Earlier this year I came across a new attempt to add moving images to digital comics. The book is called Bottom of the Ninth, and while the later installments seem to have stalled, the prologue is available in iTunes and it is well worth a read.
This book is the work of Ryan Woodward, an artist, animator, graphic designer. While you might not recognize his name you have definitely seen his work in movies like The Avengers, Spiderman, and Ironman, and the 11 May 2011 Google Doodle.
Bottom of the Ninth is a new project that combines animation with a more traditional full page digital comic.
As you can tell from the name, Bottom of the Ninth is focused on baseball, only with a dash of SF thrown in. The prologue is set in Tao City, and it focuses on a young female player Tao City Pilots, a member of the New Baseball League. Aside from the SF details it is a fairly simple story which covers the basics of the prologue of any book (introduce the setting and characters, and set the stage for the conflict).
You can find the app in iTunes, but if you’d like a taste then try this trailer video. Beware the spoilers:
The animation is a mix of graphics that play when you turn the page and ones which the reader has to trigger. The automatic ones tend to be better integrated into the story and often include important story telling details. For example, the animation on the second page shows a single piece of trash blowing across an empty street to convey the emptiness of the scene. The triggered animations tend to be like the other animation on page 2 – a visually interesting image of a truck barreling by which only reinforces details described elsewhere without saying something new.
Both types of animations are rather short but they do get the point across. Considering that animated GIFs have gotten a reputation for sight gags, that doesn’t sound like much. And given that animation is often slapped onto ebooks without really integrating into the story or adding to the storytelling, there are in fact more ways for this to go wrong than for it to work perfectly.
Surprisingly, the added graphics (and sound track) do work, and they provide added texture to the story. I especially like the automatic graphics for the often subtle way they add details. Sure, this could have been done with fixed images, but it’s also good to see a well conceived alternative.
The prologue came out several months ago and there are no signs when the next installment will be released. I reached out to Ryan for an update and if he responds I plan to post an update.