It’s Comic-Con time or, as I like to call it, nerd Christmas. We’re being treated to a weekend of superheros, sci-fi, fantasy, games and, of course, VR. Headsets have slowly infiltrated the halls of the San Diego Convention Center over the past few years, usually with 360 degree experiences for TV shows and movies. VR has a bigger presence than ever this year with Suicide Squad and Mr Robot experiences and even a team up that has DC creators making sculptures within Oculus Medium.
All this has me wondering; do comic books and VR have a future together?
I’m a huge comic book nut, particularly on the Marvel side if you must know. A few years ago, I took a step back and looked at my collection, my cupboard now nearly overflowing with around 700 books I’d collected over the course of a decade. I realized that I wasn’t going to have the space to do this for much longer, and I was tired of getting to my local store even in the early hours to find the best books sold out, with everything priced up due to importing from the US.
And so I went digital.
I’ve never really regretted it; buying books on a tablet is cheaper, faster and easier. Every Wednesday I wake up, browse the new releases and set mine to download for reading later in the day. I can even afford a few more books and, if I want to catch up on a series, the back issues are there for me to pick up at a reduced price.
But I’ll admit I do sometimes long for the feeling on paper in my hands, and the chance to archive what I’ve read. I’m not much of a collector these days, but I still regularly sift through my physical stack of books and dig out old favorites to re-read. It would be nice to have that sort of experience with my digital collection too.
Could VR be the answer to that?
I’d like to think so. I’d love an Oculus Touch or HTC Vive experience where I could sit and read books like they were really in my hands, flicking pages over and then filing them away and giving myself a worrying amount of satisfaction from doing so. I’d love to be able to look up from my book and find myself within the scene I’m reading. Imagine retelling Bruce Wayne’s defining moment in Crime Alley, only to look up and find yourself there in the moment. Or perhaps you could be sitting in a stylish New York apartment and occasionally see Spider-Man swing by your window.
In fact I think this will actually happen at some point. John Carmack wants to build a VR comic book store, and has been working on it for several years now. He’s been silent on it for some time, but I’d love to see Oculus and Amazon perhaps announce a Comixology app in which you could walk into a store, flick through boxes of books and fish out the series you’re looking for.
Perhaps an evolution in comic book reading even lies in waiting with VR. Marvel and DC have been experimenting with what digital means for the medium over the past few years. Maybe VR presents the next step in that journey, with panels that come alive or stretch across walls. Imagine instead of 2D drawings we’d flick between 3D models with speech bubbles intact, allowing you to walk around a scene and inspect every element of it. It sounds a bit too gimmicky to actually replace the traditional comic book, but it could really be a great complement to it.
At the end of the day, VR is about immersion and I’m always seeking ways to immerse myself even deeper into the world of superheros. I’m hoping VR will let me do that sooner rather than later.