Madefire just launched the iPhone (and iPod Touch) version of its comics-reading app, expanding beyond the iPad and optimizing the experience for a smaller screen.
The company has recruited some impressive names both inside and outside the comics world, with an advisory board that includes well-known comics artists Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) and Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra: Assassin), plus Automattic CEO Toni Schneider, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue, and angel investor/former Apple SVP Sina Tamaddon. Madefire has raised seed funding from True Ventures (where Schneider is a venture partner), Tamaddon, and others.
This isn’t just another app offering traditional comic books in a tablet- or smartphone-optimized form. Instead, Madefire’s creators are developing content specifically designed for these devices. That means adding animation, music, and sound effects, but co-founder Ben Wolstenholme has also argued that Madefire’s “motion books” are “a reading experience, actively controlled by the reader,” rather than the more passive experience offered by “motion comics.” Content on Madefire takes the form of short episodes which, like the app itself, are currently offered for free.
The iPhone app includes six titles, including Treatment, a science fiction action series created by Gibbons. (When Madefire launched in June, the available Treatment episodes were actually written by Robbie Morrison and drawn by various artists, but now the company also has an episode written by Gibbons himself.) All future episodes of Madefire series will be released simultaneously for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, the company says.
I played with the iPhone app a bit, and as with other comics apps, the experience isn’t quite as impressive as it is on the iPad, but it still works, with the content fitting comfortably in the smaller screen. The app also includes a new “Feed” feature, which is basically a news feed for updates/behind-the-scenes content from the company.