Cartoonist Eric Shanower, creator of Age of Bronze, an award-winning comics and graphic novel series that retells the epic story of the Trojan War, is teaming up with literary web publisher Throwaway Horse, the online venture launched by the creators of Ulysses Seen, a web comic adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses, to relaunch Age of Bronze as a full-color serialized web comic and as an application for the iPad. The Age of Bronze on the Web will incorporate Throwaway Horse’s “behind the Seen” online readers guide and technology and will likely launch online sometime before the end of the year.
The Age of Bronze will be serialized in episodes of about 20 pages and released on a monthly schedule, according to Robert Berry, artist/adapter of Ulysses Seen and a cofounder of Throwaway Horse, “that seems to be the ideal form for giving readers an engaged experience with the comic and it's extra classroom features.”The AOB Readers Guide—a signature feature of Ulysses Seen, the AOB readers guide will also offer an accessible and well-researched discusson about the historical context, writing and events on each page of the web comic—will be written by Tom Beasley, a Yale University grad student, under the supervision of Throwaway Horse editor Ken Raining and Shanower. Berry also, told PWCW that the Web comic version of Age of Bronze will be done in full color and they are in the process of picking the colorist.
Chad Rutkowski, an attorney at the Philadelphia firm of Woodcock Washburn and a cofounder of Throwaway Horse who handles legal and business issues, described the deal with Shanower as, “a cross-license—he will license the digital rights of his content, we will cross license the use of our platform, and we will split up the proceeds with Tom Beasley as well in a revenue sharing arrangement.” He emphasized that the print rights to AOB will remain with Shanower and Image comics. “The same will be true for many of our projects,” Rutkowski said, “at least the ones where we are using pre-existing works.”
Indeed Throwaway Horse—the company includes Berry, Rutkowski, Josh Levitas, who handles web design and Mike Barsanti, a Joyce scholar and academic who oversees the development of the Readers Guides—was founded to foster the “ understanding of public domain literary masterworks by joining the visual aid of the graphic novel with the explicatory aid of the internet.” Rutkowski said that other “masterworks” will follow Age of Bronze onto the Throwaway Horse platform, including a “parody of an iconic literary work,” a Shakespeare project and “a comic book with a science-based learning component for kids.”
In an email interview with Shanower, he said Beasly has already done a lot of research oriented commentary for AOB and, “sticking my nose into it too far is unnecessary. I draw from quite a wide range of sources to tell the Trojan War story in Age of Bronze. Some of those sources are quite obscure, so no matter how well-read Tom is, I’m sure I’m going to have to provide him at least minimal guidance.” Berry emphasized that the Web comic will not be ‘simple repurposing,” and said the Readers Guide will offer, “a map section, pronunciation keys, cast list and interactive comment section that would allow our readers to go beyond each page of the comic and learn more about the history of the Trojan War and the characters involved.”
Berry said the AOB Web comic will also “be available for laptop and desktop computers as well as the iPad and some of the new tablet readers schedule to hit the market in the coming year. Our plan is to make books like this more accessible for a broad number of readers, particularly in classroom environments.” Although the Ulysses Seen iPad app is free, Berry said they will likely charge for serials on the AOB iPad app and that they were in discussions with Shanower about the price. Throwaway uses Bunsen Tech to do their app development.
Berry also noted that Ulysses Seen originally became notorious after its iPad app was rejected by Apple because the book contained nudity. Berry acknowledged that, “AOB has some frank treatments of sexuality and nudity,” and said, “We are reaching out to Apple to ensure there won't be any problems. We have all the confidence in the world that Apple will bring the same nuanced judgment to bear in reviewing AOB as it eventually brought to bear when it allowed Ulysses Seen to appear unedited.”
Rutkowski added that, “it is projects like Eric's that made us form up as Throwaway Horse in the first instance. What we hope we are doing is creating a new immersive, self-directed reading experience that treats comics not as a bridge medium (hoping it eventually becomes a movie or an animated series), but the perfect content medium for mobile devices like the iPad.”
First published by Image Comics in 1998 in periodical format, Age of Bronze is the story of Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey, an epic retelling of the Trojan War, but this time done in the form of scholarly researched work of nonfiction comics. The series won Eisner Awards in 2001 and 2003. The periodical series has been collected into three book collections, A Thousands Ships, Sacrifice and Betrayal: Part One, also published by Image Comics.
Asked about his reasons for putting the Age of Bronze online, Shanower said “electronic publishing seems here to stay,” and that “I’ve been intending since 2005 to run Age of Bronze on the internet, but as just one person with an already bursting schedule, it’s been years in preparation.” Shanower was quick to point out that he was impressed Ulysses Seen, cartoonist Robert Berry’s Web Comic adaptation of Ulysses as well as the Ulysses Seen iPad app developed by Throwaway Horse. Shanower said he has been approached by other e-publishers about AOB, but, “none of them seemed more than simply run-of-the-mill until Robert Berry approached me. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to present a version of Age of Bronze that would really make use of the unique qualities of what I’m doing. And most fortunately, this opportunity comes with other qualified people involved—I don’t have to do it myself, which frankly, I’d never get around to doing.”
Shanower said that while he was concerned about the possibility of the Web comic hurting print sales, he also said, “what I’ve heard for years is that e-publication will raise the print sales, so that’s what I’m hoping for.” He described the page layouts of AOB as, “low key” and said, “I knew when I began the project in the late 1990s that there was the possibility that one day Age of Bronze would appear on computer screens.”
“The name of the game is evolve or die,” Shanower continued, “so I need to make sure that Age of Bronze is always accessible to the readers who are looking for it. Periodical comics, graphic novels, e-publication—format doesn’t matter so much to me. Content is the most important thing. Whatever reaches the readers, that’s ideally where Age of Bronze will go.”