On June 4 at the Time Warner Center in New York, NY, DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson and DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee announced two new forms of interactive digital comic formats the publisher will soon be releasing: DC² and DC²: Multiverse.
Lee explained that DC² stands for DC Dynamic Canvas, a specially developed way for DC to make digital comics interactive, intended to appeal to new or casual fans as well as dedicated DC readers. To ensure a broad appeal, the first two interactive stories are based on the 1960s Batman TV show and the upcoming video game "Batman: Arkham Origins."
"Batman '66" is an ideal choice for DC², Lee said, due to its all-ages appeal and the metatextual quality of the source TV show. The interactive comic is designed to be read in landscape mode, making it an ideal fit for computers or tablets. Each click or tap of the screen reveals a new element on the "page," such as the appearance of a new character or a new line of dialogue in reaction to the displayed action, or reveals a new panel entirely. The pacing is still up to the reader.
"These elements can overlap. It really is about unlocking creativity," Lee remarked. "When Batman and Robin climb up the side of a skyscraper, you can actually now tap on the screen and heads will pop out [from the windows] as opposed to just putting the same panel next to that image, with the heads added in."
DC²: Multiverse takes the experience even further, adding a soundtrack and sound effects to the comic, though there is no voice acting, as well as a choose your own adventure-style feature. In "Batman: Arkham Origins" (a supplemental prelude to the upcoming game), the reader can follow the story up to a point where a choice must be made. For instance, Catwoman and Batman may decide to tackle different foes simultaneously. In such an event, the reader may choose to follow what Catwoman does, with Batman rejoining the story after completing his own goal elsewhere.
Another portion of the story involves Commissioner Gordon telling Batman of three situations where his assistance could be valuable, leaving it to the reader to decide which emergency should be addressed. If the reader later decides they would have preferred taking a different path, they can go back and make a different choice. It was hinted that readers who made wise choices in the story could expect rewards.
Lee was quick to point out that the DC² comics are not comparable to a motion comic. "It's all about retaining the active process of reading a comic book, rather than say the more passive experience or process of watching a cartoon. I think there are casual fans who might feel that comics are too analog, or they don't know what a comic book reading experience is like, but they can understand this experience better because it's something they can actually interact with. It's something that's probably more all-ages friendly as opposed to the deep continuity we offer in [printed] comics."
DC was not yet prepared to announce how DC² and DC²: Multiverse will be released to consumers, with "Batman '66" and "Batman: Arkham Origins" the only titles far enough along in development to discuss at this time. Lee said that DC Entertainment is currently looking towards making new content that relates to a mass market appeal, through television or video games, rather than immediately adapting previously released stories, though these plans may change in the future. Currently, there are no interactive Superman stories in production, despite "Man of Steel" landing in theaters soon. It was also said that with some further discussion and planning, eventually DC² and DC²: Multiverse could be released in print form as well.
"We're focused on broad distribution, across many platforms," Nelson said. "We feel digital offers a wide range of new opportunities to enhance the storytelling experience. Everything ultimately comes back to delivering first class content and that's really how the business began for us."
Nelson said that DC Entertainment "changed the game" of comic distribution when it began releasing same-day digital releases of all its new comic books, while DC's digital first comics are the future of storytelling. What's more, she remarked that matching new comics with video games, such as with the current "Injustice: Gods Among Us" title, based on NetherRealm Studios' fighting game, has proven to be highly popular and is an indicator of future successes.
"Last year, we experienced 125% in sales growth versus the previous year, and that growth was not at the expense of print sales which were up double digits themselves. We really believe that the digital reading experience offers an opportunity for enhanced interactivity with our consumers and with great stories."