DC Teams With Madefire for 'Batman: Arkham Origins' Graphic Novel App

New iOS app allows readers to control the story of the comic book prequel to the "Batman: Arkham Origins" video game franchise.

We've seen print comic books become digital comics, and then those became native guided view (or, for Marvel, "Infinite") comics and now DC Entertainment has teamed with digital studio Madefire for the next evolution of comic books -- one that lets the reader control the story.

The two companies today announced Batman: Arkham Origins - A DC2 Multiverse Graphic Novel, a standalone iOS app that offers multi-path storytelling akin to the Choose Your Own Adventure concept, in which the reader can choose which direction the story goes at points within the narrative. As the publisher puts it, "some choices will successfully lead to Batman's next mission and carry though to the following week's episode. Other choices could have deadly consequences."

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"Madefire came to show us their Motion Books, and we were impressed with what they were able to do," senior vp at DC Entertainment Vertigo and Integrated Publishing, Hank Kanalz, told THR when talking about how the two companies came together. "In traditional DC fashion, we said, 'That's awesome, but can you also do this?' We wanted to see if they could do story bifurcation, go down a path and choose which way to go. We were fortunate that there was silence in the room for a split second, and then the answer 'Yes, we can.'"

"We were at the stage where we had some hot-spotting -- where you could reach a point in the story and access some secondary information -- but we hadn't made that available on the readers' side yet," explained Madefire CEO Ben Wolstenholme, saying that the technology that makes the bifurcation process was "half-baked" when DC broached the subject, with the partnership pushing the process forward.

"We'd been trying to work out how to get the process done for a bit, and when we saw the Madefire Motion Books, the engines started to turn," Hanalz said. "The tools that Madefire created made it all work, made it all hold together. It took a lot of upfront in terms of story structure, a lot of work for our writer Adam Beechen, that we shared with Madefire so that they could further build their tools and technology to support what we wanted to do."

The choice of Arkham Origins, a prequel set in the continuity of the successful Batman: Arkham Asylum video game franchise, to launch the format was a deliberate one, Kanalz explained: "We don't want to do things just for the sake of doing things. We want to have the right property and the right project to do this," he said. "We chose the game [universe] because of what we could do compared with tying it into, say, the movies or an animated series or the [comic book] New 52. And clearly, there's the link between this kind of storytelling and the IP itself, and [this project] enables us to flesh out the backstory of the games and tell stories that the games themselves do not."

Despite the link with gaming, however, both DC and Madefire are determined that the project is more about reading than gaming. "It's a reading experience," Wolstenholme said. "It's a punctuated, interactive reading experience, but it is first and foremost about reading, not playing. There's a lot of room to move reading from being scanned-in print, there's an opportunity to get beyond that, and this is DC pioneering in that space, which is very exciting." Kanalz added, "We're calling it a graphic novel because it's a complete story with a beginning, several middles, and an end -- or, perhaps, several endings."

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The partnership between DC and Madefire will continue beyond Batman: Arkham Origins; the companies are also working together on Motion Book editions of DC's popular Injustice series, with remastered versions of the first volume to be released ahead of next year's second, which will be available in traditional and Motion digital formats simultaneously. There'll also be more "Multiverse" multi-path graphic novels in the future, according to Kanalz.

"We learned a lot, Madefire and DC both, on this first project, but now we're going to build from here," he said. "We want to build and make things better. On our next project, you'll see the infinite nature even better."