There has pretty much been only two ways to enjoy reading comics. First is traditional print, which has worked for the medium for decades – and continues to do so. Secondly, there’s digital comics which have come into their own in the past 5 years thanks to services like Comixology and Marvel Unlimited. Well, now there is a new way you can experience comics – Tubecomics. Developed by Black Mask Studios, Tubecomics uses the power of YouTube to allow you to binge watch comics on your favourite device.
I decided to watch a few of these Tubecomics to see what they were all about and if it had any potential for those new to comics. In this review I will focus more on the delivery system and production of Tubecomics instead of the actual comics themselves. I’ll look to see if this would be a good way to introduce someone into comics and if watching comics on YouTube is a bit of a gimmick, or if it has some legitimacy to it.
So how does it work? Essentially, it’s an animatic of a comic with music, dialogue and sound effects. The camera flows panel-to-panel in a very similar fashion to that of Comixology’s guided view does. The word balloons have been removed from the art and haa been replaced with spoken dialogue from voice actors. Added on top of all that is a soundtrack and sound effects when the mood of the narrative fits. Take Five Ghosts, as seen above, which has dramatic music during the more adventure focus scenes but is more silent in the one-to-one moments. Overall, Tubecomics is a more passive way of experiencing a comic with the pacing set for the reader – similar in the way to motion comics or a television show.
In regards to the episodes I watched there seemed to be strong production values. The dialogue sounded like it was read by voice actors, which meant their voices were emotive and fitted the mood of the scene. The sound effects and soundtrack I assume are from an audio library, but were carefully curated to match the mood of the comic. Finally, the transitions from panel-to-panel are mostly smooth with different effects and techniques used to single out panels when needed.
At the moment there are 5 comics available as part of service, with new episodes added weekly and a new series expected each month. These are either comics published by Black Mask Studios or in the case of Five Ghosts and Hack/Slash have connections to deals to the publishers in other mediums eg television. Each series have their own dedicated YouTube channel, so you can subscribe and not miss an episode. At launch there are the following series Ballistic, 12 Reasons To Die, Five Ghosts, Liberator and Hack/Slash.
If you are strictly a print-only fan I don’t think Tubecomics is going to win you over. But at the same time I don’t think that it would be specifically aimed at you. I see Tubecomics as an introductory tool for people who are new to the comics medium – giving them a way to experience comics in a way that might be more familiar to them. Hopefully by seeing these videos they will curious about the comics and want to dive in deeper.
I think it would also be good for those who want to dip their toes into Black Mask Studios’ catalogue to get a taste of what they have to offer. I think Black Mask has anticipated this with a block at the end of every video giving viewers the option to purchase the particular comic series you have just watched in print, along with selected merchandise. Although, at the time of watching, the clickable links were not present so I could not click through to Amazon or the Black Mask online store. Hopefully this is rectified in future videos or could be compensated by putting all the relative information in the description below.
Overall, I don’t see Tubecomics as something that will take over the comic industry as the definitive way of enjoying comics. This is more just an alternative option which with the right marketing and a bit of time could help create new readers and make more people aware of Black Mask Studio’s comics. If they continue to keep releasing episodes with the same high production values and fix the marketing aspect at the end of each video I believe that Tubecomics could easily pick up a cult following of new and current comics fans.