“It’s a brave new world and I am not afraid.” Dave Hedgecock of Ape Entertainment talks Pocket Gods and Kung Fu Pandas!
When you do a search on iTunes for ‘comics’ you get the familiar array of apps from the big publishers like Marvel, DC, Image and ComiXology. But hidden in among these monster apps is a little icon with a angry pygmy on it called PG Comics. If you’re an iOS gamer you might recognise the name Pocket God as the hit iPhone game, but in this incarnation it’s a self published comic from the guys at Ape Entertainment. It’s a real gem written by the very talented Jason M Burns with awesome art from Uruguayan artist Rolando Mallada. I wanted to find out more about how this little title could outsell the big boys, so I got in touch with Ape’s publisher Dave Hedgecock and asked him what it’s like to carve your own niche in the brave new world of digital publishing!
How did the Pocket God comic come about? Did the Pocket God creators pitch the idea to you, or vice versa?
Dave Hedgecock: Ape Entertainment went to Bolt Creative with the idea. I’m a 30 something guy and I got hooked on the game somewhere in the early episodes. That would have been the end of it but I was visiting my 5 year old nephew at Thanksgiving in 2009 and showed him the game when his parents weren’t looking. He instantly loved it and within minutes had discovered at least 3 new ways to torture the pygmies that I hadn’t thought of yet. So, for the whole holiday, my nephew and I would sneak off into the other room and play Pocket God when his parents weren’t paying attention. We were both hooked.
And that’s when it really hit me. Here is a game that has wide age appeal using a distribution platform that is about to explode. So, I contacted the guys at Bolt Creative and, as luck would have it, they were huge comic fans. I pitched them my idea for the first story arc based on a few preliminary talks along with ample assistance from writer Jason Burns and artist Rolando Mallada and they loved the whole thing. It was a pretty quick process from that to the release of the first book in August.
Do you think Pocket God has been more successful because it has been published digitally than it would have been if it had been released primarily in print?
DH: Absolutely. In fact, we have discontinued publishing the individual comics in print for now. Currently, we are only doing print collections of each digital story arc. We want to drive everyone to the digital comic app. There are just so many extra features and things we can do digitally that we can’t do with print. We have a whole community of people who interact with us through the app and the Pygmy Peril newsletter, something that would be impossible to pull off in print.
This book wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for the ability to publish digitally. As it is though, Pocket God is one of the most successful comic launches in the entire comic industry for 2010. Pocket God #1 is, by far, one of the best-selling books for the iPhone of 2010 and 2011. We are consistently in the top 10 paid apps for books and top 10 grossing book apps as well. It’s been an incredible start for the project and the fan base just keeps getting bigger.
Do you think digital publishing is the future for smaller comics publishers? What are the pros and cons of publishing for the iPad and iPhone?
DH: It’s the future of publishing period. There are plenty of traps and pitfalls inherent in any business. The smart publisher knows his content and knows how to get it in front of the right people. This new mode of distribution is just that- a new mode of distribution.
Digital distribution will surpass print sales for all comics and periodicals within the next 5 years. I’m not saying print will go away, I’m just saying everyone will be reading their morning paper or the latest John Grisham novel primarily on something like the iPad. When my parents can’t go on a trip without their iPad, you know there has been a sea change in the way media is being consumed.
Could you give me any examples of other Ape Entertainment titles that have benefitted from being released digitally and are there any plans for Ape to release more iPad exclusive titles in the future?
DH: Kung Fu Panda Comic application is doing great for us. We hope to see it matching the print sales within the next few months. Since the shelf-life is endless on these products, we have plenty of time to get the sales.
We are about to make a huge announcement concerning our next digital release that should benefit greatly from the platform. Very excited about it, just can’t talk yet. So, yes, we are releasing more material exclusively for the digital platform by end of summer.
Finally, do the Pocket God creative team have to make any changes to how they work on a digital comic compared to how they would make a traditional print comic?
DH: No. We still work very traditionally at this moment. However, that being said, we are working on some enhancements to the digital comic applications which will adjust the way we work slightly. Comic book creation has moved to a digital age long ago. Most artists don’t even use pen/paper to draw on anymore (thank you Wacom, etc.) and writing, coloring, lettering, editing is all done strictly digitally these days.
It’s a brave new world and I am not afraid.