Trailblazer: BYU professor creates first animated comic book, 'Bottom of the Ninth'

Published: Saturday, July 28 2012 11:00 p.m. MDT

"Apple is fully supportive of this app — they've been working with me on the tail end because they see that this could really start a unique storytelling movement that is in their interests," Woodward said. "So we're putting our heads together wondering, 'How do we explain to people what this is without giving it away for free?'"

The version of "Bottom of the Ninth" available in Apple's App Store is actually only a prologue, the first installment of a 10-part story Woodward has already planned out in detail. Whether the subsequent nine chapters ever materialize depends in large part upon how well the prologue sells.

"I have a plan that I'd like to employ, but that all depends on the success of the prologue," he said. "The (prologue) was 100 percent independently produced and funded, and that can only happen once. There's got to be a measurable success to it so that I can invest that success into the following issues."

The app started selling for $3.99, but the price quickly fell — first to 99 cents, and now to "Free." It's likely the price drops were in reaction to disappointing sales figures, but because Woodward repeatedly declined to disclose sales figures for "Bottom of the Ninth," it's impossible to know for certain whether slow sales prompted the price drops.

One factor working in favor of "Bottom of the Ninth" is that the app has elicited overwhelmingly positive praise from a wide breadth of media outlets. For example, on Monday the respected sports website Baseball Prospectus showered uncharacteristically effusive praise on Woodward's creation.

"'Bottom of the Ninth' is a work of art that all baseball-loving tablet owners should download immediately," Larry Granillo wrote. "At its most basic level … Woodward's 'Bottom of the Ninth' takes (the graphic novel) concept and improves upon it to an amazing degree. … This is George Lucas turning Saturday-morning pulp into a laser-popping wonder, Georges Melies showing the world what film can do with the right imagination. Best of all, Woodward does it all with baseball."

To be sure, positive press helps — but it remains to be seen whether that can be a catalyst for bumping the app's balance sheet into the black. Indeed, in reflecting about the boom-or-bust potential of "Bottom of the Ninth," Woodward noted that the success of his app he spent six months designing might ultimately have no correlation with the product's quality.

"I completely understood the risks when I started with this thing," he said. "Whenever something totally different or new comes out, it either succeeds wonderfully or it fails miserably. … But the thing that I take a lot of confidence in is that I do feel like I created something very, very unique — and even if it doesn't take off right now, I still feel like it will set the stage for a lot of future stuff that comes out."

Emaill: jaskar@desnews.com

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