Transmedia for Comics fans

30 August 2011 | 1 comment

Kicking off a series of posts on our work on the Green Lantern campaign, creative producer on the project Sophie Sampson looks at how the project approached that troublesome t-word: transmedia.

Transmedia is a difficult term these days – I’m still not quite sure I know what it means, despite making a load of projects that seem to fall under that umbrella. What is emerging under the label is a set of tools that are really useful in engaging fans. ARGs for example, developed as an entirely internet-native form of narrative. Super-hard puzzles that only four people in the world can solve don’t seem that fun to me, but the idea of stories that talk back to you and show how you changed them really does work.

The thing that unites comics fans is their love of a satisfying story, and with Green Lantern we wanted them to feel able to step into the DC Universe and have a personal stake in it. Rather than an entirely linear narrative, the structure was a series of ‘bombs’ – exciting moments that were cool and shareable on their own, although richer if you were following the surrounding narrative.

The main bomb was our tie-in with the Milky Way Project, which generated the most press and fan comment, as people realised that the fictional science and real science had merged, and in effect they were doing something genuinely useful and being rewarded with story.

The activity was followed by the next bomb – the discovery of a piece of binaural 3d audio, featuring the main villain of the film doing his terrifying thing and overwhelming a Green Lantern. This was shared and spread by fans, but also reached mainstream film and geek blogs that were reporting on the build up to the film.

Interestingly, the finale wasn’t designed to be that kind of moment. We took the narrative right up to the first midnight fan screenings, and concentrated on an emotionally satisfying conclusion that would get much richer when the fans went to see the film and could see their actions played out on the screen.

This was something I was nervous about – tradition dictates the finale should be a giant, interactive extravaganza where players feel they are influencing the outcome, right? But as everyone knew the spaceship would arrive and the movie opening date, trying to make that the moment where you feel you’ve won would have been hollow. Trying to pretend the fans could influence an outcome everyone knew was set in stone would have destroyed their sense of agency.

We concentrated on getting the community to feel a part of the protagonists’ journey and wrapping up the narrative in an emotionally satisfying way. What could have been quite small and underwhelming ended up feeling huge, partly because it built right up to the opening of the movie, multiplying excitement for those who were following.

There’s a real question mark about managing scale when making this kind of activity. The first few days when word spread among fans that you could get a personal email from a DC Comics character were a bit white-knuckle. It wouldn’t have been possible without a writer whose job was entirely answering fictional email, but that could have scaled up and extra writers slotted into the pipeline if necessary. It was a bespoke solution, but the fans really noticed and appreciated the efforts Warner Bros were putting in on their behalf. As making the fans feel loved was the main brief of this activity, I feel like we definitely got that right. And fictional inbox zero is an incredible feeling.

1 comment on this post.

    Trackback: What we learned — Sophie Sampson on 30 Aug 2011

    [...] project wrap-up – this week some posts are going up on the Hide&Seek blog reflecting on what we learned from making the Green Lantern. It starts with that old chestnut [...]

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