It comes as no surprise that the iPhone and iPod touch, with their high-quality, high pixel-density screens, would be useful for all sorts of multimedia content beyond music and browsing. What is surprising is how quickly comic and graphic novel authors and publishers have begun embracing the App Store as a medium for distribution. We had a moment to exchange emails with JM Ringuet, creator of the free Stolen Suns graphic novel being distributed on the App Store, and we got some great insights about his experience developing a graphic novel specifically for the App Store.
iPod touch Fans: Can you give us an introduction to your comic?
JM Ringuet: ‘Stolen Suns’ is supposed to be an episodic graphic novel made of chapters released on iTunes every month or so. It tells the story of one of the biggest rock bands in the world, named Stolen Suns, their life, their infighting, their successes, their mistakes, their relationships, their hardships, and also the rumors that follow them everywhere: are they real Vampires or is it just a crafty marketing ploy to attract attention?
It’s deep down a metaphor about misfits, creators, artists, rebels, outsiders, the people that don’t go by the rules. It’s a kind of dark existentialist soap opera in comic form.
Keep on reading for a deeper look into the creative process and reflections about the App Store process for comic authors and for developers in general.
I: Can you tell as a bit about your background as an artist and app developer, and what prompted you to choose this platform?
J: I’m a regular comic artist and I have been published by more mainstream paper publishers like Image or Catastrophic comics, and I have done a lot of coloring for publishers like Radical, Top Cow, Boom, Silent Devil. I’m also an illustrator and concept artist for the videogame industry.
For years I have created all my art on computers, so I think the idea of putting art on the Iphone and Ipod Touch came from this convergence of a love for sequential storytelling and a great interest in new technology.
When I got my Ipod Touch I tried to put some art on it and I was just extremely impressed by the way it looked on that little screen. Then studying the App store for several months, reading a lot of article about the business model it can made sense for me to try to do a comic for the Ipod Touch.
Comics nowadays suffer from a poor distribution system and very high printing costs; iTunes is a solution to both those problems with a very wide distribution system and very low ‘publishing’ cost. Now the real hurdle is to advertise those comics, make sure people know they are there and try to read them. If they do I believe they will be hooked.
I: Can you give us a bit of a glimpse into your creative process?
J: Everything is done on the computer from start (sketch) to finish (coloring and lettering). It’s a very consistent process that allows me to know who the art is going to look on the screen, and that’s very important. Each chapter of the graphic novel has about 90 ‘pages’ which is the equivalent of a 24-30 pages printed book.
My influences are from US comics, Japanese manga and French comics, so I think Stolen Suns has a kind of hybrid simple style that should please a lot of readers. I also do a lot of ‘special effects’ in Photoshop to give a movie like feel to it. Most pages are laid-out like movie shots and I think that should make it very readable for people who usually don’t read comics at all.
I: Are you trying to build a business around this or is it a side project?
J: I have partnered with Iverse Media to put this graphic novel on Itunes, and Iverse has already a lot of other titles in their library. It’s a business for them, and I would really like to develop it as a business for myself if people show enough interest. At this point I need a very small number of faithful readers to make it profitable because the investment in doing a digital comic is extremely small.
A lot of bigger publishers are now moving in the App store with their own comics so this is definitely a business at this point, even if a small one. But most importantly I think it’s a great platform for creators to self published and be able to make a living out of their art. The Iphone/Ipod Touch could become THE place where you can find real groundbreaking original comics in the future. It has already started in Japan.
I: What have you learned so far through publishing this application? Are you planning to release more comics (or other applications) on the iPhone platform?
J: I learned quite a bit about the submission process (hard) and the marketing of an app (very hard). I am definitely planning to release chapter 2 of Stolen Suns. I’m in the process of finishing it, so it should be submitted to Apple by the middle of August. Then you will have to keep your eyes peeled to see it appear on Itunes or better yet check the official blog: www.stolensuns.blogspot.com to read up to date news about the project, as well as getting background info, behind the scenes looks and free stuff (like wallpapers and such…).
I: Is there anything else you would like to add?
J: I would be very grateful if Apple could see the growing market of graphic novels in the App Store and dedicate a section to it instead of lumping it with Books.
I also hope that people who are not used to look at that kind of material will give it a chance, especially since a lot of titles are free. Believe me there is nothing better when you are stuck somewhere waiting than to take out your Ipod, open a comic and get lost in another world, in another place for a few minutes. Does wonder to battle the stress of day to day boringness.
So I hope your readers try Stolen Suns and spread the word about it. The link to iTunes is: http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=321244874&mt=8
And reviews and ratings in iTunes, whether good or bad, are also invaluable to me.
We would like to thank JM Ringuet for his time, and we encourage you to check out his work as well as the many other free comics and graphics novels being released on the App Store.