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Annapolis Comic Book Artists Scribble into Digital Age

Visionary Comics, a local comic book studio, develops a brand new way to experience comic books online.

Over Saturday morning eggs and coffee at the in Annapolis, six comic book creators plotted the future of digital story telling.

The team is called Visionary Comics, and they focus on drawing, writing and publishing digital comic books that can be downloaded to your smartphone, iPad or computer. The company features more than 70 digital comic books that are available to download for around $1.

Visionary co-founder Charlie Hall is a lifelong comic book fan. He said in the last five years digital comics have really taken off and the platform is moving mobile.

"If you're sitting in the airport, don't pull out your laptop," Hall said. "You can read our comics on your phone."

The digital platform is also changing the way people read comics, said Visionary's other co-founder Chuck Sellner. Text can move around the action and images can morph into others to create a new, digital story.

"We're not on paper. We don't need to lay this out like a traditional comic," Sellner said. "If a reader has never seen this character before, they can tap on that character and a little bio pops up on the screen."

Sellner and Hall met on a mission trip to Honduras, and shortly after Visionary Comics was born in 2006. The Annapolis-based team is made up of three employees and three interns, who frequently conduct their bimonthly business meetings at the Double T because the team's offices—like its product—are virtual.

Their latest meeting focused on getting the studio's next graphic novel off the ground.

It's called Deadlands, which Sellner said is based on a role-playing game by Pinnacle Entertainment Group that is set in a dystopian version of the American west where a Native American shaman has plunged the earth into darkness.

"It's a Western, steampunk style game," Sellner said. "Think cowboys, zombies and mad scientists."

Visionary contracted with Pinnacle to produce a series of Deadlands comic books that tell the story of the game's world. This next graphic novel would be the second book and focuses on Raven, the game's villain.

To fund the project, the non-traditional comic book company is raising money through KickStarter, a non-traditional funding website that allows people to crowdsource for dollars needed to complete their projects.

Investors contribute as much money as they want and are rewarded with perks for helping "kick start" Visionary's goal. The company needs to raise $15,000 by Sept. 13. If they fail to reach their goal, KickStarter cancels the project and all the money goes back to the investors. With eight days left, Visionary needs slightly more than $2,000.

"We'll get it," Hall said. 

The next big project on the horizon is a partnership with Hollywood producer Chris James for what could be Visionary's biggest venture to date. James is shopping around a script—the details of which Visionary asked Patch to keep secret—that would be paired with a comic book.

The hope is that a production company will buy the script and then pay Visionary to create a comic book that would serve as both an elaborate storyboard and promotional item for the film. Sellner said to think of it like the movie 300, which was based off a comic book series.

"If it actually happens it would be huge for us," Sellner said.

Huge enough to move meetings out of the Double T and into an office? Probably not.

"We talked about having an office," Hall said. "I'd rather be able to pay staff than pay an electricity bill."

Sellner added that a brick and mortar studio would also force employees who live on the West Coast to relocate or lose their jobs. For now, Visionary Comics plans to live in the digital realm.

Stephen Levi Guptill September 06, 2012 at 03:18 PM
I've been doing that for years, and I let people read my comics online for free; if they want to order a book of them, they can; no one does, but still... It's censorship free! www.facebook.com/FigureEight

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