They’ve Got The Moves and The Motion: Andy Burns on Marvel’s New Motion Comics

Earlier this year to coincide with the release of Watchmen, Warner and DC Animation released the Watchmen Motion Comic DVD/Blu-Ray, a 12 part/4 hour series that first debut on iTunes last year. The concept behind the motion comic was pretty simple – take the original comic (panels, word balloons et all) and add minimalist animation/motion, a score, and narration. I didn’t watch the release at the time of the film, but finally a few months ago I put the Blu-Ray into the player and sat back to watch Watchmen.

It was without question one of the best animated experiences I’d had in some time. Seeing and hearing the original dialogue gave me a new appreciation for the series, an appreciation that the live action film didn’t renew in me.

This past weekend at Fan Expo, the folks at Marvel unveiled to Canadian audiences their two new entries into the world of motion comics. The first is an original Spider-Woman series written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Alex Maleev. The two of them spent years together on Daredevil, creating what I consider to be my favourite run of comics ever. In the hands of Bendis, Spider-Woman has become one of the most important characters in the Marvel Universe over the past decade. The motion comic picks up not long after the end of Marvel’s Secret Invasion. Unlike the Watchmen Motion Comic, which used one male actor to voice all the characters (superbly done, by the way), Spider-Woman, along with the other Marvel motion comic, features a cast of voice actors. The work is decent, though I wonder if I’m the only one who didn’t know Jessica Drew spoke with a British accent. As far as story and art go, Spider-Woman has the goods. Maleev’s art is stunning, as usual.

(Sidenote: when I commended Alex Maleev on his work on the motion comic, he smiled, shook his head, and said “all I can see are the mistakes”.)

Though I didn’t feel it was as immersive as the Watchmen Motion Comic, Spider-Woman was a unique experience on its own.

Arguably more accessible was the second Marvel motion comic, Astonishing X-Men: Gifted, adapted from the series written by Joss Whedon and illustrated by John Cassaday, who also serves as the motion comic’s co-director. Unlike Spider-Woman, which begins its life in animation before it moves to the printed page, Astonishing X-Men: Gifted was written as a comic book first and that’s what you watch come to life. Moving lips and minimal moving bodies, this feels closer to the Watchmen Motion Comic. It’s also significantly brighter than Spider-Woman and probably more kid friendly as well.

Both Spider-Woman and Astonishing X-Men: Gifted are two drastically different entries into the motion comics world, which is exactly what Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada was looking for. Because the technology is in its infancy, now is the perfect time to be testing it. Personally, while I’m a huge Bendis/Maleev fan, I preferred the Astonishing X-Men, simply because it felt like the best animated take on the X-Men in years.

During the Fan Expo Marvel Motion Comics seminar, I asked Joe Quesada whether or not there were plans to release both Spider-Woman and Astonishing X-Men: Gifted on DVD or Blu-Ray once their initial release on iTunes is completed. His not-so-cryptic answer was “stay tuned”, which is exactly what a Marvel fan would want to hear. The straight-to-DVD Marvel releases have been sadly lacking over the last few years, so putting both these series out there will go a long way to fixing that issue.

Quesada also talked about how he hopes to see core storylines such as Daredevil: Born Again put into the motion comics format. While that would indeed be cool, I hope the next one out of the gate will be something mammoth, such as Secret Invasion or Civil War.

Spider-Woman is available now on iTunes in the U.S and will be released later this month on iTunes in Candada. An official date for Astonishing X-Men: Gifted on iTunes is coming soon.

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