Posted by on Mar 16, 2012 in Digital | 64 Comments

Hi. Mark Waid here. As promised if you were paying attention at WonderCon today during my spotlight panel, here’s a free PDF download of a short digital-comics story I did as proof-of-concept with the talented artist Jeremy Rock.  It’s a little zombie story called “Luther”, and it’s a sample of the approach I’m taking to my long-promised–and now imminent–series of Digital Comics.

Download it for free. Open it in whatever program you use to read PDF files. A simple right-click or page-tap takes you through, screen by screen, dead simple. For best results, view it full-screen, landscape format, so each image reads as a separate “page.” And enjoy. Free from Jeremy and me to you.

If you like it, we could use your assistance. Send the link to your friends. In fact, I encourage you to share “Luther” with as many people as you like. Help us spread the word. Help us show off what we think Digital Comics can be. Help point the audience here. It’d be much appreciated.

Then come back here April 2 to see what else I have in mind for the future of webcomics and find out how you can participate.

This is big.

64 Comments

  1. Torsten Adair
    March 16, 2012

    The story works better in a PDF viewer than in a web based viewer.

    I read it at 144% and the art looked fine. It is legible to 66.7%

    Reading on my smartphone with ThinkFree Office, it displays fine, the text was easy to read, if a bit small.

    The use of reveals, such as on pages 17-19, where the eye is guided, and also the use of limited “flip-book” style animation from page 18-19, is interesting.

    The use of a word balloon on a limbo panel (pages 24-25) actually works as panel 2.5, using the gutter closure to link panel two to panel three.

    For further investigation:
    Pages 14 – 15: Should the word balloons appear all at once, or as separate pages? Do you want the reader to “scroll” at his/her pace, or read them as a group?

    You make the reader hunt for changes when captions are added to a complete page. (Pages 26-27) You might want to add a sfumato layer between the caption boxes and the artwork so that the boxes “pop” and the reader notices them quicker.

    I am curious about the script. How precise was it? Or was it thumbnailed like a movie, showing how you wanted the panels and captions to be revealed?

    Reply
    • Julian
      March 21, 2012

      Awesome! This works really well. i never thought I could enjoy a graphic novel on a screen, but I really liked this!

      To add the frames one-by-one is a great idea and the effect – simple as it is – was great. Cant wait until the final version gets released.

      Thank you for this!

      Reply
      • Julian
        March 21, 2012

        oops, actually wanted to reply to main thread…

        Reply
  2. John Nikolouzos
    March 16, 2012

    Great comic Mr. Waid. Nice to see you folks taking advantage of the digital medium, hope to see more like this soon.

    When io9 featured your Marvel Infinite and your Nova comic I have to say I was kind of wary. I hope you guys get it right, but as I wrote over there, there are some serious pitfalls you need to be wary of. If there’s a discussion about the future of digital comics you can bet I’m going to be watching, and if possible participating.

    My opinion on MI so far:
    http://gizmodo.com/5892331/marvels-evolution-of-digital-comics-looks-really-really-good?comment=47850657#comments

    Reply
  3. Chris Well
    March 16, 2012

    Very nice! I look forward to what comes next.

    Reply
  4. Esteban Pedreros
    March 16, 2012

    I’ve been a fan of your work for years and I truly hope the best possible outcome for this new endeavor of yours (and all your creative partners).
    I find this new development with webcomics exciting, because so far it has only been about reading comics for free, this seems like an opportunity to develop something new.

    Best of luck.

    Reply
  5. John Thompson
    March 16, 2012

    I posted this on my Facebook but this is the link to a project I did for one of my graduate classes as I work on my MFA in Interactive Design. The story was written and the art done over a period of two weeks so it is a bit rough but I think you can get an idea of the one possible direction I think digital comics should be looking at.

    Fantom Force Three

    Thanks for looking.

    Reply
  6. Steve Kirkish
    March 16, 2012

    Wow, Mark. A lot of pathos and heart in a short story. Never much into zombies, but this one got me. I’ve been reading your work (along with a very small handful of other writers’ work) for a long time. Your FF series with Wieringo got me back into comics a while back, and I’m currently digging the cool, collected, badass Daredevil.
    This glimpse into the future you all are describing for digital comics is a great illustration of the power that this medium offers. I now look forward to seeing great artists and writers surprise us with the possibilities.

    Reply
  7. Daniel Presedo
    March 16, 2012

    I am a little perplexed, I did not expect to find a PDF as the representation for the digital comic. Not that I have problem you using PDF :)
    Did this appear in segments before? I’ll be in San Diego and would really enjoy hearing your point of view on this as I evaluate many of the tools that exist thus far.

    Reply
  8. James Harris
    March 17, 2012

    Great panel today and thank you for signing my trade paperback of Kingdom Come. I can’t wait for the big announcement next month.

    Reply
  9. filippod
    March 17, 2012

    Wonderful, wonderful short story. I know it’s a proof of concept (and you probably already know it) but I wanted to point out that the panels appearance effect will be lost on an iPad’s book reader: pages are scrolled with the swipe, making for a confusing replication of panels. Again: wonderful story.

    Reply
  10. Yonick
    March 17, 2012

    It looks really cool on PC, Especially when Luther reaches for the locket. A lot of the experience is lost when viewing it as seperate pages on ipad, but this is just a test after all and I like it.

    Reply
  11. Little John
    March 17, 2012

    Thanks Mark! It looks great on my Nook Tablet.

    Reply
  12. Matt Spatola
    March 17, 2012

    Checked out the webcomic. Looks great. But there seemed to be a couple of spots where it repeated unnecessarily. Not sure if you tried that. If you did I don’t think it worked for me as a storytelling device. But I really enjoyed it.

    Reply
  13. Kevin Maguire
    March 17, 2012

    I agree with you 100% on the potential of digital comics. It’s definitely the direction I want to go and am working on something along those lines. I’ll be watching what you’re doing very closely (which, I know, sounds creepy). I’ll also be steering people to this page. An appetite for the format needs to be stoked. Good luck with it.

    Reply
  14. filippod
    March 17, 2012

    This approach to digital comics is not new but this is a very nice example. The challenge with digital comics will be to scale or adapt well to all screen sizes AND to paper. On “Luther” the comic itself: I really liked it a lot. Very moving ending.

    Reply
  15. Ryan Daly
    March 17, 2012

    This was an incredible little story; the reveal at the end slugged me in gut. Terrific work, as always.

    I am thrilled that you’re really exploring the boundaries of digital comic storytelling. I’m an avid fan of this iteration of the medium and have wanted some ambitious artists or publishers to really take steps beyond putting printed comics on a computer screen. It sounds like that’s exactly what you’re striving for, Mister Waid, and I couldn’t be happier. It helps that you are–and I’m not brown-nosing–not JUST brown-nosing–you are my favorite comic writer.

    I can’t wait to see what you unveil in April!

    Reply
  16. markavo
    March 17, 2012

    This is very cool. Thanks for the teaser for upcoming digital format. Most every comic could be done this way and it would make reading on smaller screens a better overall experience.

    Reply
  17. Patrick Hoover
    March 17, 2012

    Mark, thanks for sharing this story…not only a great little read, but a real example of how clean and complete a digital comic can be. As someone who’s been working on his own webcomic for the past few years, I’m happy to see the direction your taking, and what you’ve presented so far has given me new ideas for my own work. Good luck in this new venture!

    Patrick Hoover
    http://www.odmcomic.com

    Reply
  18. Marty
    March 17, 2012

    That was rather excellent. Thanks!

    Reply
  19. Zauri
    March 17, 2012

    Awesome short zombie story and great sample of what can be done with digital comics. I’ve read it through iBooks on my iPad and enjoyed a lot.

    Keep ‘em coming, Mark!!!

    Reply
  20. Tom Lyle
    March 18, 2012

    Good luck, Mark. I’ve been trying to figure out how to be part of the digital world in a way that makes me feel not “ripped off”. I hope yours works. I DO want the digital delivery system to work.

    I’ve become so digital that I’m doing all my work digitally now. Of course, my eyesight made that necessary, but I’m glad the technology exists.
    Wishing you the best of luck with this.

    Tom

    Reply
  21. Ronnie
    March 18, 2012

    Thank you for the free comic, Mark. I enjoyed it. I do think it would benefit from the page transitions in the comiXology app. It would allow one page to fade into the next instead of sliding. The Valentine comic available on comiXology makes great use of this feature. I’m looking forward to further uses of this technology. Thank you for taking the risks to innovate.

    Reply
  22. Scott Rowland
    March 18, 2012

    First, thanks for the free comic. Second, thanks for the tons of other comics you’ve written or edited that have given me entertainment over the years. Finally, best of luck with this ambitious new undertaking!

    Reply
  23. Mike Leonard
    March 18, 2012

    That was *very* cool, Mark. It’s pretty much what I envision something that is created specifically for digital should be — ‘fading in’ captions over the artwork is a great technique, and something unique to the format. I really enjoy the guided view of comiXology and it works well with most material, but this is spot on perfect as the next step of the digital evolutionary process. I think it bridges the standard layouts of mainstream comics and the more comic strip oriented layouts of a lot of webcomics nicely, feels more natural to read.

    It’s funny, the other day my girlfriend mentioned that her friend, who normally turns up her nose at comics, has been enthralled with comiXology on her iPhone, and her explanation was that she sometimes had a difficult time following the flow of the page, and that the digital comics are far more cinematic and more to her liking — and she was reading the same material my girlfriend had been reading on paper in several cases. Aside from allowing creators to get their work out there without as much of a financial burden as traditional self-publishing, this format definitely has possibilities to draw in a new audience.

    A question, though, if you have time to answer: what do you see the ‘standard’ length of these sort of digital-only products being, since it’s not really determined in pages and more in individual panels? Obviously if you’re serializing it on the web that may not matter, but if you’re looking to offer the entire story as a download, as you did here. Or do you think that not being tied down to the physical format of print that there won’t really be a standardization of length and it’ll be more open as to what the creative team wants to offer per installment?

    Anyway, thanks to you and Jeremy for the free comic!

    Reply
  24. Kieren
    March 19, 2012

    I have been interested in the version of the infinite canvas you and marvel have been exploring since I read some of the interviews on your upcoming work for marvel.

    The PDF format has some limitations for this sort of work. On my android reader I can only scroll and not instantly switch between pages which limits the effect somewhat (I really enjoyed it when I read it on my PC).

    I’m currently working on an open source HTML based system for this type of canvas making it compatible with all devices that one would want to read a comic on. If you are interested I’ll let you know how it goes.

    Kieren

    Reply
  25. thecheckeredman
    March 19, 2012

    Thanks Mark! I’ll pass it along!

    Reply
  26. Steff Worthington
    March 19, 2012

    not to be confused with the other “Luther” I guess.
    http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/06/13/luther-a-bbc-comic-book-exclusive/

    Reply
  27. Tony DiGerolamo
    March 19, 2012

    Nicely done! I enjoyed the flipping too. It was nice how frames pop. That way, the pictures don’t give anything away out of the corner of your eye. Can’t wait to see the rest. Not that you need it, but if you ever want to do a link exchange, hit me up.

    Reply
  28. Adrian Nelson
    March 19, 2012

    This was a great read! Sharing on twitter and FB.

    Reply
  29. optionald
    March 19, 2012

    I really like how the pacing can be controlled. I wonder if it would be even more effective on black. In a couple of the cases you see the frame and then the white negative space next to it distracts me because I know it’s the size of another panel or two. Maybe black would be more immersive? It really gives the benefit of motion comics without all the hokey, stiff animation. Awesome stuff. I wish I would’ve opened this on my ipad but I couldn’t wait.

    Reply
  30. Magic Love Hose
    March 19, 2012

    I remember reading this as part of Zombie Tales. What’s most compelling about it is how differently it reads in this format – how the beats play out, what parts have more impact. I think you’ve carved out new ground here. Great stuff.

    Reply
  31. MattG
    March 19, 2012

    Mark! Thanks for Luther, and I can’t wait to see what happens in April!

    Reply
  32. Guest
    March 19, 2012

    I do realize this is rather inappropriate to place this comment here and i do hope it doesnt discourage you but, out of curiosity when will we the the further adventures of Cat and Doyle? Im just itching to see if there would be a shift in the dynamic of the relatioship between the two now that Doyle’s reincarnated into a boys body. I just cant help but image Cat being motherly and using Doyles small body to decieve people and get closer to them for clues.

    That being said i very much enjoyed Luther, but i must ask, some pages have alot of white spaces. Seems kind of a no-brainer but was your intention for it to be viewed in the comics reader app with the guidedview? If thats so im guessing when your reading the comic its very much like a cinematic experience without the badly animated tweens, right?

    Reply
  33. Bryan Dempsen
    March 20, 2012

    Fantastic strip Mr. Waid! The scrolling works really well. I would pay 1.00 -2.00 per issue for something like this.

    Reply
  34. Simon DelMonte
    March 20, 2012

    Congrats on this first effort. Alas, I kinda don’t like zombie stories – the first panel was a red flag for me. But just seeing that you gave us a PDF makes my heart sing. I can’t wait to see what you and the artists you team up with put together that takes advantage of the medium even while keeping the tools that still work in all formats.

    Can I suggest you look for something called Homestuck? It’s a webcomic, but not just pictures that sit on the screen. The creator uses animation and music to tell the story as well as traditional 2D art. It’s the only webcomic I’ve seen that uses the possibilities of the Internet for more than just cheaper distribution, and might point towards the future.

    Reply
  35. Ian L.
    March 20, 2012

    Job well done, Mark. For me, as long as the storytelling is good, it doesn’t matter whether he comic is digital, print or beamed directly into my head via lasers. A good story is a good story, and this is just that. Looking forward to more where that came from.

    Reply
  36. Chris
    March 20, 2012

    That was a really cool reading experience. Like discovering a new way to see. As always, a lot of heart too.

    Reply
  37. Shawnte
    March 20, 2012

    Thanks for the free digital comic! I’ll be sure to tell my web comic reading buddies about this. Really cool that you’re just giving it away free :3.

    Reply
  38. Kris
    March 20, 2012

    Thanks for doing this Mr. Waid. I enjoyed the story and this was the best digital layout I’ve read (granted, I haven’t read a ton of digital comics but still…).
    I’ll spread it around.

    Reply
  39. Bill Walko
    March 20, 2012

    Excellent story and interesting use of format, Mr. Waid! As creator of my own online comic, I shall be following your foray into webcomics very closely!

    Reply
  40. Dean Hacker
    March 20, 2012

    What a terrific little story. It got little dusty in here toward the end. I didn’t think that Zombie stories still had that potential.

    The digital aspect was interesting. I hope that this experiment is a great success for you.

    Reply
  41. Jim Hague
    March 20, 2012

    Hi, Mark.

    Good, solid story…but I have some criticisms:

    I know that the repetition of panels is meant for pacing, but to me at least, they seriously break the flow of the narrative to the point where they seem like mistakes or filler, rather than controlling the flow of the story or evoking a specific mood. They don’t seem to build on each other in most cases, and it gives the comic something of an amateur look.

    It’s a good, solid story – the art is excellent, the writing is evocative. It doesn’t need panel tricks to get its point across or take us through a day in the life of Luther.

    Reply
  42. Sunny Lee
    March 21, 2012

    I shall post this link to twitter, facebook, deviantart (journal) and the other forums I hang at. Very very cool.

    Reply
  43. walkerp
    March 21, 2012

    Really cool. I like the way you worked the sequences to fit with the PDF format. It added vibrancy to the reading. Nice to see someone pushing the envelope a bit. Good luck going forward.

    Reply
  44. Robert Menegus
    March 21, 2012

    I have an autistic cousin, and have seen her struggle to get by in this world. I’d just like to say that “Luther” was very moving. It’s nice to read comics that have social significance, and that have heart. I also think the digital format complimented the story rather than being gimmicky. Kudos, you guys knocked this one out of the park. Thanks for the free story, and I looked forward to what you have in store in the future!

    Reply
  45. Pj Perez
    March 21, 2012

    This was very well-executed (with lovely art and coloring), and Mark, I know you did this as a “proof-of-concept” piece, so this question may be moot by that fact, but some of the “reveal” lettering seems arbitrarily paced. Like it was done just to demonstrate that it could be done. Not to build up drama, but to force upon readers the pace at which they “read” the story, and to me, the great thing about comics has always been that “how” it is read is a very individual experience, and trying to rig that in any way might make it less fluid for one reader over another.

    It’s the number one reason I can’t stand digital conversions of print material in apps like Marvel’s, where the navigation through the panels is so stilted and broken.

    Again, in terms of story and art and everything, this is great, and I love how native to my horizontal screen it fits. But some of the “features” seem more gimmicky than effective. Still, great to see anyone innovating digital comics, especially someone who actually wields relative influence.

    Reply
  46. steven
    March 21, 2012

    I loved the strip!

    Also, I think that a custom pdf reader for ios or android would be great when you start selling these things. I want to read these on my ipad, but i also want the same reading experience as my pc.

    Basically, give me excuses to give you more money for content!!

    Reply
  47. Hemi-Sync Sally
    March 21, 2012

    G’Day! Mwaid,
    Thanks you for your post, For years now, superheroes have been popular amongst teenagers. The paper comics were on top of this popularity long before movies, television shows or Internet threads have been made available for superheroes. Comic book enthusiasts adored these paperbacks much more than the stories. These comics really delved into political, societal and social thresholds, highlighting the state of the era they had been introduced. Ever since they emerged on the market, the Marvel comics have been in the top position in this industry even to this day.
    Great Job!

    Reply
  48. DiRT
    March 22, 2012

    I’m going to convert this to a CBR since that’s the already proven digital comics format. Thanks!

    Reply
  49. Arvin Bautista
    March 23, 2012

    Hi Mark!

    I like the work you guys are doing with Luther and what digital comics could be. Most of the time digital comics end up being gimmicks, cheap looking animatics or horribly animated cartoons.

    But I think with Luther, you guys are heading in (what I feel) seems to be the right direction. The strength of sequential art really feels enhanced in Luther and not just ‘gimmick-ed up’. My favorite sequence is when the zombie torso is chucked into the truck.

    The composition and the arc of the motion of the torso being flung already works with the two panels side by side, but is also better enhanced with the revelation of the second panel with the press of the spacebar.

    My mind is still filling in the action between panels just as it would in a regular comic, but made stronger with the ‘spacebar reveal’. Cool stuff!

    I can’t wait to see what you guys have up your sleeve. If anything you guys have lit a little light bulb in me that has hope for maybe creating my own digital comics! More power to you guys!

    Reply
  50. gimnasia en casa
    March 26, 2012

    Hello! I’ve been following your site for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Tx! Just wanted to tell you keep up the great job!

    Reply
  51. Adam Lichi
    March 27, 2012

    Loved the story, loved reading it on my Macbook Pro. Thanks Mark Waid!!

    Reply
  52. cheap ray ban sunglasses
    April 4, 2012

    I’m going to convert this to a CBR since that’s the already proven digital comics format. Thanks!

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

    Reply
  53. Stefan
    April 10, 2012

    Each app I use at my iPad swipes the pages, what app would you recommend to use to avoid the swipe-page effect?

    Reply
  54. Nick
    April 13, 2012

    As this is presented as a proof of concept, I have to feed back that there are a few serious issues in the choice of PDF as a format.

    By default, PDFs on my system will open using Chrome’s native PDF viewer. Luther opens fine, but Chrome doesn’t use a single page display – pages run continuously in sequence, so where you’ve used devices like panels and captions appearing ‘overlaid’, Chrome shows the pages one after another, which is confusing (I think the comment from Jim Hague above may be referring to this).

    My second port of call for PDFs is Sumatra reader. This has the option to show pages individually, but I think it’s turned off by default (I had to turn it on). So again, Luther looks confusing here.

    I’d worked out what was going on, so I opened it in Acrobat Reader and it worked as intended there – and I’m sure it’d be fine in a dedicated iPad reader. But while I think the presentation and subtle effects work very well when they’re working as intended, I don’t think PDF is the format to use – unless you’re just doing a straightforward print-to-screen transfer.

    At the same time, people like to have a downloadable object they can ‘own’, and PDF is an obvious choice for that at the moment – I think CBZ etc. are still a little too esoteric. So I guess I’m suggesting that until a better system is well-established, creators need to be cautious when using effects like the ones in Luther.

    Reply
  55. Carlton Donaghe
    May 8, 2012

    Nick, I viewed Luther in my Chrome browser, and once I hit the “full screen” mode on its PDF viewer, it worked just fine.

    Reply
  56. gjaieaks
    May 20, 2012

    Free Digital Comic: LUTHER – MARK WAID Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

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    Reply
  57. neel
    June 3, 2012

    Nice to read a book on digital format.Good story.excellent work..

    Reply
  58. untue
    June 10, 2012

    Great post at MARK WAID » Free Digital Comic: LUTHER. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Extremely useful info specially the last part :) I care for such information a lot. I was seeking this particular information for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.

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  59. dududukkkkkkk
    June 10, 2012

    MARK WAID » Free Digital Comic: LUTHER Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

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  60. capsiplex
    June 10, 2012

    This design is wicked! You obviously know how to keep a reader amused. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great job. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

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    Reply
  61. Luther Digital Comic Review. « Team Hellions
    September 12, 2012

    [...] or go direct to the Luther article. http://markwaid.com/?p=695 [...]

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