Review: Black Mask’s Tubecomics

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Black Mask Studios is debuting its new innovation in the way people consume comics. On blackmask.tv you can find their brand new Tubecomics. What’s a tubecomic? I’ll let the press release that Black Mask sent out explain; “Tubecomics replicate the panel-by-panel reading style of a digital comic, but do so in a video format that can be viewed on any device from HDTVs to smartphones and tablets, adding voice narration and music to the package. Unlike motion comics, tubecomics do not add animation–Black Mask is placing an emphasis on tubecomics retaining the structural integrity of the paper comics’ art and story.”

It’s an intriguing concept so I decided to check some of them out. Right now Black Mask has the first episodes of five series available to watch. Out of those I watched Ballistic, Five Ghosts, and Hack/Slash. It’s worth nothing that two of those, Five Ghosts and Hack/Slash, are Image comics while Ballistic is a Black Mask original. Out of these three I’m only read the comic version of Hack/Slash so I went in fresh for the other two. I’d like to note for this review that I’m not reviewing the comics or their stories, I’m reviewing the new Tubecomic format.

I think that Black Mask has something with these Tubecomics. There are some things that they could improve upon, but for the most part I enjoyed the time I spent watching them. The three I watch ranged from about five to ten minutes in length, meaning that these are quick watches and it was very easy to get through the episodes that I did. These are better than any motion comics that I’ve seen before. Most motion comics aren’t animated very well and are, quite frankly, distractingly bad because of it. I think it’s a fair comparison to say that Tubecomics are the watchable cousin of motion comics.

There are improvements that need to be made though. This was most evident in the Hack/Slash episode, but sometimes they hold on a single panel for too long while the narration goes on. You can only look at the same panel for so long before you get kind of bored of the image and the comic starts to lose your attention. That being said, I actually enjoyed watching this more than I do reading digital comics panel by panel. When I read a comic I want to see the whole layout of a page and not just the single image, but because of how this is presented I didn’t really mind the single panel view. The Five Ghosts episode did a good job of cycling through panels very quickly and keeping the action flowing. I feel like comics with a lot of narration in the script and not many panels on the page aren’t prime candidates to get the Tubecomics treatment. Narration also negatively affected things in Hack/Slash when it made it kind of hard to differentiate what was narration and what was supposed to be dialog at times.

The other thing that could be improved upon is the voice acting. It’s not bad, but when the actors start to do accents it’s… well, it’s not great. This is just an assumption of my part, but I’m of the belief that casting was done on a smaller budget so if these Tubecomics take off, I’d expect the quality of the voice acting to rise along with their budget.

Outside of those two aspects, I feel like Black Mask has put out a strong opening offering for their Tubecomics idea. I’m excited to see where they go from here and what series they take on next. What they’ve got is good, but there is definitely room to grow and improve. I really recommend checking out some of the videos to see what you think. I honestly couldn’t guess how much of an appeal this concept has to a mass audience, but it is intriguing and that’s really all that Black Mask needs to get eyes on their videos.

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Who ARE these people!?

Kelly Harrass is a comic shop worker and writer from Milwaukee, WI. You may know him as one of the regular hosts of the PoP!-Cast and the co-host of PCW. Find him on Twitter @comicgeekelly and email him at kharrass@panelsonpages.com

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