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Open invitation to Arte: Professeur Cyclope, the promise of another digital comics?

In a few days, Professeur Cyclope will release its seventh edition on tablet. The monthly comics magazine 100% digital launched by Arte and Silicomix wants for sure to be creative and innovative, but also have sharp commitments on the web. Independence, remuneration of authors, affordable price? Chadi Romanos, chief editor of the web center of Arte France, answers our questions.

Professeur Cyclope is a magazine on tablets: why did you choose this medium? And in parallel why choosing a frequency and a subscription mode inherited from the classic press?

Professeur Cyclope is essentially a monthly magazine of comics and digital fictions. This means that paper, printed, is not the first broadcast medium. But even if Professeur Cyclope is perfectly readable on a desktop or laptop it is its reading on tablet that we have chosen to highlight. Because the object is particularly interesting: mobility, of course, lightweight format, but also and above all a form of sensuality when handling the boards - this silky side of screens - and an exceptional quality of the visual, for the blacks especially. It is important to understand the relationship to the book, the magazine, the printed word, in order to imagine what might motivate a wish to read comics on a tablet.

The choice of frequency and subscriptions inherited from the printed press is part of the same logic: take in the best existing and the more effective practices. In the context where users are too much wooed, how to make Professeur Cyclope successful? We have chosen to focus the editorial content on major rendezvous, on a monthly basis, to give it visibility. And about the paying offer, it completes a free offer in French and in German: ARTE gives to see most of the original creations of the magazine each month, but subscribers receive additional stories and the possibility to store and read their comics offline, via a web browser or dedicated applications.

Technically and narratively, is this digital publication allowing new opportunities for authors and publishers?

Clearly, the choice of digital publishing, especially on tablets, is in itself a promise of innovation. Professeur Cyclope therefore opens a new playground for authors. New authors, young talents, who invent new forms of storytelling. I think of Stephen Vuillemin and its Schoolgirls, a comic which goes from one box to another with animated GIF, or more famous creators as Marion Montaigne, who tries the “turbo media” with Zapotto (a box to box more sequential).

But the magazine does not deny the "board" formats, it welcomes them. And since we are talking about original creations, reading is optimized (horizontal or vertical scroll, touch navigation...).

The issue of the editors is significantly different. Professeur Cyclope is a joint publication of Silicomix, a structure which includes the founders of the project, and ARTE France. This association is also another way to invent new models, and after some time - we only produced six issues so far – we’ll know if they can set an example.

To reward properly their authors is one of the commitments of Professeur Cyclope. This may seem surprising given that many projects based on creation go online on a voluntary basis. How did you avoid this step?

Being associated with a project of authors - I recall that Vehlmann, Bonneval, Pedrosa Tanquerelle and Brüno, the founders, are figures of the comics universe - means understanding their interests. The free offer is abundant on the internet via blogs or contributing editors’ platforms. But they often don’t have an editorial responsibility. What Professeur Cyclope promises its readers is an editorial proposal of quality, unique and, whenever possible, innovative. And to do that, the magazine should offer authors a comfortable format: limited constraints, incentives to innovate and fair compensation. Professeur Cyclope does not only aim to promote authors, the magazine aims to give its readers original works and, as far as possible, singular ones. This has a cost.

After six issues, what are the results? Do you draw initial conclusions in terms of "business model"?

It is too early, after six issues, to make conclusions. Big projects are ongoing, others being lead (iOS and Android). The goal of the year was to create an offering, announced in Angouleme and launched on 2013 March 1, and consolidate it. In 2014, we will all work to adjust the model, to imagine how we can proceed with our works, including paper, and obviously to recruit readers. Today, Professeur Cyclope has almost 1000 subscribers, which corresponds to the roadmap that had been established. The next International Comics Festival will undoubtedly be the opportunity to analyze a year of publication, and to give more visibility to Professeur Cyclope.



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