iPad App Takes Comic’s Content Over Medium

Sad Comics droll addition to iTunes’ burgeoning (comic) book store

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Somehow, someone in every generation claims to have had the inaugural issue of ? insert comic book title here ? stowed in the attic, garage or under the bed only to discover that their mothers had disposed of it with the one-eyed teddy bear and one?s cummerbund from prom. If this well-worn tale is true, millions of dollars of collectible comic books are now moldering in landfills across America. When your progressive mother claims to have ?recycled? your pristine first edition of Action Comics No. 1, remind her that having $317,000 pulped into toilet paper is little consolation.

How the ephemera of children?s entertainment transforms into high-end obsessions for collectors requires more analysis than this space allows, though we might surmise names like Freud and Peter Pan and would come up as frequently as Frank Miller and Stan Lee (also, notice how it?s always the mother who dumps the comics in these tales of multi-panel of woe).

Entrepreneur Alex Komarov has a product that will prevent comics from ever being dumped again ? keep the content, ditch the medium. Komarov?s latest foray into the iPad app market (coming on the heels of his popular ?Accord?on? app, which replicates the squeezebox in nothing less than HD) is an elegant addition to the growing library of graphic novels now available on the tablet device. Komarov?s, however, is a standalone application entitled Sad Comics, a clever anthology written and illustrated by Roman Muradov that invites readers into a ?world of delight and dismay? and features the ruminations of a dying fish (and its notion of seducing Hitler?s bride Eva Braun) and a bear negotiating an existential entreaty with his terminal brain cancer. That both Komarov and Muradov hail from Moscow might account for the distinctly Dostoevsky-ian sensibility of the material rather than the muscle-bound, Spandex-clad tortured redeemers one often finds in comic books.

This is content for its own sake. Whereas a traditional comic book is collectible as an artifact, Komarov?s product is only collectible in a sense ? you can purchase all 5 issues on iTunes for $3.99 (the first issue is available for $0.99). There is no inherent value, however, to the digital one and zeroes that ultimately comprise the experience. In fact, since digital media is infinitely replicable, it?s tantamount to ubiquitous, which, in terms of market scarcity equals worthless. Sad Comics, however, is worth far more the aggregate pixels that form its tastefully murky palette ? like the best graphic novels, Sad Comics is diverting, contemplative, beautifully rendered hybrid of art and literature. Its method of delivery, however, raises intriguing questions about how we not only consume media but how and why we value it, and by extension, art. Hang an iPad frozen on Sad Comics on your wall and you?ve saved on a frame by wasting an iPad. However, a lithograph of the tumorous bruin signed by Muradov might fetch you some rubles on eBay. Will this valuation model ever change? Komarov, one can safely assume, doesn?t care ? for him it?s about the content, not the debate.

The eponymously-named Alex Komarov, Inc., is a ?mobile interaction design and strategy? company, which generally creates solutions for clients in the digital mobile space. Publishing Sad Comics and other material under the Pretentious Press banner is a relatively recent development for the technology firm, which quickly realized comic books represented an entirely different kind of challenge.

?I think the biggest challenge is the content,? said Komarov. ?No matter how good your eye is, at the end of the day what matters is ?Are the comics interesting enough and do people want to read them???

The technological aspect of the project rolled straight out of Komarov?s wheelhouse.

?The iPad does not present too much of a challenge because the format of the screen is perfect. You can read it on the screen as if you?re holding the real comic book,? said Komarov. ?This is exactly what we?re trying achieve ? the feeling of the real comic book, to basically transfer the magic of the comic books that you have on your shelf to the iPad.?

Sad Comics will soon release a ?premium app? that will feature high-resolution artwork and ?extras? reminiscent of DVDs, including ?making-of? material like early sketches, additional illustrated short stores and ?secret bonus content.? Which, sounds kind of collectible, but only kind of ? so far.

(So)noman is an Island

The Medium is the Message.

No man is an island, however, if he lives in Sonoma he may well be on one – or at least isolated on an inland isle with his fellow Sonomans, or, if you’re feeling fancy, marooned on an existential archipelago with fellow philosophers and philistines, just west of Napa.

Yes, I know that both geographically and geologically speaking Sonoma isn’t technically an island, but the Petaluma River isn’t technically a river either and no one seems to have noticed (it’s a tidal estuary, which we natives pronounce “slough”). Sonoma, as we know, can be an island of the mind, ringed by a moat of merlot that’s content to continue on its own merry way until the cows come Rhône.

Ask yourself the following questions: When is the last time you visited a major metropolitan city (and, no, Santa Rosa doesn’t count)? Besides our local media, how often do you consume media from international sources (our local Spanish language broadcasts don’t cut it)? How many times have you rocked out to the Whiskey Thieves and been overcome by a near-crippling sense of déjà vu?

And if a Sonoman actually escapes the city limits and finds him-or-herself fine dining on a business trip or on vacation, he/she will peruse the wine list for Sonoma wines and either disparage the restaurant for not carrying them or ruefully order one and lament the inevitable markup.

You can see where this is going and I can be snarky about it because I’ve been there. Or, to be more precise, I’ve been here, for “there” is such an abstract concept I can barely conceive of it in a single thought. This is because my prefrontal cortex is a withered nub of formerly grey matter that’s now a garnet blotch thanks to our homegrown vino. This is for the better as it keeps my editors employed, correcting my frequent mispellings.

Why is it so many Sonomans find it so easy to become citywide shut-ins? Sure, it’s Shangri-La and all that crap, but it can also be like an episode of “The Prisoner” inter-cut with “Groundhog Day” and a self-hypnosis tape-loop of “Agoraphobia for Dummies.”

Give us a few thousand years and we’ll begin to speciate from the rest of our kin like blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos. If we started crushing grapes with our feet again, we’d already be there. Or perhaps we’re in the midst of devolution back to simpler minds? We’ll be too dumb to know, though the Sonoma jokes I’ve heard around the water cooler are at least worth a self-deprecating chuckle.

How many Sonomans does it take to screw in a light bulb? One, but only after you explain it turns the same way as a corkscrew.

What’s the difference between Sonoma County and Sonoma Valley? Sonoma County thinks it’s Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Valley thinks it’s Napa.

What does S’noma stand for? Speak Not Of My Alcoholism.

A Napan, a Marinite and a Sonoman walk into a bar. The Napan orders a magnum of an expensive cult cabernet and glasses for everyone in the joint. The Marinite does the same and also throws a kilo of cocaine on the bar and announces “Free for one and all!” The Sonoman drinks all the wine, does the entire kilo and then bums a cigarette off a passing teenager. When the Napan and Marinite suggest he’s out of control, the Sonoman blanches and asks, “What do you mean, we’re in Sonoma, right?”

Though none of the above has ever occurred in a local, venerated tavern, only Sonomans will get the joke. This is probably just as well as there are some things that are better kept in town – you know, like a quarantine. The question is, does our little island colony keep the world safe from us – or does it keep us safe from the world? So-no-man is an island.