Murderdrome One Year On…

Murderdrome was an iPhone comic, created by Al Ewing (Script), PJ Holden (Art), Phil Orr (Programming).

And here’s how it came about …

8th July 2009 – I came up with the basic design of an iPhone comic, how it would work, the essence of a business model, etc. At this point, on the app store there are literally six or seven other comic apps on the there – none of which approach comics the way I felt they should be. And yet, I figured what I wanted to do was, surely, the most obvious thing. (see wiki where the original details are noted)

I hash out the specifics of the interface, and sit on it, waiting for an opportunity to learn how to program (see full details of the interface here). At this point I was still working part time as an IT supervisor for a charity.

I had some high ambitions, firstly I felt that the only thing worth doing was entirely new content; I couldn’t see how you could chop up existing material and make it readable (and given some of the apps out there that butcher existing comic material, I’m not convinced I was wrong…)

I’d mulled over the idea of open sourcing the app – allowing any comic creator to download and realise material in this way.

And the extras I wanted to put in are still far ahead of what anyone is presently doing.

The business model, which, for me, was the least important bit, but it was, ultimately,  the thing that everyone around me got the most excited about. Even a simple calculation suggested that the iPhone comic model could be a multi-million pound industry. I offered the following simple example:

Take the top selling comic on the market today (at time of writing this article, it’s BATMAN and ROBIN #1 with sales of 168,604)

Now, assume your ENTIRE iPhone comic market can sell the numbers of that single comic per month, in other words, assume the total, potential, cumulative sales of all iPhone comics adds up to JUST the sales of the single best selling print comic.

(Is that a reasonable assumption to make? well, when you’re dealing with speculation in an untested/unknown area, it’s pretty hard to make any kind of guess, but this, at the time, seemed a reasonable way to estimate the potential market.)

Assume you’re selling iPhone comics for $.99 – then your total market per annum is worth just over 2 million dollars.

(As an aside, Apple will take 30% of the $.99, leaving $.69 for the creators, for a print comic, the figures get much more complex and murky, but, simplistically, a print comic will return, assuming a distribution cost of 60% – leaves you with $1.79, then you have to pay for print – which will decrease per issue, but, assuming it’s $.40 you’re looking at a return for creators of $1.39 – that may look like it’s more profitable in print, but your profits from print may not appear at all – you have to pay the printers, often, before you get any money returned from the distributor, leaving cash flow problems that can scupper even popular books. The apple money comes to you without costing you anything more than a once a year fee of $99. In other words, the $.69 of each sales happens on each sale regardless of the sale of the enterprise, print’s demands are much greater)

And those are the lo-ball figures. It was enough to make you and everyone around you giddy. THIS is why digital comics are interesting from a publishers perspective.

Then, on the 31th of July my friend Matt Johnston was married and, at his wedding, I met Phil Orr. Phil had seen what I wanted to do and we decided to let Phil code the app while I started into Murderdrome.

Murderdrome was originally written by Al as a webcomic, we wanted to work together and Al dusted off Murderdrome (originally drawn by Simon Penter) and I set to work adapting the comic art for the iPhone format.

Two weeks later we submitted it to apple. And waited.

Two weeks after that, Apple rejected the app and the rest is a very minor blip in the history of digital comics.

Updated Just wanted to add: the comic strip below, the TWO page full colour strip, was the entire murderdrome comic – it was on the strength of those two pages that everything followed from. Bizarre, innit 🙂