So where does that leave comic books?
There’s been an ongoing debate for years about the future of comics—and a lot of companies see that future on the Internet. Web comics have been popular for years, but only recently have some of the more mainstream companies embraced the idea of using the Web to tell stories. Warren Ellis and Avatar Press launched a weekly ongoing series called Freakangels on the Internet that has been running steadily for over a year. Six full-color pages are available each week—for free—with each story arc collected in a trade paperback and sold in bookstores.
The success of Freakangels and other Web-based comics was not lost on big guns like Marvel and DC—though, they’re going about it differently. Both companies have been experimenting with the concept of “motion comics.” Motion comics take the artwork from an existing series, animate it, and add voice actors for the dialogue. DC went this route with the 20-year-old Watchmen recently, but Marvel is doing something entirely different. Instead of taking an existing property and animating it, they’re starting from scratch and creating a whole new series specifically as a motion comic.
Brian Michael Bendis—who had been writing both New Avengers and Mighty Avengers—left a lot of people scratching their heads when he first took over. He had rounded out his Avengers line-up of Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Iron Man with Luke Cage and Jessica Drew, better known as Spider-Woman. The last two were popular in the 1970s but had been pretty much dormant in the Marvel Universe for the better part of two decades. Bendis quickly convinced readers that these characters deserved more panel time, and they soon became fan-favorites.
A little more than a year into his run on New Avengers—and around the time he and artist Alex Maleev left Daredevil—Bendis promised that a monthly Spider-Woman title was on its way. Four years later, things are finally just about ready to go—only not quite the way it was originally anticipated. Bendis, Maleev and Marvel will still produce a print version of the story, but Spider-Woman will appear first as a monthly motion comic available through iTunes and Marvel’s own Website. Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada said that he and Bendis have had many conversations over the years about the future of the medium and finally decided to take the plunge. Casting and dialogue recording took place earlier this year, and the series is on track for a summer launch.
Maleev has a little bit of experience, having worked on the Stephen King motion comic project N, but this will be the first foray into motion comics for Bendis, who has been one of Marvel’s top writers for much of the past decade. He’s stated in published interviews that he’s tailoring his scripts to the motion comic, and readjusting them for the print version. Maleev is handling the art chores for both versions, which is why there have been a few delays in getting it off the ground. Marvel wants to make sure they are far enough ahead to ensure a smooth launch and avoid any setbacks that could pop up and knock things off track.
While Spider-Woman will be the only ongoing, in-continuity motion comic, others are planned. Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men run is being prepped as well, and if both of those series are successful, other animated projects seem likely. A lot of fans will never abandon their collection for a computer, so it’s hard to believe that print comics will be completely irrelevant any time soon. But that’s what they say about daily newspapers, too.