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Reviewed: Stephan Pastis sets high bar for iPad app
Two weeks ago Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis launched an iPad app called Only The Pearls – a 250 best of collection with audio commentary, interactive features and 22 videos of Stephan acting like an egotistical “ass#%$*” (his description, not mine. Okay, maybe I inserted the word egotistical). There’s something troubling about the app and it has nothing to do with the technical aspects or the humor. It’s the price. It’s currently priced at $3.99 and if you look at the app as an ebook of 250 of Stephan’s best work, it’s ridiculously cheap. His last print collection retailed at $12.99. I purchased the app late one night soon after it came out. I brushed my teeth while it downloaded and then took it into the master closet and casually started playing through it and finding it hard not to laugh too loudly lest I wake up my dear wife. An hour later I forced myself to close the app down and go to bed. Four dollars is slightly higher than the average entertainment app, but it was money well spent.
Most of the comic apps I read are pretty simple – a single repurposed comic on a white background with a swipe gesture to advance to the next strip in the series. It’s about as interactive as a print book. If you believe the hype, the iPad is changing several industries – education and medicine are oft cited examples. Only the Pearls has in my opinion raised the bar for comic apps and hopefully inspired other publishers to take advantage of the capabilities of the iPad.
About 2 years ago, Stephan met with a former college-mate who is now a VP at Chronicle Books. She described a new cookbook app that had audio and video and as Stephan tells me, “the light went on.” His earlier interaction with kids at schools and book signings told him connection to fans through newspapers was diminishing. When he asked their favorite comics no one knew Calvin and Hobbes and everyone thought Boondocks was only a TV show. Stephan realized the next generation has “a lot of options that aren’t you.” If he were to create an app, it had to at minimum compete with a DVD.
Various screenshots of different pages ro video in the app.
The app took about 14 months from idea, contract negotiations, recording audio, shooting video and all the writing, designing, development and meetings that would go along with a project of this size – a sum of 100 hours of his personal time. Stephan determined the content and Chronicle designed and developed the app. As an aside, I’d rate their work very highly. Very intuitive, simple, and focused attention to detail.
Now back to Stephan being an ass. He admits that an app with lots of video of the cartoonist isn’t for everyone. He describes a future where the cartoonist will need to be just as entertaining as the strip. During the shooting of the video Stephan was surrounded by a crew of 20-30 year-olds. “If I had a fragile ego, it would have hurt. You work by yourself and you think you’re funny. A stand-up comedian has no delusions whether they’re funny or not.” The video series is shot as if it were the outtakes of Stephan trying to be a serious cartoonist and the crew often part of the gags.
Video of Stephan goofing off after a successful day of writing
If you have an iPad and $4 (come on, skip today’s latte and you’re covered) I highly recommend the app.
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