Scrolling Thunder

Uclick has announced the first comic designed primarily to be read on cell phones: Thunder Road, by Sean Demory and Steven Sanders. This is Demory’s first book, but Sanders’ art credits include Five Fists of Science.

Here’s a description of the story from the Kansas City Star:

Thunder Road is a multi-panel, manga-style comic series, described as a “slow-apocalyptic, dieselpunk action adventure” set in an alternate middle-America. The series follows the trials of Merritt, a soldier/circuit rider working for the Department of Transportation who travels America’s Great Plains, a ravaged and desolate land suffering the consequences of decades of global atomic warfare.

GoComics provides a trailer for Thunder Road, and it’s worth a look. But will people pay for it? According to Uclick’s info page, a subscription is $4.99 per month. For that you can subscribe to six or more titles and get at least one new installment every day, plus access to the archives. The catch is that your cell phone carrier can also bill you for the airtime you spend browsing and downloading comics, plus a “transport fee.” Cell phone manga is huge in Japan, but one reason for that, according to this article, is that the consumer pays only the subscription fee—there is no charge for airtime or some mysterious “transport fee.”

Currently, UClick offers a handful of webcomics and traditional comics as well as Tokyopop manga. A UClick exec told Publisher’s Weekly Comics Week that over 300,000 consumers have downloaded the software, but that doesn’t mean they are all paying customers, let alone regular subscribers. And at the moment, only Sprint, Verizon Wireless and Amp’d Wireless support UClick’s comics reader, and it will work only on certain models of cell phones.

So it’s a logical step for UClick to publish a killer comic that’s available only via cell phone and hope that people will flock to their application for the content.

Meanwhile, the PWCW article cited above also says Tokyopop has something new up their sleeves:

Their upcoming iManga service will feature audio soundtracks joined with motion graphic episodes to create a new form of comic storytelling. “They represent a new form and look very different from the traditional ways of bringing comics to life,” claimed Jeremy Ross, Tokyopop’s director of new product development. Ross said that new announcements, including a major channel partner, are expected in the coming months.

Tokyopop previewed its iManga at their panel at New York Comic-Con, and what they showed wasn’t too impressive. Basically it was scan-and-pan videos taken directly from the books, with voice-overs and music. Although editor Lillian Diaz-Pryzbyl remarked at the panel that Tokyopop is notorious for trying things a year or so before their time, these videos looked a lot like the book trailers that are already all over the web. On the other hand, she also noted that Tokyopop wasn’t taking much of a risk on their new formats, because much of it was being done cheaply or on spec, so they can afford to try a lot of new things, which they are; the list she reeled off included online manga, mobile manga, PSP manga, iPod manga, and DVD manga, among others.

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