With their digital comics sales surging, DC Entertainment announced two new “enhanced” storytelling formats at an event at the Warner Bros Medialab on Tuesday. DC2 (DC Squared) uses progressive elements where the user taps the panels: artwork moves or dialogue balloons appear. DC2 Multiverse is an even more interactive format that might be called a “choose your own adventure motion comic.” Readers can choose various storylines in the comic and experience it with music and sound effects as well as limited animation within panels.
Both are a response to what DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson called the “incredibly rapid growth” of their digital comics efforts, especially since they introduced same day digital sales in September 2011. Digital comics sales were up 125% in 2012 over 2011, and Q1 2013 is up 35% from 2012. 30% of the Digital First readers are new to comics. Nelson noted that the digital success has not been at the expense of print sales, which have doubled since same day digital was introduced.
The breakout hit has been Injustice: Gods Among Us, based on the video game, which has been a bestseller on Kindle, Nook, iBookstore and Comixology—and even in print. The first issue was downloaded more in April than when it came our in January, and sales have lifted the entire digital line by 10%.
Co-publisher Jim Lee introduced the two new lines, which are in their early stages but offer readers “an active role as opposed to the passive role of watching TV.” DC2 [squared] will launch this summer with Batman ’66, the previously announced comic based on the original Batman TV show, to be written by Jeff Parker with art by Jonathan Case. This colorful, time tested property is the ideal platform to introduce these enhanced elements, said Lee.
DC2 Multiverse launches with Batman: Arkham Origins, a tie-in to the upcoming video game and the format will share many elements of the game. Readers will follow storylines with elements of their own choosing, meaning one chapter has dozens of possible outcomes. For those who make the right decisions, “there will also be digital rewards,” said Lee.
Although both stories use new technology for storytelling effects, both are intended for eventual print editions. Producing all the elements for the Multiverse version and the comic requires extensive pre-planning, said Lee, and given the number of possible outcomes in Batman: Arkham Origins, “it could be a pretty hefty graphic novel.”
Lee is most excited about exploring the creative possibilities of the formats. In brainstorming sessions with creators, they’ve tried to push the boundaries of what can be done. For instance, “if there are 15 possible ways for Batman to take out a bad guy, in DC Multiverse you could tap and see all 15 ways, the most painful, the quickest and the flashiest.”
While DC2 is similar to many other “progressive” comics storytelling platforms—Reilly Brown’s PowerPlay, Marvel’s Infinite Comics, and Mark Waid’s Thrillbent Comics, to name but a few—the Multiverse initiative is considerably more complicated, taking advantage of both DC’s extensive in-house digital team and outside developers. While Madefire, the SF based interactive comics producer, was involved with some of the material shown at the presentation, they are one of several producers DC is working with.
Both Nelson and Lee pointed out that these digital initiatives are reaching beyond the core demographic that DC usually reaches. The digital program is “aimed at a more casual reader,” according to Lee.
While DC’s digital takes pride in being platform agnostic, the platform roll-out and price point are yet to be determined.