Among many other things, the iPad is one of the best ways ever devised to read comics. And one of the more interesting ways to read them on an iPad is with Madefire, an app which lets you download “motion books” — serialized graphic novels, some of which feature work by noted creators such as Dave Gibbons, Brian Bolland and Bill Sienkiewicz.
Now Madefire is on the iPhone, too. The new version takes some of the same stories that are available on the iPad, and reformats them for the small screen — it already supports the iPhone 5′s tall display — which usually means showing only a panel or two at a time. Depending on the shape of the artwork in question, it can look best in either portrait or landscape mode, and you might need to pinch-and-zoom to read some of the word balloons and captions.
The motion in “motion books” isn’t full-blown animation. It’s transitions, camera moves, simple character movement and little special effects which sometimes involve a sort of two-and-a-half-dimensional look applied to comics which otherwise look like, well, comics. (They’re accompanied by music and sound effects, but no spoken dialog.) You step through sequences bit by bit, and each chunk of each serialized story is brief enough that you might plausibly zip through it on your phone when you have a few minutes to kill.
Madefire’s own video shows all this better than I can explain it:
There’s lots of talent and imagination on display in Madefire’s comics. I have mixed feelings about the motion, though: Sometimes it adds atmosphere, but in other instances it feels gimmicky and/or distracting. (The movement is so fluid and evenly-paced that it can come off as a tad synthetic.) Still, I’m curious to see where people like Gibbons will take the technique.
At the moment, all Madefire comics are free, and the only people who can use the company’s tools for creating and publishing motion books are those the company has invited to participate. But Madefire plans to offer paid titles, and to open up its tools — which can be used for other sorts of e-books besides comics — to other creators. If you have an iOS device and love graphic storytelling, you should check this out.