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Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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Everyone’s favorite duo, Drake and Kevin Spacey, invested in a VR comic book startup

madefire
Everyone’s favorite duo, Drake and Kevin Spacey, invested in a VR comic book startup

Drake and Kevin Spacey. Two peas in a pod. The dynamic duo. Best friends for life, probably.

Our favorite twofer is at it again—this time with news of a recent investment in a new motion comic books company. Madefire, an Oculus-partnered business, is seeking to bring digital comic books into the virtual world. That means making them 3D with depth of field, ambient sound, fluid panel transitions, and even bedazzling the panels with motion effects, thus bringing them to “life.”

“Virtual reality creates a whole new grammar of storytelling for comic artists,” artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) told the crowd at a panel at New York Comic Con.

Bedazzles the panels with motion effects

Thanks to $6.5 million in Series B funding, partly courtesy of The 6 God and Frank Underwood themselves, Madefire is now developing a VR app where any artist can share their VR comics for free. Those could be comics that are custom-made for the platform—like Dave Gibbons’s Madefire-exclusive Treatment—or merely adapted for the new medium. Madefire wants readers to bask in the details of a comic, rather than skim them by. Instead of reading a single page at a time, as you might do in a dusty ol’ paperback comic book, Madefire moves through a comic even slower: panel by panel.

In an interview with TechRadar, CEO and co-founder of Madefire Ben Wolstenholme noted that where print readers typically speed through comics, VR readers savor the experience more. For a stark comparison, users on Madefire read an estimated page per minute for VR comics, compared to the four to ten seconds in a typical print read, according to studies from the Visual Linguist Blog. That doesn’t mean that print readers don’t respect comics; perhaps it means that VR is a more attention-demanding experience, and our eyes and brains aren’t trained to process reading it as fast. Also, admiring a close-up of a particular panel in VR is a bit easier than, say, nearly pressing your nose to the paper.

An example of the depth of field possible within Madefire.
An example of the depth of field possible within Madefire.

Some of the current lineup for Madefire includes Injustice: Gods Among Us and Spectrum (both included in the app’s demo), as well as the concise digital-only comics by Blizzard for both Overwatch and World of Warcraft. With Madefire, encourages readers to take their time with what could be a prohibitively short print comic. As a certain investor might say—comics started from the paper, now the whole team VR.

You can try a demo of the Madefire app in the Oculus Store now for the Samsung Gear VR. Its app is set to release to the public sometime in the next few months.

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