that it will be launching a series of exclusive digital comics in conjunction with the hardy British Perennial 2000 AD. Available only from Clickwheel.net, 2000 AD Origins features the very first stories from Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper and whole bunch of other characters and stories from the whole of the comic’s 32-year history. Will Simons, Creative Director of Clickwheel said, “2000 AD has excited and shocked our readership in equal measure since they joined us in 2007. We’re continually adding to the 2000 AD archive, but with over 30 years of content, this is not something you can do fast! To that end, we’ve worked closely with Tharg and the 2000 AD team to develop a series of character introductions so that new readers can access, for example, the first stories of Judge Dredd and see where the character started from, his motivations and how he’s changed over the years.” So, y’know, he seems quite pleased with it. And I think he’s right to be. It’s fine for me to be a puritan and insist that I want my vintage 2000AD on musty smelling newsprint – my collection is complete from Prog 200, all I have to do is nip up to the attic and drag out the boxes I keep them in. Most people can’t do that. Their either too young, or they live in the wrong country. As Keith Richardson, Marketing and PR Manager for 2000 AD points out, “For many comic fans in the US and abroad, Clickwheel has provided their first taste of the 2000 AD universe. We wanted new readers to have the opportunity to access the beginnings of 2000 AD’s top characters so that their newer adventures are enjoyed in greater context. Clickwheel have developed a fantastic platform for the digital versions of 2000 AD and long may it continue!” Can’t argue with that. Best of all, the first instalment of the 2000 AD Origins digital comic will be available from 1st May only on Clickwheel.net. Subsequent monthly instalments will be available to download for £1.99 or $2.99 in the US, which is relatively cheap I think. This really is an exciting new way to get hold of dear old ‘Tooth if you didn’t get the classics first time around. Clickwheel also have the latest progs as downloadable .pdf files, so if you can’t easily get ‘Tooth on paper, you now have a chance to become a genuine Squaxx Dec Thargo wherever you happen to live. But new media***** isn’t all about accessibility. It’s about portability too. During a conversation with the supremely brilliant girl geek that happens to be a Year Head at my school she showed me a new Star Trek comic she was carrying around on her i-Pod Touch. While I still prefer paper, I can see the attraction – a comic you really can carry in your pocket without messing it up. Better yet, one of our very own is getting into this area. Our very own Park and Barb, in their guise as Wicker Man Studios is launching a new website specifically for their flagship title Gun Street Girl, from which WMS is already offering its latest Gun Street Girl story, The Jealous Dead on the iPhone App Store. The Jealous Dead will cost a mere 99 cents***** to download (in the US and Canada–other stores may vary), and can easily be read on the iPhone and the iPod touch with Wicker Man Studios’ own brand-new application, a comics reader which will allow readers using these devices to easily read stories panel-by-panel, simply by touching the screen and dragging the panels from right to left; tapping the screen will show thumbnails of all panels in a story so that one can, for example, easily pick up where one left off during a previous interrupted session. Now, I don’t pretend to know how any of this stuff works, but I do know it’s cool. And it gets better, because in addition to The Jealous Dead WMS also offers another GSG story, Where It Began for free on the iPhone App Store, for new readers to try out the Gun Street Girl experience free of charge. That’s right. You read it correctly. FREE. I’ve reviewed this story before, and I know it’s good. And free?! As I think you may be beginning to guess, I’m increasingly open to the idea of screen based comics. They let us do things we’ve not been able to do before. That can only be good. Who knew? The future is here already! See you in seven, if I survive the big run… *And, it turns out, my lovely wife decided to email everyone she could think of… **And for preference newsprint. ***I suspect this is a purely British term, so for the benefit of the rest of the world, a “Luddite” is a person who hates and avoids new technology, named for the mythical “Ned Ludd” the name given by anti machinery activists who broke into factories and smashed up machines during the early part of the English Industrial Revolution. ****And superior. *****Do we still call any of it “new media” incidentally? It’s not really new anymore, is it? Then again, they still call “The New Forest” “The New Forest”, and that hasn’t been new since the twelfth century. I guess it’s all relative. ******Which is another good point – digital comics are very, very affordable, and in these hard times, that can only be good, right?