A Free Graphic Novel from Amazon! And a Movie?!

Blackburn Burrow - free Amazon graphic novel

Amazon’s just announced that they’re giving away a free graphic novel that you can read on your Kindle. It’s a good story — a supernatural “horror” comic that’s set during the Civil War — and you can download the whole thing to your Kindle at tinyurl.com/freeGraphicNovel

But it looks like Amazon has even bigger plans…

“If we made this comic into a full-budget feature film, would you go see it?” Amazon asks on the first page of the graphic novel. The graphic novel (and the possible movie) are both the brainchild of Amazon Studios, the new “content development division” launched at Amazon in November of 2010. In the last two years, they’ve pored through more than 10,000 possible movie screenplays, according to Amazon’s press release, and they ultimately settled on just 17 finalists (along with nine possible TV series). “Community feedback, gathered from Amazon Studios’ crowdsourcing model, triggered the idea for [this] popular project to be adapted into a digital comic that would be shared with audiences for feedback and tested for viability as a major motion picture.”

But either way, Kindle owners get a free (and original) graphic novel to read on their Kindles. There’s some comic-book gore, but I’ve always loved the way graphic novels look on the screen of my Kindle Fire. (“Virginia, 1864…” begins the narration on the first page.) I love the moody colors — the brown and orange sky, the leafless trees, the shadowy columns of a plantation mansion — and especially, the clean, crisp colors of the pictures. But you don’t even need a Kindle Fire to see the color pictures, because it’s also compatible with Amazon’s Kindle apps for handheld devices like the iPad and Android phones – and you can also read the comic book online!

It’ll even be compatible with Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite devices when they finally start arriving next month — and I’m impressed by the team Amazon lined up to create the final product. It’s being written by Ron Marz, who’s written dialogue for major comic book titles like Marvel’s Silver Surfer and DC’s Green Lantern, and it’s illustrated by Matthew Dow Smith, who’s worked on popular titles like X-Men Icons and Doctor Who. “Beyond entertaining lots of comic fans, we see value in digital comics as a new way to test screenplays and learn more about fan engagement,” explained Roy Price, the Director of Amazon Studios, in last week’s announcement. “The ’12 Gauge’ team has done beautiful work on the Blackburn Burrow digital comic and we are thrilled to share it with audiences to see how they react to the story of Blackburn Burrow.”

Amazon even plans to release a new issue of the comic every four weeks, as a way to test how audiences are enjoying the story. “This is a very exciting new venture for Amazon Studios,” says Roy Price, and it looks like some of Amazon’s customers agree. “It is clear to me that either Amazon contracted with Ron Marz to make this comic to show off the new comic capabilities of the new Fire devices, or Ron Mars is trying to leverage Kindle for something big.

“This comic is way too good for the free bin….”

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