For the past few years Marvel and DC comics have both been experimenting with an old concept with new technology in the way of motion comics. When I was a kid we had a VHS copy of a classic Justice League of America tale where Lex Luthor had trapped the JLA, using each of their weaknesses against them. I remember one image in particular in which the Martian Manhunter’s hands and feet were bound and large flames were being shot at him. At the time, “motion comics” were really just someone physically taking a video of a comic with pans, zooms and tilts across the pages while someone did a voice over to narrate the action and provide the voices. But today, technology has led to the comic images coming to life in front of our very eyes.
Marvel has been at the forefront of Motion Comics as they find success with titles like Astonishing X-Men, Spider-Woman and Iron Man: Extremis. DC has only had a few ventures with titles like Watchmen while Image produced a motion comic for The Walking Dead and Dark Horse produced the critically acclaimed Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 8. The first time I ever watched a motion comic I was skeptical. How would some of this art hold up? Was it going to be like I remembered as a kid? How could a “motion” comic get such high praise like Buffy Season 8? All questions would be answered as I witnessed first-hand the quality, the care, and the attention to detail these companies all put into their work. While motion comics are still in the somewhat “experimental” phase it would seem, they appear to be a growing trend. To use a pun, I was astonished at the animation, the art, the graphics and the voice work in The Astonishing X-Men. It is quite easily my favorite that I’d seen so far. Though I must admit the black and white style of The Walking Dead seems to be more easily translated and it almost appears more cartoonish than any of the others.
They aren’t without their faults though. Iron Man Extremis seemingly lost me after the first episode. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as the others I’d seen. At the same time, DC’s Watchmen has a runtime of around 6 hours with its 12 issues running between 25-30 minutes each. As much as I love the book, it’s not something I think I could sit through all at once. But as I said before, this is somewhat of a resurgence of an older style so it’s going to be hit or miss this early on. Marvel however seems to be having more hits than misses. Astonishing X-Men artist John Cassaday had the following to say about the adaptation of his work. “I’d seen some motion comic animation, and the quality varied. When Marvel approached me, I was initially hesitant, but after looking at some test footage and hearing how committed they were, I knew what direction they were wanting to go.” Whether or not motion comics continue to be a rising trend is still to be seen, but in the meantime I think they warrant a look. Many are available through iTunes, Netflix Instant, and even DVD.