A small step for comics but a great leap for digital native graphic storytelling
The newly founded studio Pencil United creates comics designed to be read exclusively on touchscreens. Unlike the big mainstream publishers who are stuck with the limitations of printed pages when they digitize comic books, Pencil United embraces the possibilities of the digital medium for graphic storytelling unlike any other. A first taste of the independent studio’s unique reading experience, the drama series Northern Souls, will be available early in 2016 when the Pencil United app is released in the App Store. For every episode that is downloaded through the app the studio will buy UNICEF pencils to support children’s learning and creativity.
The truth about digitally published comics today is that they are still in most cases repurposed print and the reading interfaces are the results of making comic book pages readable on different screens. The business models of print publishers to capitalize on comic books in two different media are causing limitations for the digital experience and its potential.
Pencil United’s basic philosophy is, as Scott McCloud has put it “to embrace the digital environment as the native soil – and plant in that soil what could never grow anywhere else.” The Swedish studio believes that there has long been a curiosity for what the digital medium could add to comics but that it seems as if true innovation is only going to come from small independent creators that are detached from the conventions of the print business.
Pencil United’s reading interface is not an experimental display that makes it hard to follow but rather a smooth seamless reading line where the reader at his or her own pace makes the action of the story float by the window of the screen.
As a part of Pencil United’s belief in the power of stories and the importance of learning, creativity and humanism for development in the world, the studio has decided that for each and every download through the Pencil United app they will buy five pencils from UNICEF who will distribute them to schools all over the world.