Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Monday, 1 June 2009 13:25 UK

NI comics heroes find US success

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NI trio writes NBC iPhone app

By Greg McKevitt
BBC News

A banned comic book about a futuristic sport where opponents are decapitated to score a goal has led to a Belfast company's iPhone software being picked up by US television giant NBC.

The iPhone application developed by Infurious is being licensed by NBC for its Heroes comics, a spin-off from the popular sci-fi show.

The company came to the attention of NBC after its Murderdrome comic was rejected last August by Apple on the grounds of "objectionable content".

Comic book artist PJ Holden said it was inspired by "incredibly violent" 1970s boys comics like Action and Battle.

"The humour was very dark but very funny, and the level of violence was like Itchy and Scratchy in the Simpsons - it wasn't meant to be taken seriously," he said.

"After Apple rejected it, we put out a press release which attracted the attention of news media like the Wall Street Journal, and three days later a video on YouTube demonstrating the comic got 40,000 views.

Fearless
Infurious have a number of other projects in the pipeline

"We were amazed by the response. A week after that, NBC emailed us - we just didn't know what was going on."

Mr Holden said they had set out "to design something intuitive - you can scroll up and down on a single page of artwork, and zoom in and out to read the text."

'Scary'

His two colleagues in the firm still have day jobs in computers, but Mr Holden has quit his IT job to focus full-time on drawing for comics such as 2000 AD.

"In the space of three weeks, it went from the seed of an idea to this slightly scary stage where it took on a life of its own," he said.

"When that all happened, I didn't even work out my notice, I just left - it was the ultimate burning of bridges really.

"It was tough giving up a relatively well-paid job, but if I wanted to work in IT I'd have probably taken a six-month career break - to me this was an opportunity to get off the office merry-go-round."

Comics are a labour of love for many artists who often find it difficult to get paid for their work, but Mr Holden said the potential for distribution on devices such as the iPhone or eBook readers was enormous.

Dr Who painting
An artwork by PJ Holden, who has turned professional as a comic artist

"It doesn't have to be graphics, there could be audio and video in there as well," he said.

The Heroes app is only available in the US at the moment, but Infurious has developed a children's comic, EyeCandy, using the same software engine and they are looking at licensing the app to other firms.

Mr Holden and his colleagues may have accidentally hit upon what could be the future of comic book publishing but he said they were trying to not get carried away with their rapid ascent.

"Whether the artwork ends up on a page or a mobile device, as long as I get to draw that's all that matters," he said.



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