10 Questions With…John Freeman of Rok Comics

1. Who are you and what are you working on right now? (2 questions in 1, I know!)

I’m John Freeman, Managing Editor of audio comics publisher ROK Comics (www.rokcomics.com/www.booksthatrok.com). I’ve been working on our Beatles Story and OG Niki music comics today, about the eponymous rap artist, and looking at a couple of new projects I can’t talk about at this point except to say that they will significantly add to our growing digital-only comics list

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2. What drew you to digital comics?

I have files on my computer going back to 2002-3 when I first started looking at digital comics. Experimentation took off when I moved to ROK Comics in 2008, where we created a platform for the upload of creator-owned strips which along with some licensed comics – Roy of the Rovers, for one – we offered a WAP-based comics service to a variety of telecoms around the world. The service ran largely abroad – with significant pick up in India and Pakistan, where mobiles, not PCs, are consumer access point to the Net.
We’re now creating comic apps with added audio soundtracks, animation etc – but for me the actual comic is the core of every offering.

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3. Webcomics or digital comics?

I don’t see the difference. The web and mobile devices are simply another way of reaching the comic audience – and, hopefully, growing it.

4. What do you think works with digital comics?

Availability, reaching a global audience, and they look great – no worries about bad printing!

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5. Can digital comics replace print comics?

They’re an extension of the form, not a replacement. You can do things in print that you can’t do digitally and vice versa. If you are creating a good comic people want to read then the “bells and whistles” as I call them, don’t matter.

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6. How can print comics work with digital comics?

If your web or digital comic is a success I’m sure print publishers will be interested in creating more permanent collections, perhaps with added extras that are only available as hard copy. It’s clear there is still a fondness for the tactile nature of print for many.

7. What don’t you like about digital comics?

You’re battling for attention in a very crowded marketplace which some major players are seeking to dominate by saturating that market with whatever they can, some of it below par – just like they did in the direct comic sales market, to the detriment of our industry in the 1990s. And you’re not just battling for attention with comic publishers. For example there are what, 18,000 book titles on the UK iTunes store aimed specifically at children. Getting your project attention is a major part of the battle to achieve a good sales volume.

You’re competing not just with other comics, but free comics – by that I mean comics being put out for free by creators and publishers trying to build brand, not pirated scans – and with other medium vying for consumers money in the digital marketplace. That’s a major issue for digital publishers large and small that print doesn’t have – if your consumer walks into a comic shop it’s (usually) to buy a comic, not a game, a soundtrack or another book genre. Online, you’re up against them alll.

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8. What digital comics/webcomics do you read?

Our own, obviously individual comics like 2000AD, the Dandy and STRIP Magazine, some Marvel and DC titles, independent material via container apps like Lush, publishers like Tabella, Panel Nine is putting out is excellent. I’m looking forward to reading Egmont’s Charleys’ War collections.

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9. Where do you see digital comics going from here?

We’ll continue to see a lot of experimentation to push the comics form – interactivity, apps that play to the strengths of specific devices to engage readers – there’s no end of things that can be done, providing you have the budget or dedication. But the bottom line is that you still have to produce good, well written as well as well drawn comics to grab your audience – and be able to promote them. You can throw every gimmick in the world into the mix but it won’t make a badly created comic better.

10. Who do you think we should look out for in digital comics?

Us, I hope! 🙂

There are a huge number of publishers out there doing great stuff, from the big guns like Marvel through to start ups like Madefire and Panel Nine.


“10 Questions With” is to be a interview session with digital comics creators – there’s a lot of great people I’ve got lined up and I hope you enjoy seeing what the creators are interested in.


If you are a digital creator and am interested in participating, please contact me!

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