The Digital Revolution Continues!
Madefire Lands DC Digital Editor Ben Abernathy
Co-founder Liam Sharp Tells Us Why
Over a month ago at Comic-Con, I saw the future. Former DC/Wildstorm editor Ben Abernathy saw it, too, because Madefire announced today that Abernathy has jumped onboard as editor for their ever-growing, ever-diverse line of "motion books."
Launched in June 2012, Madefire is a company, an app, and a line of comics titles that defy almost all those descriptions. It's a new form of digital comics, for now on the iPad, that will expand and change the way you look at comics. That's not casual hyperbole; my jaw dropped seeing what this company can do with artwork and storytelling.
Perhaps that was Abernathy's reaction, too. One thing's for sure: bringing him onboard solidifies Madefire's commitment to quality storytelling and expanding the medium.
Co-founder Liam Sharp spent some time yesterday talking with Fanboy Planet about this announcement.
"Ben and I have worked together off and on a fair bit over the last decade," Sharp explained. "We did the Gears of War comics together, which was sort of a sleeper hit, really. It was the biggest seller of 2009, but being a games title, nobody really picked up on it. But we were both proud to be on that. Before that, we worked on The Possessed."
"Basically, we've always gotten along together very well. I just really like his working style." Sharp praised Abernathy, "He's one of those editors that's extremely collaborative, which comics should always be. He listens to the creators, so if you do come up against some issue or wall or boundary that's causing problems with the story, there's no editorial on high 'thou wilt do this' to fix it. It's always 'well, what do you think, guys?' That's the key to a good editorial approach to things."
Though Madefire already has tremendous talents like Dave Gibbons, co-founder Ben Wolstenholme, Gary Erskine and Sharp himself, Sharp sees the addition of Abernathy to the team as another creative boon. "I think he's got a real knack for putting great teams together, and that's the first and biggest step of any good editor. If you can do that, you've won much of the battle."
The battle will get easier for Sharp, who gets to hand over the reins of overall story editing to Abernathy. "I've had all this weight on my shoulders for all this material to get out. We've got a HUGE amount of stuff in the pipeline. It's a complex set of things to have running around all at once," Sharp explained. "The builds take time, the process is different, and Dave Gibbons is fond of saying that we're sort of creating a new grammar."
Indeed, Madefire's approach to storytelling does change the rules quite a bit. By tilting the screen, you can peer around corners in a panel, or with touch controls experience a true panorama from a character's point of view -- which Wolstenholme created in the first chapter of Mono, scripted by Sharp.
"We now have the term "pano envy," Sharp laughed. "Ben did the first panorama, and literally a few days before my launch (of Captain Stone is Missing), I realized I HAD to do something to top it!" (Which, in my estimation, he did, with an incredible dream/rabbit hole/720 degree page that just has to be seen to be understood.)
"We don't know what the tool is going to do. Every time we get a new book in (from a creator) we go, 'I didn't know the tool could do THAT!'"
"It's a new medium that we're working with. It's not really comics; they're something else," Sharp continued. "We don't know what they are but for the time being we call it a 'motion book.' It's been quite a process for me to be creating my own work" - Sharp draws and co-writes the story Captain Stone is Missing with his wife, Christina McCormack -- "and on top of that, my year has gone insane."
In addition to all his duties as co-founder and true believer in Madefire, Sharp had to move from the U.K. to California. "It's been a real adventure," he laughed. "Apparently, I'm an alien with extraordinary abilities living in the U.S. now!"
And now Sharp can also focus on opening the horizon for Madefire. "We're also very keen that the tool that we've built is not just for comics. It's for illustrated books, too. We're talking to illustrators and writers for children's books. The world is wide open."
True, but what is bringing Madefire attention right now is its turning traditional comics on its head. As to that, they're delivering exciting things.
"We don't have to honor a huge back catalog, we don't have any juggernaut IP, we're free to be playful," Sharp mused. "Each of the books is very unique. It's not like we're putting each one into a machine and coming out the other end to create the reader's experience and every story is kind of the same. The books are treated very differently by the creators involved. I think that makes for fun and a more interesting kind of reading."
You can check that out at Madefire's website, where they are regularly releasing episodes in several ongoing titles. Here's the line-up so far:
“Captain Stone Is Missing. . .” (episode 02) by Liam Sharp & Christina McCormack
“The Engine” (episodes 01 and 02) by Guy Adams & Jimmy Broxton
(ep. 01 released August 15)
“The Irons” by Haden Blackman & Gary Erskine (released August 8)
“Mono” (episode 02) by Ben Wolstenholme and Liam Sharp
“Treatment: Mexico City” by Dave Gibbons, Doug Braithwaite and Robbie Morrison
“Treatment: Tokyo” (episode 02) by Dave Gibbons, Kinman Chan and Robbie Morrison,
with cover by Brian Bolland