One Strange Way, a new, interactive electronic comic book by Mark Bernal, has just gone live at http://www.onestrangeway.com, and creator Marc Bernal sat down with Blog@ to share some thoughts on the creation, and the future of digital comics. Expect a review forthcoming later today or early tomorrow.
Blog@: What motivated the decision to use the Adobe AIR format instead of something more recognizable, like Flash or even traditional CBR/PDF formats?
Mark Bernal: I initially started developing it for the Flash player. Sometime after that I learned of Adobe’s desktop application runtime AIR. Since the project contains puzzle games I considered saving the player’s scores on their computer as well as their preferences. These features may be added in future episodes. The Flash player doesn’t allow writing files to the local computer. I also like that viewers can run it as a desktop application without being connected to the Internet.
Blog@: How frequently are these “episodes” going to come out, and how many will there be before the first story is completely told?
MB: Quarterly over two years is the goal. Every two episodes is a mini-story arc within the larger eight-episode story arc.
Blog@: This seems like a heck of an undertaking. How easy do you think it’ll be to make your money back off of this project?
MB: It is pretty intense. I’ve created just about everything in the comic (writing, art, programming, sound editing, etc..) except all the different voices. As for making my money back…well, nothing is easy but since I’m a one-man shop my overheard is pretty low.
Blog@: What’s the age group you’re really aiming for?
MB: One Strange Way is a digital comic for ages 13 and up. I believe twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings who read independent comics will like the mix of a comic book with interactive casual puzzles.
Blog@: Do you consider this more a video game, or a comic?
MB: I definitely consider One Strange Way a digital comic first and foremost. The interactive puzzle games are included in a subtle way that doesn’t interfere with the story. One of my top priorities was that the reader can read straight through the story without ever having to play or get stuck trying to solve a puzzle. The bonus to playing and solving the puzzles is that they add additional content that enhances the main storyline.
Blog@: Have you read Scott McCloud’s Reinventing Comics, in which he discusses the interactivity of comics and some ideas for the future of non-traditional digital comics?
MB: I read part of his book a long time ago. Scott McCloud is certainly a big influence for me. When he was blogging I was an avid reader of his posts about digital comics and the different ways a reader might navigate through a story. One of my goals with One Strange Way was to introduce a new type of digital comic to go along with web comics, DC comics’ Zuda portal, and other types of digital comics. We are at the beginning of the digital comics age. There are infinite possibilities for comics in this new media and I believe comics with optional puzzles is worth exploring.
Blog@: With that very first monologue by the demon (the one that includes a lot of talk about “human scum” and blood and the like) did you worry about it being a little scary for younger readers?
MB: This comic is for ages 13 and up basically high school age and up. I think your statement of “a lot of talk about ‘human scum’ and blood”, is an exaggeration. The demon only utters those words once his rhyme. Granted, demons are scary. I’d also like to point out that teenagers are exposed too much worse and suggestive media then the words scum or blood. While developing this story I compared it to what I’ve seen in Harry Potter films since I knowing that many teens and younger children have seen those movies. I don’t believe my story or characters are any scarier then those found in a Harry Potter movie. Ultimately, it’s up to the parents to decide what they allow their children to read or view.
Blog@: Marketing it as a comic, what made you decide to hire on voice actors to play the various roles?
MB: In this digital age voice acting as well as motion graphics are now viable options that can be included in digital comics. If the reader is distracted by the audio they can easily choose to turn off the sound and read through the title. Readers can also choose to turn off the autoplay feature and manually click through the panels. As digital comics grow there will be a bunch of different feature types that will be presented to the reader and I believe voice audio will be one of those options.
Blog@: Switching gears a little to the story itself…when the story begins, we assume Tilly to be a victim in that first sequence, but really she and Clovis are lying in wait for the badguys.
MB: Tilly is actually sleeping and dreaming. She doesn’t know that the demon is there. When Clovis captures the demon Tilly questions “Clovis! What’s going on?” Clovis happened to be passing by her door and saw the demon. Clovis can be seen in her door way as the demon rises up over Tilly. I purposely made Clovis’ presence in the door subtle and brief. I believe that making it obvious that Clovis was in the doorway would have broken the suspense.
Blog@: Why can demons “not hurt” Clovis and Tilly? Further, why can’t they see the stuff later in the comic when that other girl can?
MB: The demon’s rhyme in panel 3 gives some clues as to why Clovis and Tilly are different from normal humans. As to the latter question… Tilly and Clovis cannot see demons when they are actually possessing people… Audrey can. Audrey is strange like that. All of the kids abilities will become more apparent in future episodes.
Blog@: What happened to these kids’ parents? If you put together the puzzle in the picture frame, or click on Tilly when she’s dealing with the creepy-looking kid in front of the school, you see hints…!
MB: Yes, you are correct. I’m very happy that you picked up on that from just those few hints! I’m going to hold off on answering what happened to them and allow future episodes to answer those questions.
Blog@: When I saw the “The teachers came over and thought we were fighting,” all I could think from the accompanying illustration is, “No…some teachers came over and saw some kid getting the living crap beat out of him by a girl in pigtails. Now they think he’s scarred for life.”
MB: Audrey is describing the incident from her perspective. The teachers may have thought she was beating the “crap” out of him They were, after all, running towards the kids to break up what they thought was a fight. If the teachers ever expressed to Audrey what they thought was happening, they probably would describe it to her as fighting. On the other hand, if the teachers talked to each other about the incident one of them might say to the other “I thought she was beating the living crap out of him!”. As far as the boy being scarred for life… there is a “hidden character memory” and a puzzle that suggests his current state. You may not have found them yet. The puzzle is in panel 44. The hidden character appears walking down the street behind the kids after you defeat the first demon riddle game in panel 2. Drag and drop the demon gem that you win on to the hidden character.