10 Questions With Tapio Miettinen of Tunnel Ground

It’s another bout of 10 questions with someone involved with digital comics!

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

I’m, Tapio Miettinen, industrial designer, comic artist and game graphics illustrator. Co-founder of Tunnel Ground inc. and one of the creators of both the comic and game that go by the same name as the company. Currently I’m working on the second installment of the comic, we’ve planned it out to be 3-4 48-page issues, which would make a nice 100+ page paperback with all parts combined.. I’m also working on the graphics of the game, which is an ever evolving project as we keep learning stuff on both fronts(comics and games) and ideas pass back and forth between the different medias. We are also looking into getting a printed version out in the near future, locally and internationally.

2. What drew you to digital comics?

I’m pretty much on the computer most of my idle time, I draw(work) on it too. Preferring digital comics is a inevitable result. The flexibility of the tools for working with digital art, as well as communicating with other artists makes the digital format something I find it would be quite hard to live without these days.

3. Webcomics or digital comics?

Hard to say really, the line between them are quite thin I think. Some webcomics are exactly like digital comics, and vice versa. But if we take the stereotype, I would say I feel more involved in comics that have a linear storyline that goes past one page, so in that sense I would say digital comics. Web comics, or newspaper type strip comics are fun, but I read them on a really irregular basis. Both reading formats could be refine with the digital format in mind, the thinking is still very much in line with printing on paper. I think this will change a lot in the comic years, the touch screens of tablets making for some rather interesting possibilities.

4. What do you think works with digital comics?

Portability is a great benefit. One tablet can store quite a lot of comics, everything I have on my shelf would fit into a iPad. Not to mention reading webcomics doesn’t even need you to store your stuff on the portable device. It’s also quite easy to share stuff with friends, just link to the homepage of the creator, send a screenshot, like on Facebook etc. Also, we’ve already seen it on the games side of the media, users might actually be able to affect the storyline. It’s up the creators to judge if the users view on the matter carries enough weight to warrant a change. Something I think is much less likely to happen with printed media.

5. Can digital comics replace print comics?

I think with new generations of people growing up with tablet computers, internet, mobile phones and so on, that the need for printed products is diminishing. Especially if we move to digital school books as well, then the overall appreciation of the need for printed media will become very questionable. I would guess this will be a personal issue for many, and also very dependent on parenting. With amazon selling more digital books than traditional, I would say that yes, digital comics can replace print comics. Why? Because it’s the content that matters, not the format they are viewed from. It’s more of a technical question, as screens get better and better all the time, computers become smaller etc. Ten years from now, i f you can hold a lightweight sheet in your hand that has the power of a desktop PC and twice the resolution of the newest tablets, what would you really want a book for? Nostalgia is the only thing I see as reason. And if you’ve grown up without paper media, then there’s no nostalgia to sell. Lastly, with most things moving to cloud servers, you can basically never lose your content. Your device might be destroyed, but all your digital belongings are safe somewhere else.

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6. How can print comics work with digital comics?

Well, they still target different market places, and different audiences, so they do work together in that sense. Some interaction between the two is possible, the digital version can change to some variable given in the printed version, but the printed product cannot change once printed. The development of the content and structure of comics, traditional and digital, hasn’t really evolved that much in a long time, I think creators who look critically at this issue will be successful in the future.

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

I’d be inclined to say nothing. If you port them directly from the traditional style to digital format, i.e. page per page, there’s nothing more wrong with digital than with printed media. So then it’s a question of hardware, or adding things that aren’t even available in printed media. For example if someone pasted the digital comic full with ad banners that would lead to shady sites, I’d be disliking pretty much. I guess what I dislike about digital comics is that producers can, if they want, ruin it with too much stuff not pertaining to the actual comic.

8. What digital comics/webcomics do you read?

I’ve been reading randomly from the Dark Horse comics app lately, some decent stuff in there. I downloaded the Marvel app just to check it out, actually ended up reading some in the process. I’ve re-read some of the digitalized works of Masamune Shirow that really affected me back in the late nineties. One of the few weekly web comics(that I read about monthly) I read these days is Servants of the Imperium, which is situated in the universe of a well known tabletop game. I also read Gone with the Blastwave, which is very funny in it’s darkly cynical style.

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

I think the path ahead is strongly, if no completely, dictated by the evolution of the tablets, which are the premiere reading platform for digital comics, and probably for web comics as well. Lately I’ve read some frame-by-frame comics on the phone, which worked nicely for that format. I’d like to see options to choose the method of going forward and back, so that you could “hotkey” functions for the comic. Tilt right would be turn page, tilt forward for zoom and so on. Perhaps the future of the digital comic would be more or less like a moving images show, with perhaps a little animation thrown into some frames and their content, to create a sort of animated comic, which is still far enough away from animated movies to be a genre of it’s own. I could see a future where the border between, movies, games and comics is a really thin one. It’s just a matter of degree chosen. And that would be interesting indeed.

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

I’d be looking out for new companies that are using multiple media as their form of expression in creating entertainment. They are most likely to create combinations of different technologies that work. Blizzard has made some interesting pseudo comic-animation-3d story intervals in Diablo 3 for example. I would expect that kind of media to be very popular on it’s own. And since most, if not all major publishers are going digital, and all new ones are probably focusing on digital first. So keep an extra eye out for the mixed media comics, as well as the more traditional stuff done in digital.

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