Always a keen platform for new innovations across a wide variety of industries, the Iphone and Ipad will soon feature the very first animated graphic novel, ‘Bottom of the Ninth’ a unique comic book experience by Ryan Woodward. The novel will feature moving panels on each page which from what I can tell are being used for the big actions, sweeping landscapes and also for little movements and character traits. I think it gives them a great opportunity to do some interesting things with characters actually and it is something that I am keen to see about it. There is one character in particular that appears to be a fan and his movement seems to be a small dance with his shoulders. You can see it if you head over to the website and look at the right hand side; I think that his small movement gives a much greater depth to the character than you could achieve with just his expression.
Woodward has taken an interesting idea and really run with it, with what looks to be some serious production values behind it. He certainly has the credentials within the industry having animated for the 96′ film Space Jam and storyboarded recently for the smash blockbuster ‘The Avengers’. The story is a baseball story set in the metropolis Tao City in 2172 and the novel’s heroine, champion pitcher Candy Cunningham struggles with the career she has inherited from her from her worldclass father. You can tell Woodward is extremely talented right from the start, I really enjoy the hugely varied character design.
Having spoken of the benefits, I’ll now put on my cynical cap and talk briefly about some of the things that I anticipate might not work about it. The first thing about it is whether it is simply spectacle. Admittedly, there is no way to tell whether this type of graphic novel could have any future or longevity, but it seems like it could be somewhat unnecessary. The illustration of graphic novels has been honed to give the illusion of movement anyway; take the picture at the top of this post for example, even though it is a still image, is your enjoyment of it in any way diminished? And arguably, the shot that they have taken is the perfect and most interesting shot of the whole action. Would it be improved if we saw some of the unnecessary frames in between?
Additionally, reading and looking at still images is equally leisurely in terms of pace, but if this bridges the gap between that and animation, are we already spoiled by the fast-paced spoon feeding of TV cartoons where we’re not expected to read? Not to mention, reading from the Ipad is reportedly terrible when compared to the Kindle or other ‘electronic ink’ technology.
My final point is about spoiling anticipation, which is a problem I have when I’m reading graphic novels in general and is helped by a well-designed layout. Anyway, the point is, I find, that when I’m reading a graphic novel, if it gets particularly tense or a big action happens, my eyes drift towards the end of the page so that I can see what happens without taking the time to read. This problem will surely get much worse if that big image was now moving and so made all the more eye catching. Having said that, I went looking for an example and I’m prepared to admit when I am totally wrong; I think that perhaps the best thing about the animation of the novel is that it can delay this big action until the appropriate time. The image on the right is a good example of this as you can’t possibly watch him strike out until you’ve already seen her throw the ball and the page by page Ipad will prevent those tricky double page action sequences.
It seems to be a very interesting idea at least and I’d be very interested to open it up and look at all the small details. That is one thing that I think could make it very enjoyable; in the same way that you can spend minutes at a time staring at one particularly captivating image froma graphic novel, you can take a careful look at all of the little touches the animation adds. You can find a very good anticipatory write up of the novel here but here’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for, a trailer (that’s right a trailer) of the graphic novel itself. Enjoy: