US e-publisher Underwater Samurai Studios Publishing have just released their first made for digital comic, Soldiers Zero, utilising technology developed by Irish iphone comics makers Infurious Republic, the creators of digital titles such as Beatnik High and the controversial Murderdrome, which was created by PJ Holden and Al Ewing.
Written by Rob McClellan with art by Martin Montiel (The Darkness, Legendary), Chris Summers (G.I. Joe) and Charles Pritchett (Noble Causes), the first issue of Soldiers Zero follows the exploits of four prototype super-soldiers deployed to Afghanistan in August 2007, and the tragedy that befalls them.
UWS say the great-looking adventure strip, which runs to 185 screens and costs just 99 cents, is the start of an ongoing digital comic series made exclusively for the digital market, and the first salvo in a bold digital publishing agenda.
Back in January, Rob McClellan, who is a US naval officer, and his two partners Tim Welch and Tom James, formed UWS Publishing to produce content primarily for digital devices, a drastic departure from the current approach to publishing.
"People keep telling me that comics can only make money in print, but there are over five million iPhones out there being used every day," says McClellan.
"Even a quarter of a percent of iphone market share is 12,500 downloads – that's much better than most books by small publishers would ever do in print."
While the digital comic market is something now finally being embraced by large publishers such as Marvel, Rob feels there are opportunities for strong independent titles on mobile.
“I don't view this as a competition thing, actually” he says “Marvel's entrance to the scene is a fantastic indicator for digital comics. By placing their comics to the iphone, they are legitimizing this type of content and bringing a lot of die hard paper fans to the small screen. I think it's fantastic – the better they do, the better the digital comics market will do.”
To provide that quality experience, the UWS team felt it was imperative that the app perfectly synchronize with the book and, after a lengthy search, the right comic book app materialized from a small, Irish software company, Infurious Republic, the team behind Infurious Comics.
Over Skype, Rob and Philip Orr, the CEO of Infurious Republic, hammered out the details and, three prototypes later, settled on the app for Soldiers. The final result, feel the UWS team, is a digital comic experience unlike anything else currently on the market.
The navigation method for the Soldiers app is a simple tap on the far right or left sides of the screen and the word balloons can be removed to allow for better appreciation of the artwork. The reader can also quickly access "visual scrolling", a unique feature which yields fast, accurate navigation through the issue's 185 screens of content. Screen advances are quick, but subtle. The effect is a surprisingly easy and effortless read.
"Going digital required thinking a little differently," says McClellan. "There are a lot of differences between digital and print. We made Soldiers around those differences, fully accepting them and the result is a comic that feels organic to the device.
"I think it will change how people look at digital comics."
At a time when more and more books are gravitating to large Digital Comic Distributors such as iVerse and Comixology, Soldiers stands on its own. "We felt that putting the book behind an "in-app" purchasing application added another barrier for readers to get to our comic," says Rob. "Anyone can search for Soldiers in the app store, or link directly to it and share via blogs, e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook. We wanted to be able to capitalize on the impulse buy nature of digital."
Asked about his digital focused approach, Rob replied, "I realize that many feel this is a risk, but this is where we are going. A year ago video games were only played on massive systems, but now they're everywhere on the iphone. The digital comic audience is rapidly expanding and they're hungry for quality content.”
• Buy Soldiers on iTunes via this link, or search iTunes for “soldiers zero”.