By Patrick Shaw
Josh Viola, creator and author behind The Bane of Yoto, describes his ongoing science-fiction series as a “transmedia experience.” What began as a four-time award-winning novel has since expanded its rich lore and universe through ebooks, an upcoming video game, an audiobook and now an episodic 3D graphic novel with high-resolution visuals that are optimized for Tegra 3-equipped Android devices (download it free on Google Play here).
The Bane of Yoto follows the tale of Yoto, a slave who transforms into a hulking beast after an ancient dagger with mysterious powers is plunged into his chest.
The imaginative series has even spawned its own merchandise including sculptures, clothing and a soundtrack by electronica artist Celldweller.
But Viola isn’t simply milking his franchise. He’s drawing on the individual strengths of each form of media to tell a different piece of The Bane of Yoto’s ever-expanding storyline.
“[I]’ve tried to ensure that each different product represents Yoto in its own special way,” Viola says. “The book best illustrates the characters, their relationships and development. It's a 120,000 word novel, there's no way we can fit all of that into the comic. But the comic app allows users to visually explore the world of Yoto in immense detail. Everything exists as a companion to the other.”
As mobile technology continues to evolve, Viola feels as though there are still opportunities for app developers to create content in entirely new ways.
“I personally was never impressed with comic apps I’d installed,” he says. “They didn’t work, in my opinion. So I wanted to approach that world in a different, revolutionary way. Dreamotion was our answer to that problem.”
Dreamotion, as Viola explains, is what he calls his process of taking numerous layers of traditionally generated 2D illustrations and artwork and then bringing them to life in a fully-responsive 3D world.
“It’s all responsive to movement,” Viola notes. “When the user rotates their device, the world comes to life. The characters on screen animate and move as you are looking through every little detail in 3D -- and all without glasses.”
With the comic book app now available, a mobile game for The Bane of Yoto is also in the works. Viola explains that he always envisioned Yoto as a video game.
“I went to school for games and eventually taught game art and design,” he says. “Before the book, before everything else, my vision was for a game. But in developing a strong form of interactive media, you have to have a solid story. I felt it was best to focus on that and so I wrote the novel and developed the comic app.”
With Yoto’s universe delving into new mediums, Viola believes it's the tale’s originality that resonates with readers, comic book enthusiasts and fans of good science-fiction in general.
“I created this property because I wasn’t satisfied with the stories being told,” Viola says. “I wanted something new. This isn’t just sci-fi, it is an epic, dark science-fantasy world, a true hybrid of genres offering a new experience for both storytelling and technology.”
Viola notes that his ideas for The Bane of Yoto weren’t immediately embraced by book publishers, who wanted him to change things.
“I turned down mainstream publishing houses because they wanted to change my story. Instead, I published through the music label FiXT because they supported my ideas."
Now that he’s bringing the ongoing comic book series to a whole new mobile audience on Android and Tegra, he couldn’t be happier.
“It feels great,” he says. “I’ve been waiting and waiting to release to Nvidia’s Tegra market. We’ve had to keep quiet about it for some time. I consider myself to be a part of that audience – the hardcore. The Tegra audience consists of more hardcore consumers than most other markets. They’re looking for something with depth that they can really get into. I think my comic app will allow them to do just that.”