Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: Nobrow has published some beautiful books. What is your philosophy on the books you choose?
Alex Spiro: Each book has to have a uniquely new perspective on its given subject matter or conceptual proposition. If it is a non-fiction book about animals, it needs to perform a function that no other book like it has performed, and if it is a graphic, narrative odyssey, it needs to transport the reader to worlds they have never seen. There is too much material out there that attempts to replicate existing successes in publishing ‘with a slight angle’, but we would rather pursue a completely different axis of exploration. One other key component is the strength of the book’s artwork, it needs to be original and groundbreaking artistically too. After all, most written languages started their life as art (pictograms), and we should never underestimate or undervalue the power of the visual aspect of storytelling!
CB: With your strong concentration on great production values in print, what motivated you to go with an app?
Spiro: The need to address the question of “how would Nobrow approach digital?” We have been asked it enough times! But to be perfectly honest, Sam and I went from moving image and digital animation based backgrounds into print, because we loved print! But we were never allergic to the idea of exploring the digital reading marketplace. We just wanted to be patient and wait for the right idea to materialise, so that our foray into this field would be something of significance, at the very least, to those who already admired our work.
CB: How will the books you publish read differently on the app versus how they read in print?
Spiro: Very simply, we are doing what would require a significant amount of complexity to achieve in print but is rendered almost effortlessly with a screen. A book that peels back its own layers of process would require triple or quadruple the number of (physical) pages, not to mention costly printing on acetates and tracing paper leafs for every single page in the book. With our new iPad App, you can achieve the same but with more simplicity, elegance and ease and without requiring the reader to carry around a 400 page comic book! We know that our fans are interested not just in the content, but also in the process, and our first priority is to engage our fans with exciting content they couldn’t find anywhere else, so this was our solution.
CB: Tell us about the “Layers” feature.
Spiro: With the Nobrow Comics app readers can peel back layers of artwork to reveal some of the processes that go into creating our comics. This may take the form of rough sketches, original inks or a breakdown of the spot colour separations that we use in print. Access to the extra content is intuitive, with a simple swipe up or down to cycle through the layers.
CB: What’s upcoming for 2015 that you’re especially proud of?
Spiro: We couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming full color hardcover edition of Sam Bosma’s Ignatz-winning Fantasy Sports—there’s additional story pages, and the increased size of the book is really, really striking. We’re also really pleased with the crop of single issue comics in our 17X23 series that will be coming out this year, starting with Vacancy from Jen Lee. It’s a really cool comic about a trying-to-be-cool dog in a post-apocalyptic setting. We’ve also got some more app developments planned coming from the digital side of Nobrow, which we’re planning to announce this summer. Generally speaking, 2015 looks to be our most exciting year yet!