We launched the Madefire App just a little more than a week ago. But for all of us at Madefire who had, for months, been sprinting toward the June 21st launch date, one week feels like a whole lifetime ago. A lot has happened in the past week that we feel really good about, and we wanted to update you on where we are now–and where we’re going.
For starters, we were ecstatic when we found out that we moved (on June 28) from the “New and Noteworthy” page of the Apple App Store to the “What’s Hot” section.
We have also been hugely encouraged by the download rates we’re seeing. People are staying in the app longer than the industry average, and our return rates are high. All of which, we hope, points to people liking the Madefire App enough to both spend time with it in the first place, and come back for more later.
The app has received most of its attention in the US market and China Market, which came as no surprise to us. But we were pleasantly surprised to also see pickup in England and China.
Users are sharing the app through social media, sending us positive and helpful feedback (please keep it coming), and creators are expressing a lot of interest in using the Motion Book Tool to develop their own original titles once we open up the public beta (sign up on the Motion Book Tool page to be notified when that happens).
Over the past week we have also enjoyed some amazing coverage (which continues still) in the tech and comic book press–even in the design press. Articles appeared in TechCrunch, CBR, Xconomy, and Brand New, just to name a few.
As you can imagine, we are wildly excited about everything that happened the first week after launch. But don’t go thinking we’re laying around basking in glory and high-fiving each other (we did do that, but eventually stopped). We’re back at it right now getting ready to head down to Comic-Con 2012 in San Diego (SDCC) from July 11-15. And we’re happy to announce that Dave Gibbons, Bill Sienkiewicz and Gary Gianni will be joining us at our booth, along with a number of other comic book legends who will make special appearances throughout the event.
We’ve got lots more to share about our SDCC plans, so stay tuned!
Five days after launch, we’ve answered loads of questions about the Madefire App, the Motion Book Tool, and the stories we proudly helped bring to life. But it seems there is one story in particular that we still need to tell: Madefire’s. So for everyone who wrote in wanting to know how Madefire came to be: this one’s for you.
When I was young and growing up in Derby, I saw comic books in every newsagent and street corner store. On holiday they were bagged in multiple copies and sold cheap.
That was the thing: it was cheap, accessible entertainment.
I didn’t even know there were specialist outlets until I was about 19! So for me, it was the wider visibility of the material that hooked me, and later drew me to the stores where I could really indulge my interest.
Back then, standing there in the newsagent, clutching my copy of Captain America or Iron Fist, Conan, or the Hulk, there was no way I could’ve known how deeply the medium would shape and influence my life. But I passed many a day of my youth drawing and writing about superheroes and barbarians. Later I won an art scholarship to Eastbourne College (where co-founder Ben Wolstenholme was also to win an art scholarship), and always I kept on drawing the fantastic.
I have been lucky enough to have drawn some of the most famous characters in the comic spectrum during the (perhaps inevitable) career that followed. From Judge Dredd, through the Hulk to the Xmen, Batman, and Gears of War. I’ve drawn high-minded sequential art and thuggish, testosterone-fueled brute-fests. It’s certainly been an interesting ride—but ultimately the writer in me would not stay silent. I needed to create my own material, and I knew a bunch of other creators who shared that dream. As a result, in 2004 my wife Christina and I founded Mam Tor Publishing and began create our own titles.
Mam Tor was incredibly rewarding, it opened many doors and launched a number of significant careers, but it also proved—for reasons beyond our control—to be unsustainable. As a small company, we were not afforded the same concessions and benefits as the market leaders, and in the end it made costs prohibitive for us.
That’s not to say all was lost. But, the truth was, we had yet to find a new way forward. We were a small upstart company with ‘A’ list talent and material, ready to make its mark on the world.
Everything changed a few years ago when, by happenstance or kismet, my old mate Ben Wolstenholme and I crossed paths again. Over several nights and several more beers we rediscovered our mutual love of art, storytelling and comic books—cultivated many years earlier as kids. More than that, we realized we had a mutual vision, a very specific goal—the notion of publishing our own work on our own terms.
So then it became a question of how to do it.
Last week we witnessed that dream come to life with the launch of the Madefire App, which enables readers to experience what we’re calling “Motion Books”—interactive books built especially to tell stories on the iPad through pictures, words, sound and motion. We launched with three titles: “Treatment,” which features a story-world created by comic book legend Dave Gibbons, written by Robbie Morrison and illustrated by amazing new-comer Kinman Chan. “Mono” by Ben, and “Captain Stone,” which I illustrated and co-wrote with my wife, Chris.
To achieve this we had to custom build our own digital publishing platform for a genre that didn’t exist yet—what we’ve come to call Motion Books. And to build them we needed a tool—which is where our third founder, Eugene Walden, came in. Between the three of us we figured out what we thought Motion Books might possibly need to do, and based on that information Eugene and his team then built the astonishing Madefire Motion Book Tool.
And now that dream, conceived in a London pub years ago, has grown up… It’s no longer just about Ben and me empowering ourselves to publish our own work online. It’s passed beyond the new creative freedom we discovered using the tool: its ability to manipulate time and space so that a story can unfold on-screen in totally new ways. It has become a rallying cry for all creators, artists, and writers who, like us, yearn to share their work with a wider audience and explore new and innovative ways of doing this.
I wouldn’t claim that Madefire is the new corner store for comic books—the Internet does that nicely. But Madefire has contributed a few really solid bricks to the storefront. As Dave Gibbons says—we’re developing “a new grammar,” and hoping that Madefire is where the myths of the 21st century will be created.
-Liam Sharp, CCO of Madefire
Next on our blog: an interview with legendary comic book creator Dave Gibbons. Send your questions for Dave to email@example.com.
Yesterday was the beginning of so many new and exciting things in the Madefire world. We launched our Madefire App, and were featured on the App Store under “New and Noteworthy.” That level of visibility on the world’s foremost app store was at once thrilling and humbling. But the tremendous sense of energy, enthusiasm, and pride that pulsated through our Berkeley office was fueled by much more than just the App Store appearance. And by more than the positive coverage Madefire received in the technology and comic book press. What inspired us most was the overwhelmingly supportive feedback we received from people who downloaded the app and read the first three titles we made available. And it wasn’t just the die-hard comic book aficionados who expressed their enthusiasm–it was people who didn’t typically read on the iPad or who had never even thought to give comic books and graphic novels a chance. Suddenly this genre offered something for them too. That is one of our greatest hopes: that by creating a new way for people to experience comic books, a whole new set of readers will be exposed to and begin to enjoy an art form that we at Madefire have embraced for as long as we can remember.
It was a tremendous day for us as a team, and maybe said best by our founder and CTO Eugene Walden, “Nothing could have made today better.” And we enjoyed all this day despite multiple acts of God that could have radically altered how it unfolded. Many of you know that Twitter – which was a huge source of evangelization for us – was up and down throughout the day. But, unlike us, most of you probably didn’t have the power line in front of your office come crashing down at 4pm, killing all power, wi-fi, everything for the remainder of the day!
But we made it, and in no small part due to the help and encouragement of all of you reading this. So huge thanks to you for being there with us as we entered a new phase at Madefire, as well as what we hope will be a new era for myths, reading and storytelling.
Long ago we drew down fire from the heavens, lit up our caves with life-giving flames, and set about documenting the story of Us on those rough-hewn walls in ochre daubs.
Here is where ‘the story’ in picture form began, here is where we first captured the startling imagery our imaginations afforded us, birthing worlds and realms peopled by beings that did not exist.
The story grew.
Through the ages of man we raised physical and literary temples in the name of our ever-evolving imaginative prowess. We lived, and live still, surrounded by and within our dreamings.
Man made fire, and from it grew ‘the story’.
We’re in an amazing age right now.
There have, over the centuries, been times when ‘the story’ evolved—took a seismic leap forward. Those cave paintings were one such leap, this digital age beckons another. Storytelling can evolve again in ways limited only by our imaginations.
At Madefire we’ve been working towards an experience at once universal and personal, private and shared. The interconnectivity of everyone rewrites what has gone before. Stories no longer need to happen in linear space but can explode into clouds. Readers need not dwell in the modern day analog of that ancient cave—but can instead share their tales with a global tribe.
The advent of the tablet computer has changed storytelling by adding further dimension to the potency of words and pictures.
With A-list story talent, minds culled from leading technological innovators, and experience that combines leadership in all forms of media, we’re confident that we’re cultivating an experience people will want to share, and share in. We’re working with the best, and that includes you—you that come with us and partake in an evolutionary journey that genuinely could change the way we experience ‘the story’ forever.