Last year, Gabriel de Laubier grabbed a bit of attention by re-designing a Calvin & Hobbes comic in three dimensions. He modeled the two characters and some of their environment, roughly approximating Bill Watterson’s style, and then posed them in way to emulate one of Watterson’s comic strips. However, since they were modeled in 3D, the reader then had the ability to zoom in and out, and spin the comic about 30° degrees in any direction. It was a very interesting experiment, despite the 3D renderings of the famous characters coming across as somewhat off-model.

Last week, André Bergs upped the ante. Bergs created an original digital comic called Protanopia. Bergs describes the comic this way…

Protanopia is a digital comic for iPad and iPhone. Created as an experiment into the possibilities of digital comics. Using elements from 3D and 2D animation in a real-time game engine, it creates an unique visual style, whilst still having a familiar feeling.

What does that mean? It means he’s taken things a step further. First, he’s taken a more naturalistic style with his art. His work is rendered with more fluid lines, so it feels more like something that was drawn with a pen and paper. He’s added color, too, in a way that looks like he’s got his Doc Martin’s color dyes out.

But, it’s still rendered in 3D! So as the angle changes, the figures shift around and show depth.

Furthermore, he’s given the figures some looped animations. Like adding an animated GIF to a regular webcomic, the figures rock back and forth as their boat rides over the waves, the clouds waft by in the background, and the nervous guy can’t stop twiddling his thumbs.

So far, this would make for a reasonably impressive piece of work by itself. But Bergs takes things one step further. He’s designed the comic specifically for mobile devices (both cell phones and tablets) so that as the reader moves and tilts their device, the viewing angle changes! The 3D effect is shown in real-time as the user just happens to be holding their iPad, shifting ever so subtly as their body moves around with their breathing.

As near as I can tell, Bergs has been working on the project only since April. And while that is a while for a relatively short story, all of this was created from scratch. I suspect that much of the modeling that Bergs has done could be re-used to help streamline the creation process, not to mention that he doesn’t have to figure out how all the damn stuff works in the first place!

This is still only a digital comic available on the most recent devices. But with this type of thing out there in the ether, other creators can start consulting Bergs on he developed all of this and might be able to apply the same ideas to their work! I suspect it’s complicated enough that there’s no concern that it will bypass 2D webcomics any time soon, but it’s a fantastic upgrade to creating comics digitally and I suggest it’s something everyone should keep at least one eye on.

About The Author

Sean Kleefeld
Senior Editor, Comics & Lifestyle
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Sean Kleefeld is an independent researcher whose work has been used by the likes of Marvel Entertainment, Titan Books and 20th Century Fox. He writes the ongoing “Incidental Iconography” column for The Jack Kirby Collector and had weekly “Kleefeld on Webcomics” and "Kleefeld's Fanthropology" columns for MTV Geek. He’s also contributed to Alter Ego, Back Issue and Comic Book Resources. Kleefeld’s 2009 book, Comic Book Fanthropology, addresses the questions of who and what comic fans are. He blogs daily at KleefeldOnComics.com.