The latest episode of Haden Blackman and Gary Erskine’s The Irons: Hybrids was released Wednesday and we immediately pick up where #3 ended: Leto in hot pursuit of Multon with all manner of questions firing through her (and the reader’s) mind—Who is he? What’s his connection to The Hijacker? Can she save his latest victims? Detective Leto is ready for this whole nightmare to be over. It’s amazing how far this title has come in a mere four episodes!
And speaking of amazing, next month is Madefire’s one year anniversary on iPad and it’s been remarkable to watch the evolution of the “grammar” of Motion Book storytelling in that short span of time. Some artists have worked in Tool and many haven’t—but they’ve all adapted to this new medium.
Gary’s work on The Irons is a terrific example.
Gary Erskine has been a name synonymous with print for over 20 years and when he began working on The Irons there wasn’t a large number of polished Motion Books to reference as the medium was literally evolving from day-to-day. Since Episode 1, Gary has been producing art to deliver the best Motion Book possible, but only over the last episode or two has he begun providing serious direction on the “camera” work to best execute the story flow. In the beginning he would turn in the final pages (as colored by the extraordinary Yel Zamor) in a traditional fashion like so:
After getting several episodes under his belt and seeing how the stories were being constructed, Gary’s thinking evolved into more complex guides of how he would like the story to go:
This is a shot of Ingress taken from episode 4. It is the station that processes new immigrants to The Irons. Between all the people, graffiti, robots, and police kiosks, soaking in all of the information on a stationary screen is almost impossible. Gary took great pains to provide notes and arrows to convey exactly where to zoom and pan.
BONUS: Can you spot the hidden Madefire logo in the image?
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that with Gary taking a step in this direction that the best episode yet of The Irons was delivered. And it’s not just Gary getting in on the art direction—other artists are starting to do the same…we’ll show Jimmy Broxton’s process in an upcoming blog post and others have found more elaborate ways to get their vision across.
And the day we release the Motion Book Tool to the public is coming—so give some thought to how you’d like your motion book to work someday. How will you communicate your ideas and dreams into this next generation platform? Are you the kind of person who wants to add notations on the images like Gary or a will you create your own style? The future of storytelling is literally up to you!
Hey guys! I’m Susie, and I’m the new marketing intern here at Madefire. I’m excited to be here, and I have loved every minute I have spent in our South Berkeley studio so far. I have been reading Madefire motion books for a long time–in fact, the first book I read was Treatment: Tokyo before it was even released! It was an emotional full circle, then, that the series came to its conclusion on Wednesday.
When one door closes, another one opens, right?
So, as I was saying, I’m Susie the Intern and I live here in the Bay Area. I relocated here from Nebraska about five years ago, and I have zero desire to move back–I went “California” very quickly. I no longer mix well with snow or humidity! I’m a pretty average 24 year-old-girl who loves to shop, get my nails done, play video games and have an obsession with mermaids. And I also love comic books.
For the last few years, I have worked at Flying Colors Comics, a legendary comic shop in Concord—and that’s how I got into both comics AND Madefire. You see, when I moved here, I had never read a comic in my life. Friendless and living in a foreign city, I happened to be driving one day and spotted Flying Colors. Immediately pulling my car over to investigate, nearly causing an accident, I’m sure. I stopped into the shop and walked out with Fables v.1 and WE3. I haven’t stopped loving comics since that day. And by a terrific twist of fortune, I met Joe ‘Otis’ Costello, the production manager at Madefire (and 20+ year patron of Flying Colors), and Liam Sharp through the store.
Again, I’m so thrilled to be a part of Madefire. I love that I get to work within a medium that I care so much about and I joined the team at a great time. What with all the amazing things that are happening with deviantART and all of the titles that are on the way (including more Treatment titles!), I am so lucky to be here. I reread all of Treatment: Tokyo on Wednesday, and though I’m sad to see it go, I can’t wait to see what the future will hold for the series and the main character, Kaidan.
One last thing: Wednesday was Kinman Chan’s birthday! Kinman is the artistic genius behind Treatment: Tokyo, so as a birthday gift to him and a “Welcome to the Studio” gift to me, you really should download Treatment: Tokyo 3. Trust me, I think you’ll like it.
If you see me around at the studio, Story Night, San Diego Comic Con or even Flying Colors, say hi!
A look behind the scenes with builder Cody Garcia.
Whats your background as an artist?
I was a muralist at 2 yrs old, hookin’ my folks up with crayon drawings on their living room walls. Twenty-one years later, I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in digital arts in 2010 from a little hippie college in Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada College.
Since then I’ve worked as a freelance illustrator/animator, producing animated shorts for television and illustrations/designs featured on online publications like Mashable.com, Huffington post, and NY Daily news.
How does that translate into what you are doing with Madefire as a builder?
As a freelance artist, I work with a variety of clients looking to get across different types of messages through all sorts of art styles. I can put countless hours and tons of effort into illustrations and animations, but the work will only be successful if the audience understands the message. With comics and motion books, that message, whatever it may be, is conveyed through the story. Through my experience, I’ve learned techniques for guiding the viewer through the story.
With the Madefire tool, we now have more control over the tone and development of a story through our desired timing of each panel entry and ‘next panel’ tap points. With traditional format comics and graphic novels, all the art is displayed at once. As you’re frantically reading through to see the outcome, you can’t help but notice, a page over, the final scene, where everyone dies! Not to knock on that format, which I still very much enjoy, but Madefire offers a new reading experience where you control when the story unfolds… surprising you when everyone dies!
When you get the script and art, how do you go about interpreting the story?
I review the entire script and art pages before building. I even try to play background music, including sound effects in my head while reading to get an idea for the sound. I then try to visualize how each panel will enter onto the page stage and what camera pans, focus pulls, or scene navigation would compliment the story. Though you’re still reading in 2D, the camera movements can mimic a 3D-scape, which allows the reader to immerse him or herself into the story. My favorite example of this, animated by a fellow builder, is in Mono: The Old Curiosity Shop Episode 2, Page 5. Mono is sneaking behind soldiers, and suddenly takes a giant leap from one building to another. The viewer gets to follow Mono through the sky as he flies between buildings.
As I mentioned previously, story is most important, so I try my best to interpret the Author’s and Artist’s story telling. Sometimes we get Author/Artist notes, but a lot of the time we are given creative licensure. And then sound is just the icing on the digital triple layer cake.
Having done adventure, horror, and literary genres, what do you find to be the most satisfying genre to work in?
Most of my builds have been in the horror genre – Houses of the Holy series, Severing the Curse, and another even darker one that is currently in the works. Despite it being on the complete opposite spectrum from my personal colorful, happy illustrations, it’s a blast working with darker, creepier stories. They offer a lot of room to incorporate special effects and dramatic reveals. I love the anticipation Severing the Curse provided. We were really able to pump it up with character reveals and sudden action shots.
Do you have aspirations to do your own motion book some day?
Oh yeaaaah. I haven’t come up with a story yet, but would like to create a few books, from sci-fi stories to something funny. I entered a graduate school program for a short time in education, and felt inspired to create an educational children’s book. I’d like to carry that idea over to the Madefire tool now. It only makes sense – digital content is becoming ever more popular, especially with the younger crowd.
In a fair fight, who would win: Mono or Caption Stone – and why?
Captain Stone – have you seen those biceps?!
MF: The Engine really feels like a creative marriage forged in the dark hell of a Siberian salt mine and dragged screaming, finally, into the light. How do you guys find working together?
GA: It’s so tempting to give an extremely rude answer, to paint a picture of Broxton as a wild, intolerable scribble-monkey who lives off crayons and the meat from virgin’s thighs. It would be easy too because that’s what he is, a monster. An inhuman thing. But, you know, I love him. Being paired up with Jimmy has been the best creative experiences of my career so far.
I had always shied away from collaboration in prose. I’d be a tricky bastard to work with, I’m too disorganised and I’m terrible in expressing what’s in my head until I’ve actually set it onto paper. This is different though, this is two people coming at a story from different directions, coming together in the middle to make something that’s more than just the sum of its parts. I know people always say sycophantic things when asked questions like this but I genuinely mean it, Jimmy’s great.
JB: Well, I’m blushing to hear Guy say such nice things about me, well, mostly nice things….but honestly, comics is all about story, telling the story, and without a good story to try and tell, you are lost in a mire of pointless and endless illustration, fortunately, Guy is way ahead of me on that, so with him as my guide, I can find my way in the dark, and hopefully shine a light of my own on the proceedings, h’mmm, must be a few more metaphors I can mix and use to make me sound clever, like he does? No? OK, I’ll stick to me crayons…..
MF: Guy, we understand you met our CCO Liam Sharp at a literary convention and forged bonds over beer. Can you elaborate on the story?
GA: He got drunk and I could tell he was a little in love with me. He kept touching my knee and trying to hold eye contact. Even when he was lying in the gutter talking about beards.
That’s all a lie.
We’d been in touch for a while, swapping emails and chatting. That night in Derby was the first time we’d actually had a chance to raise a glass and talk properly, face to face.
I think a major part of our ‘bonding’ was chasing around Derby, late on a Sunday, trying to find tobacco. Both of us were supposed to be cutting back or laying off smoking but the beer had struck and our need was heavy.
We went for a curry, which is traditional at these sorts of things, and talked music, movies, books and, obviously comics. He knew that I was a fan of the medium and I’d been asking his advice about how I might try and break into it. I think that was interesting in itself really… he wanted to do more prose work, I wanted to do comics… we were looking at the grass on either side of each other’s fence and fancying a good old graze. He talked about Madefire a little, it sounded brilliant and a few months later I was asked if i wanted to be involved. Naturally I bit his hand off.
Liam’s a gent. In a recent interview I described him as ‘that gargantuan side of tattooed beef in a flat cap’. Which is fairly accurate but also misses out his most defining quality: he’s just lovely.
MF: Jimmy – you’ve known many of the Madefire creators for a long while. Does this have any bearing on your decision to join them at the outset?
JB: Well, thing is, Liam asked me, and that is enough to be honest, no one has more drive, determination and natural storytelling ability than that man, even on a bold and ground breaking venture like this, there are some people who, when they sound the bell, you come running, Liam is one of those people, and his team of collaborators and contributors is truly world class, I’m honoured and humbled to be counted amongst them. It was a no brainer….I didn’t go for curry though, it was fish and chips, in Liam’s old local in Derby.
MF: What aspects of The Engine really appeal to you guys, and can you give us a hint of where the story is leading?
GA: I love the iconic quality of The Engine itself. Liam and Christina came up with the idea, this relic of a robot who would provide a lifeline to these trapped criminals. I could immediately picture this massive thing, silent and impenetrable. He’s a living statue, something that other people bend to suit their politics and beliefs. He’s something different to everybody. That interests me. We do it all the time, pick up a handful of newspapers and see how every one views the world in its own, subjective way. He’s that brought to hissing, steaming life.
I also love an epic journey and this will be one hell of an epic journey.
They might think that getting out of the mine will solve their problems but it only adds a new one! This is a story that’s going to be extremely varied, high action, fast-paced Hollywood stuff, combined with gentler, subtler stories. It’s going to be a real mixture.
JB: I have no idea where the story is going, that’s up to Guy and Madefire, but I do know it will be a hell of a ride….as for the Engine himself, I have become very fond of him, I see a nobility, and a child like purity in him (which I try and capture in the art, I usually fail, but hey, I have to try). I also love to play around with the graphic possibilities that he offers, Liam gave me free reign to design him in a way that I was happy with (with input of course), I wanted to create something simple, but iconic and memorable, that way I can depict him in a very illustrative way, a photographic way and of course in a stylised graphic design led way, as you will have seen in the growing number of Soviet inspired propaganda style posters we continue to create for series. I also want action figures…are you listening Madfire? ACTION FIGURES!!!!!
MF: The characters are very broadly painted – both in the writing and the art – and are, to a man, unlikeable. Yet you’ve somehow managed to create a motley crew that have soul, and that we find ourselves rooting for and caring about as readers. Was this a conscious aim?
GA: I quite like a few of them! But then I’ve always had funny taste in people (cf. Adams’ thoughts on broth Broxton and Sharp).
I think they’re a symptom of the process in many ways, having been given a brilliant framework for a story, The Engine itself, I devoted most of my thoughts to the miners themselves. I needed to be sure I could spend a lot of time with them, otherwise writing the story was going to be hell. I wanted them to be volatile, to serve the story but most of all they had to be people I could take the long walk with.
Everyone is complex in this world, we’re all a mixture of Angel and arsehole, some of us just lean more in one direction than the other.
JB: I Like them all, in a strange way, they seem real to me, not just cyphers or comic book creations, sure, they have their demons, but that is what makes people interesting, as for drawing them broadly, not sure, I just wanted to make them all instantly recognisable, in many respects Engine is an ensemble piece, Guy created a great cast of characters, visually I try and reflect that.
MF: We’ve noticed that the dumb tattooed thug of the piece somewhat resembles our CCO… Is there something you’re not telling us?
GA: I suggested to Jimmy that, as we needed someone that looked like he could chew bricks and shit grit, Liam was our man. It was also a way of thanking him for the opportunity. I look forward to killinh him violently in a future episode.
JB: Yes he did, and of course I couldn’t resist…….so we did…
MF: How have you found the process of working with a new medium and helping to evolve a new way of telling stories? Has it been inspiring?
GA: It has been inspiring yes, because you’re always looking to find the balance I think. It’s about that perfect point where words, art and technology blend seamlessly. If you’re too drawn to any one of them I think you’ve slightly missed the mark, they should become one indivisible thing.
In some ways I suppose I had an advantage as I wasn’t always bedded to the traditional comics ‘style’ but we’re still finding new ways to tell this story.
I’m learning so much as I go, I think each episode’s script is an improvement on the last. Luckily Jimmy’s art is so consistently brilliant that readers have survived watching me take my baby steps by concentrating on his stuff!
JB: OH goodness me yes, the Madefire platform has opened up (and continues to open up) so many new storytelling opportunities, I honestly think we have barely scratched the surface, and it is about story, make no mistake, some people will only see the crash, bang and wallop, it’s natural, some will like and some most definitely will not, but the key thing is to set aside your preconceptions about tablet/device driven comics/visual storytelling and concentrate on STORY…..I honestly believe, that in an increasingly complex and confusing market, with so many digital formats vying for attention that the real job is often overshadowed. Our job is to tell stories, the best stories we can, in an interesting and imaginative a way as possible, right now, Madefire are at the forefront of this brave new world, I’m incredibly lucky to be a part of what they are doing, and of course to be working with Guy and Liam.
MF: Have you guys got anything else in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
GA: Our main drive at the moment is another book we’re doing together (because I hate it when Jimmy sleeps). It’s called Goldtiger and it’s a sixties newspaper strip that never was and we recently got it funded on Kickstarter!
JB: What he said…….