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The digital comic revolution

Lately, comic book heroes have been jumping from page to big screen as easily as they leap from tall building to tall building. And thanks to a recent partnership with Marvel Enterprises and Cross-Gen Entertainment, an Illinois-based company called Sock Puppet Studios has found a new middle ground that combines the best of both worlds.
March 1, 2004

Lately, comic book heroes have been jumping from page to big screen as easily as they leap from tall building to tall building. And thanks to a recent partnership with Marvel Enterprises and Cross-Gen Entertainment, an Illinois-based company called Sock Puppet Studios has found a new middle ground that combines the best of both worlds.

Based in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, Sock Puppet is pioneering the development of Digital Comic Books, which are essentially digital versions of popular comic book series on DVD that retail for between US$9 and US$14.

The DCBs feature original comic book art that pops up on screen, and Sock Puppet uses camera moves, word balloons and animated effects like rain and explosions to create movement around these images. There’s also a full audio track of voiceovers, sound effects and music.

Sock Puppet producer Jonathan Krusell compares the content to a highly-produced version of the animatronic segments used in DVD bonus sections to show storyboarded scenes that were never shot. The DCBs are structured in much the same way as a DVD feature, with six chapters per disk and up to 40 minutes of bonus material that includes character bios, a documentary on how comics are made, previews of upcoming releases and a digitalized version of issue number one. ‘It’s actually cheaper than a trade paperback, and you get all the extra content,’ Krusell says.

A CD-ROM component to the disks allows fans to zoom in on the art and page through the comic at their own pace, and there are currently 21 titles in the Sock Puppet library – 11 from Marvel (including X-Men and Daredevil) and 10 from Cross Gen (headlined by Meridian and Way of the Rat). The company is ramped up to release anywhere from five to 10 new titles a month.

Looking beyond the comic book realm, Krusell is on the hunt for other properties to showcase as DCBs, including kids TV series, movies and books. Sock Puppet has the technological capability to either translate an existing property’s core elements into the DCB format or to create original art to match pre-recorded audio.

The DCBs are currently being distributed by Miami, Florida-based Intec Interactive, whose core business is gaming peripherals. In fact, Sock Puppet originally designed the disks to play in gaming consoles, and it’s working towards releasing content for handheld platforms in the near future. ‘With the onset of web animation and DVD extras and storyboards, I think people are getting used to the idea of having other platforms for telling a story,’ says Krussler.

Because of their interactive component, the DCBs are being distributed in the video game aisle at toy and gaming chains like Toys ‘R’ Us and Electronics Boutique. This prevents the unique products from getting lost on crowded DVD shelves.

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