June 4, 2013 at 8:31 PM ET
Comics giant DC is giving its digital comics a high-tech makeover, adding heroes that move and reader-determined storylines. It's the latest move by high-profile comic publishers to make their digital titles more than scanned versions of the paper comics — but it's also not without risks.
In a press release, DC announced that two upcoming "Digital-First" titles would add the next-generation features.
The retro-style "Batman '66," based on the original (and hokey) TV show, will feature "dynamic artwork," such as characters entering and leaving frame, punches landing, and so on. "Batman: Arkham Origins," a tie-in with the upcoming console game, will allow the reader to make choices during the comic, such as which villains to pursue or what tactics to use against them.
DC's longtime rival, Marvel, is also experimenting with multimedia comics. In March, the company showed off a comic at South by Southwest with a custom soundtrack that adapts to your reading style.
In a way, both are borrowing a page (so to speak) from high-tech e-books with built-in narration and music, something that's existed on phones and tablets for years, and from interactive fiction, a tradition that goes back to the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books from the last century.
The trouble is that an interactive, multi-path or scored version of a comic necessarily takes more time, money and effort to create. While DC didn't disclose any pricing information, it wouldn't be unexpected if these enhanced editions set readers back a bit more than the vanilla versions.
Batman's core comics won't be affected by these offshoots, though, so don't worry about killing off the Dark Knight by accident. But don't be surprised if some of these new features make their way to the "canon" titles: DC says its digital business grew 125 percent over the last year, so downloaded (and perhaps multimedia) comics are here to stay.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.