So, remember Daredevil: Road Warrior? You know, the project that was announced between “OH MY GOD, DAREDEVIL IS ENDING!” and “IT’S ALIVE, BABY!” At the time of the initial announcement, it seemed to me that the reactions to this digital-only project were lukewarm at best. Not because of the premise of the story (of which we know little beyond that it presumable revolves around a race across the country), or because of the creators attached (Mark Waid and Peter Krause), but because of the format.
I suspect that part of the hesitation stemmed from the fact that we didn’t know, at the time, just what was in store for Daredevil in terms of a traditional monthly title. Would the digital project replace a monthly title for some undetermined amount of time? Was this story required reading for whatever story would come next? Now, we know that the answer to the first question is ‘no.’ The new Daredevil #1 is set to hit stores in March, and we won’t have to go even one month without a regular Daredevil title. The answer to the second question is probably also ‘no.’ While Daredevil: Road Warrior will take us from A to B, it doesn’t seem as if you will miss anything crucial to the story if you decide to forego the four* weekly installments of Road Warrior. My question is: Why would you want to?
I can certainly see why people would have some doubts about this before we knew how it would fit into the grander scheme of things, but I will willingly admit to being absolutely flabbergasted by the people who dismiss this on the basis of: “I don’t read digital comics.” If it’s a matter of being on a tight budget, I can certainly understand it. However, if this sentiment is based on some weird notion that digital comics are not “real comics,” or that they’re not willing to buy something that can’t be physically touched, then I think people may be cheating themselves out of what I expect to be a very interesting story.
I haven’t bought a CD in years. I get my music from Spotify (I have a monthly subscription), or the occasional iTunes purchase. I rarely buy DVDs, but I do subscribe to Netflix, and frequently watch shows on my iPad. Half the books I buy these days, are ebooks that I read in the Kindle app on said iPad (or even on my phone if I have to). Even though I love books as physical objects, the experience of having read something is not in any way diminished by the fact that the words where presented on a screen as opposed to printed in ink on a page.
Even when it comes to comics, I subscribe to Marvel Unlimited for older comics, and will occasionally buy a digital-only version of a comic that I would otherwise have had to preorder two months before through my comic book store. Yes, I do have a store nearby, but the comics market in Stockholm is not big enough to allow retailers to order extra issues of any comics aside from the really big sellers. To make a long story short, the switch in format from print to, occasionally, digital is not that big of a deal to me. Regardless of the form of entertainment in question. And this is why I find it so surprising that the idea of digital comics, not as a replacement for printed comics, but as an additional source of entertainment, is dismissed by so many.
I’m looking forward to Daredevil: Road Warrior for two main reasons. The first is that, in as I hinted to above, I see it as an extra treat. I like Daredevil, and if I can get an extra story that has Daredevil in it, in between issues, then I don’t care if I have to read off the back of a milk carton. Sign me up! But, there’s an additional reason why, in this case, the format itself appeals to me. A song by a favorite band will sound the same whether it’s being played off a CD or from a file on your computer. However, comics made to fit a digital format, when done right, offer something different than a printed story. This difference may be a deterrent to many would-be readers, but it also offers a new set of tools for creators who know how to use them. Mark Waid is a digital comics pioneer, and Peter Krause has been his collaborator on Insufferable, available on Thrillbent.com, which was started by Waid himself. These guys are experts at digital comics, and know how to put the format to good use.
Mark Waid talked a little bit about Daredevil: Road Warrior in an interview with Comic Vine (also available below), which was recorded just before the relaunch news broke a couple of weeks ago. Here’s what he had to say in response to why they decided to go digital with the project:
“Why digital is mostly because next year is Daredevil’s 50th anniversary, and so Marvel wanted to roll out a few special projects to really celebrate Matt’s 50th anniversary, and digital was one of the things we had talked about because there are so many things that you can do with radar sense, and with the way Matt perceives the world around him, that you can do in digital and that you can’t really do as well in print. Take advantage of those things and tell a story that really plays off those. The reason we chose Road Warrior as the title is because it really is a sort of a North by North-West meets Planes, Trains and Automobiles chase across America, Because Matt is such a New Yorker, I was fascinated by this idea of how he would function in the middle of a bean field in Nebraska, or whatever. There’s nothing for his radar sense to bounce off of, there’s nothing to swing from. You know, he’s so out of his element, what is that like?”
Having read all of Insufferable, as well as some of the other Thrillbent offerings (notably The Eight Seal, which I really dig), I’m very excited to see what Waid and Krause will come up with. The digital format, and the limited “viweing window” allows for more pauses, or “beats” (great for horror, humor, or just plain surprises) than a standard comic, since the reader is prevented from getting a sneak peak of material further down the page. There are also great ways to play with panel layouts and different aspects of a scene. One example of that is this sequence from Insufferable #6 (season 1), which starts with the fifth panel. Panels seven through eleven are particularly clever, in my opinion.
The digital format also enables creators to add layers of information in a way that would eat up precious real estate in a printed comic (and drive readers insane), and create a lot of extra work for the artist. You can present a scene, and populate it with dialogue or caption boxes in a series of steps that doesn’t overwhelm the art. You can also add transitions or events to a scene, such as turning on a light source, or changing something about the scene to create a new focal point for the reader.
When it comes to Daredevil, I can really see these guys using these “special effects” to highlight Matt Murdock’s senses, perhaps by presenting a scene as it would appear to a sighted viewer, and then having that same scene transition to something as it would appear to Matt, or vice versa. If you were to do this in a printed comic, it would seem wasteful and lose much of the coolness factor, but with the digital format, you have a completely different set of tools to play with.
I’m obviously really looking forward to Road Warrior, both as a story in its own right, and as an experiment in storytelling, that I imagine will be very specifically tailored to the character at the center of that story. If you’re still on the fence about it, at least read my review when the time comes, and we’ll see if you might not change your mind! 😉
*) Thanks to Stephen Wacker for getting back to me so quickly regarding the number of installments of Daredevil: Road Warrior! I hadn’t been able to find this information elsewhere.