Uclick a division of Andrews McMeel Universal which is a syndicate and publisher of humour based content has announced the launch of a new mobile comic strip called Thunder Road. This is to be delivered through their gocomics mobile reader which is available through operators in the US and the UK. Uclick produce other content products for mobile as well including games and Japanese Manga. Manga on the mobile has been steadily growing in Japan over the past four years and now has over 300 titles and the total value of the Japanese mobile Manga market in 2006 was USD20 million. Some of these Manga titles now bypass print altogether and go straight to mobile just like Thunder Road.
What is interesting about the growth of mobile comics is that they require mobile readers in order to have a satisfactory experience. The gocomics reader is a java based application whilst many of the Japanese readers are flash lite based. They both effectively allow for page scrolling with one complete art panel at a time available on screen. Could this be a driver in the war of App against WAP? It is clear that with many different types of content their true potential cannot be delivered through browsers. There have been fits and starts in the traditional online comic industry and this may have been largely due to the computer screen and browsers not necessarily being the right place to deliver comic content. Most of these online comic producers resort to using technologies such as flash or e-zines to distribute their content in an enjoyable and meaningful way.
Once again we are faced with the question of what is the best way to deliver content on the mobile. As mobile content is evolving more and more with the increasing adoption of smarter and smarter phones, it is clear that the answer will not be a clear cut as we might have hoped. The way forward seems to be that the format and relevance of the content will determine how it is presented. As far as comics go, Mobile may well be the way in which they digitally truly come into their own.