Comic books are truly coming into their own in the digital age, especially as they’re backed by platforms like Madefire. The platform specializes in digital comic books, particularly its signature motion books.
Madefire has also been on a hot streak lately, having announced partnerships with companies like Blizzard to create motion comics based on video games for IPs such as Overwatch, adding both DC Comics and Marvel Comics to its extensive library in two separate announcements, all topped off by Friday night’s New York Comic Con announcement that it’s partnering with Magic Leap for a new augmented reality experience.
“We’re going to be developing a series of motion books and comic books for the Magic Leap AR experience, using their lightfield technology to deliver interactive panel comic books with animation, sounds and possibly navigation,” Madefire’s chief revenue officer Jon Middleton told AListDaily at New York Comic Con. “You might be able to interact with your comics.”
Madefire will be one of the first launch apps for the Magic Leap platform. Although the experience is still in development, Madefire promises that comic panels may be viewed as 3D images that float midair, and users will be able to pin them to physical objects as digital wallpaper. However, much is left to speculation, as Magic Leap is notoriously secretive about its lightfield technology and when the AR headset will launch.
Middleton said that the exact level of interaction will be determined by the creators themselves on a book-by-book basis, and it plans to bring its entire library of graphic novels—including titles from Marvel, DC and Blizzard—to the Magic Leap platform. Original titles like Mono, a comic book about an ape-human hybrid secret agent created by Madefire’s co-founder and CEO Ben Wolstenholme, also almost certainly tops that list.
“Motion book technology adds a 2.5D plane, building a screen-by-screen and instance-by-instance moment, where you’ll be able to see animated comic book frames in front of you,” said Middleton, discussing how motion books fit well with AR technology.
At the announcement, Madefire said that it had been partnered with Magic Leap for five years.
“The companies have been friends for a long time,” said Middleton. “Both Madefire and Magic Leap are very much companies that started for a cause—very specific purpose development—on a mission where technology is a means to an end. Magic Leap wants to build a computing platform and change how people interact with technology, while we’re more geared toward story and building comic book universes as the myths of the 21st century. We’re developing a platform for different kinds of interactive comic books.”
In addition to AR, Madefire has also been building up its brand in the VR space—its VR motion books on the Samsung Gear VR platform were available for attendees to experience on the New York Comic Con show floor.
“VR is all-encompassing, and you’re interacting with the real world with AR,” said Middleton, comparing VR with the potential of AR. “Being that AR has you in real world, it adds a different element, where the book is more-or-less appearing in front of you in your daily environment. It’s a totally different experience in the way it makes you feel, how we can tell stories—even the physical experience of how you think about what you’re looking at is oddly different, since it’s not as all-encompassing as VR. It’s not an apples-to-apples kind of question.
“The more we can innovate with our technological partners, the better. There has been a lot of innovation in the digital realm, and we want to push that and develop a platform that allows for the comic book industry to grow.”
Multiple platforms are turning to AR, particularly Apple and Google. Middleton said that Madefire was also looking into mobile devices to create accessible augmented reality experiences.
“For us, it’s about bringing the comic book reading experience to as many places as people can consume it, whether that’s a technological platform, a hardware platform or just through geographical distribution. The big thing is getting the ability to tell these stories and get content out to these audiences to make them happy wherever they are.”
According to Middleton, Madefire describes itself as a creators-first platform, but it’s really all about the storytelling, making it the ultimate end-result product.
“We love creating it,” said Middleton, “but in order to get there, you’ve got to develop the technology for creators to tell stories. We’re really a creator’s platform.”