By Todd Allen
Add another player to the growing list of digital comic app providers. Madefire has been in skunkworks mode for probably a year, hiding out in Berkley . Last fall I bumped into one of their executives at a tech event and after hearing his description, it was pretty obvious this was what Liam Sharp had been setting up. Boy, did his eyes pop out when I said “oh, so this is the new Mamtor.” And, if we’re honest, this is Liam Sharp taking his Mamtor concept (which was a perfectly reasonable idea) and moving it into a more independent format.
The moniker Madefire is using for their digital comics is “Motion Books.” They may be doing themselves a disservice with that term. Based on the demo footage, this isn’t really motion comics, which the name imples. It’s closer to Project Ajax and, to a lesser extent, Waid’s Thrillbent and the digital work Marvel’s been putting out with AVX. There is a bit of motion and effects around the edges, but this doesn’t appear to be an attempt to turn comic books into cartoons, per motion comics. Just add effects to the comics. (That said, while most Direct Market comics readers despise motion comics, or at the least the half-assed attempts at them we’ve seen in recent years, motion comics are reasonably popular if you can get a general audience to look at them. Crossgen’s old motion comics, circa ’03/’04 were some of the most popular features on AOL’s “Red” channel for teens.)
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Madefire, like Mamtor is looking to provide a creator-friendly platform for comics distribution. The line-up has a strong British influence and this is a launch with creators you’ve heard of. The initial line-up is:
- “Treatment: Tokyo” by Dave Gibbons, Kinman Chan and Robbie Morrison
- “Treatment: Mexico City” by Dave Gibbons, Doug Braithwaite and Robbie Morrison
- “Mono” by Ben Wolstenholme and Liam Sharp
- “Captain Stone Is Missing. . .” by Liam Sharp & Christina McCormack
- “The Irons” by Haden Blackman & Gary Erskine
- “The Engine” by Guy Adams & Jimmy Broxton
- “Houses of the Holy” by Mike Carey and David Kendall
Look at the website and more familiar names like Bill Sienkiewicz, Angus McKie and Gary Gianni pop up.
It appears this is iPad-only right now. Their website makes no mention of web-based, PC or Andriod versions, but this is all too often the case for Bay Area app developers. iPad is the big market, so other platforms are picked up later, if at all.
Interestingly, in a trend that may become standard, Madefire is going to release their tools for free. There’s a beta sign up right now.
So another digital player enters, this time with original content and a little star power. Let the games begin.
Official PR follows:
Madefire Shakes Up the Comic and Graphic Novel Industry with Revolutionary App and Reading Experience for iPad
San Francisco, California, June 21, 2012—Madefire, an exciting new company that brings a refreshing jolt of energy and innovation to the comic and graphic novel industry, today launched its Madefire App for iPad, featuring original, interactive works from Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons, as well as titles from other leading comic writers and graphic novelists. The Madefire App delivers a continuous flow of ‘Motion Books’, original stories each with their own unique and immersive experience, providing users with a comic or graphic novel experience like none other. Madefire titles are also optimized to take full advantage of iPad’s leading features and functionality, including the gyroscope, accelerometer and stunning Retina display.
The Madefire App launches with three original comic and graphic novel titles, and four previews of future titles, including:
•“Treatment: Tokyo” by Dave Gibbons, Kinman Chan and Robbie Morrison
•“Treatment: Mexico City” by Dave Gibbons, Doug Braithwaite and Robbie Morrison
•“Mono” by Ben Wolstenholme and Liam Sharp
•“Captain Stone Is Missing. . .” by Liam Sharp & Christina McCormack
•“The Irons” by Haden Blackman & Gary Erskine
•“The Engine” by Guy Adams & Jimmy Broxton
•“Houses of the Holy” by Mike Carey and David Kendall
The first three titles include the first episode, introducing readers to the format, story line and characters. Subsequent episodes will be delivered to readers twice a month and users will be updated via Push Notification when the new episodes are ready to download.
“Madefire is igniting a new era by creating a modern, dynamic reading experience and bringing that to the millions of iPad users around the world,” said Dave Gibbons, co-creator of Watchmen and advisory board member at Madefire. “It is exciting to be able to bring this robust storytelling into the 21st century while also democratizing the ability to publish comic books.”
Madefire will also be making their publishing tools available to anybody who wants to create their own original comics or graphic novels in the Motion Book format. The basic tools will be available for free at http://www.madefire.com.
“Madefire allows creators to bring the excitement and intensity of comics and graphic novels to iPad in a truly interactive format,” says Liam Sharp, Chief Creative Officer of Madefire. “We have seen these great innovations in other forms of entertainment such as gaming, movies and television, but reading has largely transferred words to the digital page without transforming the experience.”
The Madefire executive team boasts an elite roster of technology and storytelling veterans with the passion and expertise to change the way we create and consume stories. Madefire was founded in 2011 by Ben Wolstenholme, CEO of Moving Brands, Liam Sharp, Chief Creative Officer at Madefire and a veteran comic book writer and artist, and Eugene Walden, CTO at Madefire and a seasoned technology entrepreneur and mobile pioneer. The team is also joined by creative superpowers Dave Gibbons, co-creator of Watchmen, the best-selling graphic novel of all-time, and Bill Sienkiewicz, widely recognized as one of the greatest innovators in the history of sequential art.
The Madefire App is available for free from the App Store on iPad or at www.itunes.com/appstore. Images and media kit can be downloaded at http://www.madefire.com/press-kit/.
Founded in 2011 by Ben Wolstenholme, Liam Sharp and Eugene Walden, Madefire is backed by True Ventures. Madefire provides artists and writers a publishing solution for iPad allowing them to build their stories in an exciting new format. The Madefire Board of Advisors includes Mike McCue, CEO and Founder of Flipboard, Sina Tamaddon, former Senior Vice President of Applications for Apple Inc., Toni Schneider, CEO of Automattic, creators of WordPress.com, Dave Gibbons, co-creator of Watchmen, the bestselling graphic novel of all time, and Bill Sienkiewicz, widely recognized as one of the greatest innovators of sequential art. For more information go to madefire.com, or download the Madefire App for iPad.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.