Westminster student breaks new ground in iPhone comic book apps with Banana Panic!
Slam! Crash! Squeeee! Local Comic Goes Ape for New Apps
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April 28, 2010
SALT LAKE CITY – As an avid comic book fan, Westminster graduate student Chris Hoffman knew that the future of comics was sure to evolve as the media world changed. As print publications become more like the dinosaurs of yesteryears, artists and publishers alike have been experimenting with new media to help retain their current fan base, and attract young, new comic book fans.
Hoffman, who is not only a fan but a comic book creator himself, is one of a few Utahans who has been experimenting in the digital world of comic books.
“The comic industry is trying everything right now, which has created some hilarious results as well as some really great results,” explained Hoffman, who is also a multimedia content developer at the college. “I think my comic actually works out pretty well because I keep in mind it’s going to go on an iPhone app first and then become a print version.”
According to Hoffman, comic book companies are not only experimenting with iPhone applications, but are delving into the world of motion comics and hot spots, where readers can push on parts of the comic and hear sounds or see different types of animation.
“It’s really the Wild West right now…people are really trying all different approaches because no one knows how this will work, even the big companies like Marvel,” he said.
Hoffman creates his comics by starting with a physical piece of paper that he breaks up into rectangles. Instead of laying out the pages in sequential order like traditional artists do, he creates individual panels that are made to fill up an iPhone screen. He then draws the comic with pencil and scans it into a computer program and outlines it on an electronic tablet. After shading and taking it into Photoshop, he then changes the layout of the panels into a traditional format for the print version.
“So I’m actually moving backwards instead of what traditional comics are doing. They create the print versions first and try to put them back on electronic media, whereas I’m doing the electronic media first and then adapting it for print. My brother in law has a company that makes iPhone apps so I just send him my work after it’s created.”
In the age of advanced technology, creating a digital medium for comic books seems like a no-brainer.
“The numbers are showing that the comic book industry is making more money than ever, but I don’t know if it’s more readers, or if the comic books are just getting more expensive. Younger kids are so involved with iPods and video games. And, when print comic books cost $5 an issue there is a tipping point where print and ink are too expensive to ship; it’s too expensive to make them at a reasonable price for kids to get into…so I’m excited about where the medium is heading.”
Growing up with such favorites as Spider-Man, X-Men and Ghost Rider, Hoffman developed a fond appreciation for comic books at a young age, and even worked at one of the first comic book stores in Utah called Comics Utah. However, the inspiration for creating his own comic book series came from a picture his friend drew of a monkey and a gun that he found quite humorous. This picture, coupled with his love for the Japanese drawing style called “Manga,” inspired him to create Banana Panic!.
Banana Panic! is about Simon St. Hubbins, a “James Bond”-type super spy who just happens to be a talking monkey. According to Hoffman, he saves the world from terrorist plots, and in the second issue of Banana Panic!, he takes on the dreaded H1N1 virus in the form of horrible giant pig monsters.
“The humor really comes from being able to take a serious, threatening situation and put a talking monkey into it, and it’s funny,” he continues. “At the end of the comic, I include a public service announcement on how to avoid the virus.”
Hoffman, along with independent comic book artist Derek Hunter, recently made an appearance during the national Free Comic Book Day at Blackcat Comics in Sugar House on May 1, 2010.
For more information on Banana Panic! visit http://www.bananapanic.com.
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