Interview with Sam Arthur, Nobrow’s Managing Director

February 11, 2015 | By FRENCH CULTURE BOOKS

Sam Arthur is the Managing Director at Nobrow, a British independent publisher for comic books and graphic novels which has also launched these past few years Nobrow US and Nobrow France. Born in the winter of 2008 with the aim to provide an independent platform for graphic art, illustration and art comics, Nobrow has just launched an application for Ipad, where you can access the publisher's titles and make your own Nobrow library. In addition, the App. has a "layer" feature, allowing their readers to swipe up or down to see different states of the comic.

What inspired you to create the Nobrow Comics App?

The subject of our approach to digital had been discussed for some time - technology has brought about some exciting changes to publishing and the way people consume creative media!  When we decide to embark on a new project, we need to feel like the product deserves to be made. It is no different with digital, so it was important that we waited for the right ideas to materialize. 

What makes the experience of reading a Nobrow comic in the iPad different from reading a print comic? What sets it apart from other reading apps?

Good narrative and strong aesthetic remain at the heart of every Nobrow comic whether it be print or digital. With the Nobrow Comics app, we wanted to take advantage of technology to add something new to the reading experience that people could not get anywhere else. We know that many of our fans are interested in process and not just the polished final artefact, so the app’s Layers feature effortlessly provides an insight into this where it would not be easy or practical for a printed product to do so.

What are some of the titles we should look out for on the Nobrow app?

To start with, we will be looking to our backlist for content to bring our digital library up to date, but there are some exiting new ones in the pipeline for sure [among Nobrow classic titles available on the App., there are Ben Newman's Ouroboros, Jon McNaught's Birchfield Close, the first Artist’s Mini Bundle and the award-winning Luke Pearson's Hildafolk and Mikkel Sommer's Obsolete].

Can you talk a little bit about the collaboration process between Nobrow and authors/ illustrators in launching this project?

Some titles lent themselves well to being presented with layers of original inks and sketches and others we wanted to show a breakdown of the spot colour processes (a specific print technique using Pantone colours rather than conventional colour printing -  we use this in many of our print books). As most of our initial releases will have been originally released some time ago, part of the challenge will be in tracking down the preliminary sketches and draft artwork. We have a good relationship with our artists and we were able to find what we were looking for in time for launch!

What motivated Nobrow to present this app at Angoulême? Is Nobrow planning to release a French version?

The timing was perfect as we were approaching final flight checks on the production of the apps. This was our fifth year at Angoulême and so it seemed like a brilliant occasion and environment in which to showcase our new app! We launched a few days in advance of the festival and we were delighted to hear many people were already aware of what we were doing! A French version of the app is not out of the question, but we will have to see how it goes for now.

Will the comics on Nobrow’s app be featured there exclusively, or will they be available elsewhere—on ComiXology, for example? What is your strategy compared to ComiXology?

The launch of this app comes with a spirit of experimentation which really excites us. We wanted to have a certain amount of control over the way in which we presented the comics with the layers and see for ourselves if that is something people want from us.

For the time being, the app is only available on the iPad. Do you have plans to expand to other devices?

There are many things being discussed concerning future developments of the Nobrow Comics App, and Android is definitely one of those.

Have you considered creating a “Nobrow Children App” with enhanced books specifically for children?

As it currently stands, the audience of the “Nobrow Comic App” includes titles for both children and adults. If we were to release an app specifically for children’s content it would be under our sister imprint, ‘Flying Eye Books’. There are many things to consider - for instance all of our children’s titles vary so greatly in size and shape; finding a way to present these in a consistent way will be a challenge. It is, however, also not out of the question and is certainly being discussed.

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