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Comic-Con Journal: Mildly Animated by Motion Comix

Friday’s portion of the Comic-Con death march included sitting
through an interesting demonstration of Marvel’s Motion Comics, a hybrid that
falls somewhere between animation and comic books.

These short productions mix limited animation and effects
with dramatic drawings, voiceover work and musical scoring, as if it were
conventional animation — minus the painstaking process of creating fluid motion. At times the rather ironic lack of motion, given the
name, feels a trifle stilted, but the truth is the limited animation isn’t that
much worse than a lot of what passes for cartoons on kids TV — and some of the
visuals can be quite striking, almost approximating the look of a movie like
“Sin City.”

As Marvel editor Joe Quesada noted during the panel on
Friday, “I can only imagine where we’re going to be three, four, five years
from now.

He’s right, though the form certainly isn’t anywhere near maturity yet.
Marvel showcased two of the Motion Comics, including “The Astonishing X-Men,” which
if nothing else has intriguing auspices: Written by Joss Whedon and illustrated
by John Cassady, it’s directed by Cassady along with comics artist legend Neal
Adams, whose credits include groundbreaking work on Batman in the 1970s as well
as the socially daring “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” comics. The second,
“Spider-Woman,” was a little less animated but still reasonably effective.

Given the cost pressures that everyone producing content currently
faces, the motion comic is a medium to watch – a way to convey serious themes
with the look and feel of a graphic novel, albeit for what’s doubtless
considerably less money than even a standard animation budget for a basic cable kids
network. With that kind of model, such an art form won’t require a ton of fans
to become economically viable – only a few committed ones, the likes of which
Comic-Con offers in abundance.

At any rate, it’s something to keep an eye on – and a pretty
savvy use of the content-hungry digital space.

Addendum: Marvel also previewed upcoming animated features
that will go direct to DVD through its deal with Lionsgate, including a “Thor”
movie, “Thor: Tales of Asgard,” for 2011 – a shrewd move with the Kenneth
Branagh-directed feature in the pipeline.

Throw in “Planet Hulk” and the offerings DC Comics showcased
here – “Green Lantern: First Flight” (reviewed in an earlier post) and the fall release “Superman/Batman:
Public Enemies” – and there’s a genuine renaissance occurring in terms of
adult-oriented animation (most carry PG-13 ratings) predicated on established
comic-book characters.

The only real danger is if some of the live-action
movies that are in the works — fettered by budgetary concerns and watered down for mass consumption — wind up paling in comparison.

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