SXSW Panel Discussion: Exploring Comics on Handheld Devices

If you’re a fan of Apple products, chances are you’re also into the latest tech gadgets like the iPhone or iPod touch. For those who have a penchant for comic books, imagine the convenience of having your favorite comics accessible right on your device, without the bulk of physical copies. This intriguing possibility was the focus of a recent discussion at the South by Southwest Interactive festival during the “Comics on Handhelds” panel.

The panel featured a lineup of industry insiders including Douglas Edwards from UCLICK, Molly Crabapple of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, Dave Bort from Google/Android, Rantz Hoseley of the LongBox Group, and Richard Stevens, creator of Diesel Sweeties.

Comics creator Dan Goldman moderated the session.

Goldman kicked off the discussion by defining comics as narratives conveyed through a combination of text and images, emphasizing that comics aren’t restricted to paper. He highlighted the adaptation of Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield’s “FreakAngels” for mobile platforms as a successful example of this transition.

Addressing the challenges of formatting comics for smaller screens, Goldman pointed out that mobile devices often require comics to be displayed panel-by-panel rather than page-by-page due to screen size and resolution constraints. This adaptation is crucial for readability, especially when it comes to smaller text sizes.

The conversation then shifted towards potential solutions for these formatting challenges. Hoseley suggested focusing on enhancing the reader’s experience rather than merely adapting physical comics to digital formats.

Edwards echoed this sentiment, noting that new media could redefine artistic expression in comics.

The panel also discussed the physical limitations of devices like the iPhone, suggesting that while device sizes might not increase, the quality of the display could improve, as seen with platforms like Amazon’s Kindle. Stevens shared his experience reading comics on a Kindle, noting that the larger screen can comfortably accommodate two pages at a time.

During the Q&A session, the panel addressed various audience concerns, including the feasibility of text-to-speech features for comics. Edwards argued that adding audio would shift the medium away from its visual roots, transforming it into something other than a comic.

Another topic of discussion was the challenge of adapting the traditional comic book format to fit mobile screens without compromising the artistic integrity. Crabapple mentioned Kyle Baker’s “Why I Hate Saturn” as an innovative format that might suit mobile devices better, though it has not yet gained widespread popularity.

The panel concluded with a consensus that while many questions remain unanswered, the dialogue was crucial for exploring the future of comics on mobile devices.


Larry is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm to the Apple news community. With a keen eye for detail, Larry covers everything from the latest iPhone releases to in-depth reviews of the MacBook Pro and Apple Watch. His insightful articles help readers stay informed about the ever-evolving world of Apple products. Larry’s commitment to delivering accurate and engaging content makes him a valued member of the TUAW team.