“Done properly, digital comics and graphic novels for the tablet are the future” – Panel Nine’s Russell Willis tells us ‘why I love digital comics’

The latest instalment of our fantastic series ‘why I love digital comics‘ comes from Panel Nine publisher Russell Willis, the man behind Sequential, the digital graphic novel iPad app

Russell WillisSo what is it I love about digital comics? Well, done right, they are a delight to read. You can flip back and forth effortlessly, view a contents list at the tap of button, zoom in to read in panel mode, bookmark pages that you like, and view your collection all nice and together in a your digital library, ready for bed, couch, train or plane. But not all digital comics are the same.

When I used to develop educational software, I was always concerned when teachers and administrators declared that educational software was the answer to their prayers. You know, any educational software. As if all educational software was of the same quality, and not wildly differentiated by the knowledge and skill of those who developed it. You sometimes see the same attitude towards digital comics, as if all digital comics software is the same. Anyone who’s seen the the quick and dirty video I made last year comparing digital comics platforms knows that clearly isn’t the case… and  you can see in that video that there are some badly designed digital comics platforms that I am more inclined to hate than love.

People also believe that digital distribution allows people to easily reach a huge audience cheaply. It’s the same fallacy that people had about websites in the 90s. Our business has got a website! Millions can visit us! I used to tell people that they had a phone number too, that millions could ring, but that unless they promoted the number they’d be sat staring at a silent phone. Add in building, marketing and maintaining a professional digital comics platform and it ain’t cheap – think hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Done right, they are a delight… You can flip back and forth effortlessly,  zoom in to read in panel mode, bookmark pages  you like, and view your collection in your digital library”

But done properly, digital comics and graphic novels for the tablet are the future. (Remember, it’s the iPad that was the game changer – we’d had digital comics on PCs for over a decade) With Sequential, we’re playing our small part in that future, proving that all digital comics aren’t the same.

Digital makes the addition of serious extras viable – page counts not being restricted by printing costs – so in Sequential we add audio commentaries by the artist, video interviews, productions sketches, alternate covers and more. Work that a publisher might not take the risk on bringing back to print will see the light of day again, like our Dapper John collection by Eddie Campbell, and work can be priced more cheaply than in print, if you think you can sell enough of it – like Sequential‘s Freak Brothers strips from Knockabout, at a measly 99¢ each… and if that’s not enough to persuade you to give digital comics a try, just download Sequential and one of our fantastic collections (including a new Alan Moore celebration) or the Phoenix Britain’s best comic for kids (which Panel Nine also produces) and see for yourself

Russell Willis is the president of Panel Nine and behind Sequential, a storefront app and reader for graphic novels from  the world’s leading graphic novel publishers, including Jonathan Cape, Blank Slate, Knockabout, Top Shelf, NBM and SelfMadeHero.

Neil Gaiman's Lost TalesWith Knockabout Sequential recently released Neil Gaiman’s Lost Tales, a completely free compendium of over 100 pages of comics and extras by Gaiman, with 50¢ per download being donated to charity.

They are about to release a specially revised and updated version of Gary Millidge’s Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman, also free, to celebrate Alan Moore’s 60th birthday.