“The marriage of technology to narrative is key to creating a truly immersive story world” Web comic maverick Sutu talks augmented reality comic Modern Polaxis

Modern PolaxisWeb comic creator Sutu is one of digital comics great mavericks, seamlessly mixing multimedia content with cutting edge graphics and compelling stories in critically acclaimed series like Neomad and NAWLZ. His latest foray into the brave new world of digital comics is an augmented reality series called Modern Polaxis, which he is looking to get funded via Kickstarter. We’ve seen AR before in from Marvel and in the Anomaly graphic novel. but nothing like this. We were keen to find out how this latest venture from Sutu was set to tear through the bleeding edge of comic story-telling and into a whole new place and time so we contacted him to find out more.
Modern Polaxis

“I want to bring the reader closer, draw them in to Polaxis’s paranoid world. My AR affects the page and how you ‘read’ it. This experience is crucial to the narrative.”

What’s your ‘elevator pitch’ for Modern Polaxis – how do you describe it succinctly so that people who don’t know anything about it get excited and what makes it stand out from the crowd?

S: How do you read the secret journal of a paranoid time traveller?  A comic book paired with an iPhone/iPad app brings to life the story of Modern Polaxis. Polaxis is very paranoid, he has gone to great lengths to hide his secret journal away in a layer of Augmented Reality. Only those with the right tool (an iPhone or an iPad) can read it.
Augmented Reality is a tough technology to get right, we’ve seen it in Marvel AR and also in Anomaly (the AR graphic novel) how does yours work compared to those, and what is unique about it? What do you think those products do well and what do you think they should embrace from your ideas?
S: From what I’ve seen so far a lot of AR examples have things leaping off the page, it looks cool, but doesn’t give you much more in terms of narrative.   It also takes your attention away from the book.  I want to bring the reader closer, draw them in to Polaxis‘s paranoid world. My AR affects the page and how you ‘read’ it.  This experience is crucial to the narrative.  You don’t get the full story unless you read the secret journal.  As it’s a story about time travelling, the events in the future or past can change right? So you have to pay attention, once you get to a certain point in the book you might read a comment like ‘what the hell happened back there?’ then if you were to go back there (a few pages) the events might have changed or a new dimension may have opened.
How much are you integrating AR into the actual story-telling of Modern Polaxis and how important is it for you to make it a part of the story-telling process rather than just a flashy gimmick?
S: Humans have been augmenting their reality for thousands of years.  The creation of AR tech could be attributed to a genetic yearning to see what can’t be seen. Polaxis is experimenting with many ways to augment his reality, including taking drugs and participating in ancient tribal ceremonies. He’s trying to get a glimpse of the hidden workings of the world.   The AR tech allows you to see the world as Polaxis sees it.
Modern Polaxis

“This marriage of the technology to the narrative is the key to creating a truly immersive story world.”

What made you decide to go down the AR route for this project? How important is it for you to keep pushing the boundaries of what you produce?
S: Artists have the role of sharing their imagination with the world.  AR creates a unique opportunity to show the audience how the real world can inspire the imaginary, by literally allowing us to overlay what we see.  I like how when we tell stories about true events we often take the opportunity to embellish the details, add some extra drama.  In that sense we’re also augmenting reality.  The Polaxis story is inspired by real events, but I crank the drama and the fantasy right up.   Using AR to separate the fantasy from the fact felt like a perfect solution for such a story.
Modern Polaxis

“I want to bring the reader closer, draw them in to Polaxis’s paranoid world. My AR affects the page and how you ‘read’ it. This experience is crucial to the narrative.”

I’m not consciously trying to ‘push the boundaries’, I just love experimenting with these things and they happen to be new.   When you create something new, you find yourself in a unique position of freedom. It’s exhilarating, there are no rules and every step along the way is a new discovery.

How does Modern Polaxis differ from your previous titles like NAWLZ and NEOMAD? Do you feel like you have a progression from one project to the other or are they all completely different and self contained?
S: They’re all independent story worlds.  From a tech point of view, Polaxis is a different medium.  It’s a printed book, paired with a mobile device, whereas NAWLZ and NEOMAD are experienced entirely on a device. I’m using my own technology  to create Polaxis, which is the same tech I used to create the other stories, only now we’ve added the AR capability.  So in that sense we’ve evolved for this project.  In terms of narrative, NAWLZ explores a future AR street culture, so some of those ideas may have influenced the Polaxis story.
Finally, what’s the next area of digital story-telling you’d like to explore? (Or is top secret?)

S: I’m taking some time off at the end of the year to wrap up NAWLZ and this will coincide with the release of a NAWLZ AR book. NAWLZ is all about future AR culture, so it really is the only way a NAWLZ book could exist.  I’ve been putting the book off until the tech came around, the tech never came around the way I wanted it, so I made my own.

Other than that I just finished a ’silent comic book’ (aka no words) called Krysalis, which was a fun challenge. I’ ve already started a sequel.
I’ve got one other thing happening, but lets keep that a secret for now 🙂

You can help support Sutu and Modern Polaxis by visiting his Kickstarter here and for Pipedream Comics readers only, there is a **Pipedream special**. If you Pledge for the “PRINTED BOOK” or the “SPECIAL BOOK COMBO” reward and then send Sutu a message through Kickstarter saying “I see it too Polaxis” he will sign you copy (which saves you $10)

Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.