Friday, March 12, 2010

Flashback Universe Examines: Truly Digital Comics

Did you know there are over 50 'slates' or 'pads' scheduled to come out this year? It's true, you can read all about them here. 2011 or maybe more like 2012 looks to be a good year to really be able to view comic books digitally anytime anywhere. Will there be systems in place to get those comics to you? Will they be simple? Will they be easy? Will they be affordable? You can rest assured that we here at the FBU will bring you the answers to those questions as soon as we discover them. Until then we thought you might be interested in learning a bit about a few fully digital comic books that have all ready been made. The kinds of comics that would have been perfect to release simultaneously in print and digitally...if there'd been 'slates' or 'pads' out before 2010 that is.

TODAY WE'LL LOOK AT: "BATMAN: Digital Justice"
Published by DC in 1990 (in multiple formats), Batman Digital Justice was written by Pepe Moreno & Doug Murray with fully rendered digital art by Pepe Moreno & Bill Fingerman.

20 years after it's release Batman Digital Justice reads like a franchise reboot. Much like Batman Begins, Batman Digital Justice takes all of the 'standard' pieces of the Batman mythos and reworks them into something 'new' while still remaining recognizable to the long term hard core fans.

"The book is set in a future Gotham City "at the end of the next century," (the 21st) dominated by high technology, particularly computer networks and their human controllers, long after the original Batman has died. The story revolves around James Gordon,Gotham City Police Department detective and grandson of Commissioner James Gordon, who takes on the identity of the Batman to free the city from a sentient computer virus crafted by the Joker, also now long dead, and to avenge the death of his partner Lena Schwartz."

The story builds nicely, and without giving too much away or spoiling the plot, the book does a very nice job setting up the supporting cast: including a new side kick, as well as a feline inspired costumed persona out for her share of New Gotham's digital glory, and an appearance by one of Batman's famous nemesis.

The art on Batman Digital Justice holds up! The im ages on each panel & page are clear and concise with little in the way of pixelation. Not only is it clean and easy to read, one might classify it as 'stylish' aimed at a particular audience (that cover image being the clearest example) that manages to hit it's mark extremely well. At the time, it was considered "cutting edge" in nearly every way. Here is a quote from inside the book:

"State of the art" sure ain't what it used to be. These days, by the time something that's the state of the art hits the streets, it's already obsolete. That's an overwhelming change for the comic art medium. Between 1937, when the first all-original comic book came out, and the release of the first computer-generated comic in 1984, the tools used in the creation of comic art remained fairly stagnant. That all changed with the introduction of the first affordable graphics-oriented computer. All of a sudden, we had a machine that could do anything. Most miraculously, that bottomless box of microchips and cathode rays has allowed our medium to grow — from the standpoint of technology — more in the ensuing five years than it did in the preceding forty-seven. At that time, I was the editor of a Midwest comic book company when a couple of old friends, Peter Gillis and Mike Saenz, showed me some rough printouts of a story that was produced entirely on a 128K Apple Macintosh computer, using but one disk drive. The artwork was chunky and brittle: it looked like some amphetamine addict had been given a box of zip-a-tone that suffered from a glandular disease. But the look was totally unique to comics. Within several months, we refined the look and the resulting effort — SHATTER — was one of the best¬selling comics of the year. It completely astonished the folks over at Apple Computer, Inc., who never perceived such a use for their hardware.

We've come a long way in the past five years: the book you are now holding was produced on a Macintosh computer that has 64 times the internal memory, 400 times the storage capacity, about 8 times the speed, and hundreds of software packages. More important, DIGITAL JUSTICE takes advantage of different devices that, five years ago, were barely dreamed of for the home or studio: computer-aided design, 3-D imaging programs, high-resolution and direct-to-film printers, graphics scanners, and color. A whole lot of color. In fact, there's the potential for more than 16 million colors.

The technology used to create DIGITAL JUSTICE is now 20 years old, and 20 years of advances in similar technology (applied more to other industries such as Video Games & Animation granted) have made comics all the better for it.

Batman Digital Justice uses a modified square panel grid on it's pages that lend them selves nicely to a cinematic feel (which was what I'm sure they were going for at the time) that would work beautifully in the comic reader now.

As an added bonus this book does a fair amount of accurate predictions to the Batman's future:

Batman Beyond was released in 1999 and while one might guess that Batman Digital Justice's "Batcraft" was 'borrowed' from Blade Runner, the next logical assumption would be that Beyond borrowed from this book.

If you're interested & feel as if you local comic shop might not be able to get their hands on it you can purchase it from AMAZON & MILE HIGH COMICS. Then again, who knows, this would be the perfect book to help kick of DC's Digital Comics initiative. They do have one don't they?

Have a nice weekend,


1 comment:

Luke said...

Neat idea for a series, although my experience says you'll quickly run into consistently bad/ambiguous artwork and "hero trapped in computer" storylines. Maybe there's more out there than I know and you'll surprise me with a few gems though.


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