I figure the way to get ahead in this funny-book business is to stay on top advancing technologies that have relevance to making and selling comics. That’s why I pioneered air-brush coloring in 1986 and why I got myself a Macintosh back in 1988 and taught myself how to use it, and with it produced Cyber-Lust, the world’s first computer-generated porn comic. Actually I don’t know if there have been any others, but these days computers dominate comics coloring and lettering and are making advances in penciling and inking, too.
I wasn’t the first to bring long-form comics from print to free-on-the-web (Lea Hernandez is to my knowledge the first to do that, and Phil Foglio’s Girl Genius and Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder series are much better known), but I see a lot more people coming up behind me on this path than in front of me.
So when Amazon.Com unveiled its Kindle2 dedicated e-book reader, I took notice. The specs said it has a 600×800 screen with 16 greys. Maybe, just maybe good enough to be an e-comics platform?
Since my brother Frank was also curious about this, he sprang for a Kindle2 and I went to work, experimenting with putting comics on this thing.
I found very quickly that, in the first place, that 600×800 spec is a tad misleading, because when the comics pages are compiled into a book they display at more like a maximum of 512×626 pixels. There is a “Zoom” feature that will bring a graphic up to the full 600×800 range but you can’t flip though pages in “zoom” mode. Hitting the “next page” button returns you to “normal” view mode and it requires three more button clicks to get the next page zoomed up. Clearly, artwork intended for this platform needs to look good within that 512×626 pixel frame.
I also found that a normal-sized comic page will not work in that resolution. The tones tend to get muddy and the lettering is too small to read. What’s required here, as with comics-on-phones, is to break the pages down into their component panels and re-assemble them into a frame about one-quarter the size of a typical comics page.
So, after fiddling around with samples pages and panels, I decided to create an actual Kindle comic, put it up for sale, and see what happened. For this experiment I took the political mini-comic I made last year, The Last Sonofabitch of Klepton, and spent about 6 hours cutting and pasting frames, adding an “apology to Siegel and Shuster” page and re-working the cover from its former landscape shape to Kindle’s portrait shape.
The book is now in the Kindle Store: you can see its Kindle web-page here. If you have a Kindle or Kindle2, you can buy it for 99 cents. If you’re a cheap bastard with a Kindle, you can get a free “sample” that contains almost half the book.
I think the results are pretty good, and apparently I’m not the only one: My Twitter tweet announcing the story has been bouncing around the Twitterverse, and someone who runs a blog called “Kindle Culture” gave it a favorable review.
So, onward. My next Kindle project will be reformatting TimePeeper, by L. Neil Smith and Sherard Jackson, and putting together Big Head Press’ first Kindle GN. This will take more than a few hours, and has to be done in my spare time, so it may be a few weeks, but I’ll announce it when it’s up in the store.