INTERVIEW: Sam Gwilym on The Comique App

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Paddy Lynch made me aware of the Comique app, a tiny comics App where the comics are made for your phone. I thought this would be of interest to Irish creators and comics fans alike so I decided to ask Sam Gwilym, the developer and designer of Comique, about this new outlet for comics.

Since the app relates to comics, I assume you’re a comics fan?

Absolutely. As a kid I read a lot of Asterix, Tintin, Calvin & Hobbes, followed by an inevitable manga obsession, followed by an explosive appetite for webcomics. It’s why I’ve been drawing and making comics for a much longer time than I’ve been programming.

What made you decide to create the app?

Last year there was a very popular comics exhibit at our city scriptorium. They’d put together a great show, and somewhere in there was a glass case containing these fantastically named Dick Bos comics from the 40s. They were about the size of matchbox, and because of that they could only really fit one panel of ordinary comic action per matchbox-sized page. It was kind of funny reading such tiny pages if you’re used to huge beautiful spreads, but you actually gain a lot of control of pacing and rhythm when every moment hangs on a page turn.

In any case, I was really captured by the format. It wasn’t hard for me to imagine people reading their Dick Bossies (as they were called at the time) while they waited for the tram in the 1940s. Nowadays you see the same scene — except it’s a smartphone in their hands. Digital comics publishing is growing year over year, comic makers need readers, and there are now more smartphones than desktops. That made me believe that there’s a space for comics made just for smartphones, as well as a good way to read them.

Can you tell us a little about the features of the app?

A lot of comics apps have a heavy focus on making comics something they’re not — tacking sound and motion onto comics which were never made with that in mind. And in the case of smartphones, reading comics that are often ten times larger than the device you’re looking at them with.

In contrast, Comique is a really light, focused experience: it’s just about finding comics and reading them. And it’s really unique in that the comics sold are made from scratch for that pocket-sized format, with legible text and action that can be read at arm’s length.

All comics have a number of pages that you can read for free, and after that you can decide whether to buy the comic and add it to your library. There’s a few other little things, like being able to share the pagelet you’re looking at, but for the most part I’ve concentrated on making it a very fluid reading experience. And it’s paid off: I think our readers really like it that way.
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How can comic creators be a part of it?

Comique’s been really lucky in having the support of some top-notch comic creators from the beginning. People like Jesse Tise, Tyler Landry, Muriel Fogarty, Gloria Rivera, Ramon Sierra, Will Tempest, Yuliya Sobotyuk… and from artists who have been quietly working on comics for this year like Mathilde Kitteh and Valentin Seiche.

But it’s a new year, and we’d like to invite anyone to come and try for themselves, so there’s a whole web app just for comic creators at http://artists.comique.co. It’s a comic publishing platform you might actually want to use. There’s a drag and drop UI for uploading and submitting your comics, live sales charts, and much more besides. You receive a 60% royalty on all received proceeds, and you can choose the price of your comic yourself. If you’d like to know more, it’s all up there, so check it out!

There are around 70 comic makers signed up already, and I’ve seen some fantastic stuff in the works for this year. It’s very exciting. My personal wish is to see some serialised stories soon.

I became aware of app as Irish creator, Paddy Lynch, posted about it. You’re based in the Netherlands, did you envisage it becoming an international app?

In the beginning I could only hope! I mean, it makes a certain amount of sense as the internet sort of shrinks the world, but I still consider myself very lucky to get to work with people from Canada, Japan, France, America, or the UK on any given day. There’s got to be some upside to globalisation, right?

The catalog we have has a slightly off-kilter feel to it that I like, and I think it’s because we’re publishing such a broad range of voices. And I’d love to add some Irish voices to that mix. The more the merrier!

It’s an iOS app. Do you have any plans to do an Android version?

At the moment, I’m the only developer for Comique and it’s still early days. This year I’d like to make sure we can make one set of customers happy and prove that Comique has staying power. The more comics we publish and the more sustainable it becomes for both myself and the artists we publish, the closer an Android version gets. It’s just a matter of time.

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You can download the app here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/comique/id851758628?ls=1&mt=8