The Place of Tech in a Digital Comics Company: An Interview with Fensou Miles

Fensou Miles on the Zebra comics blog

The digital comics market is witnessing great growth. New actors are entering the market everyday, growth projections are over the ceiling and digital comics IPs are seeing more success than they have ever seen in the past. This phenomenal growth, seen in companies like Line Webtoon, can be attributed principally to the strength and reach of the internet. With the possibility of reaching billions of people just by the click of a mouse or the touch of a screen, the internet has been of great importance to the growth of the comic book sector. Comic book lovers who own a compatible digital device like a smartphone, tablet or PC just need to log on to a website or download an app to be able to access millions of stories from different parts of the world. And with the deep penetration of the internet, this trend will only continue to grow. A good example which demonstrates this growth is the company, Zebra Comics PLC.

Zebra Comics PLC is a Cameroonian company that specialises in the creation and commercialization of comics, animation and other derived products. As a company that saw the light of day in this digital age, it is no surprise that its management team decided to focus fully on digital distribution of comics. Consequently, the company has created a mobile application and website through which comic book lovers can read their favourite stories. And to make these platforms unique, the company decided to focus on the commercialisation of African stories that readers will find nowhere else but on the Zebra Comics app and website. So far, thousands of users have signed up to the company’s platforms and are enjoying the stories whose episodes are published every couple of days. From this, it is clear that technology has a very important place in this company. The question one will ask now is: how is all of this managed to make sure that everything works well and yields great results?

Well, we caught up with Fensou Miles, Technology Officer at Zebra Comics, to find out how all this works. This is what he had to say.

The Zebra Comics Blog: Hello Miles. Thank you for taking time to answer our questions. Let’s begin with this: How do you see technology influencing the digital comics industry in the next 5-10 years?

Fensou Miles: Thank you for the question. Well, in the next five to ten years, technology is going to influence the digital comics industry principally at the levels of content creation and distribution. In an era where we are witnessing the proliferation of artificial intelligence like Chatgpt, creatives will use these digital tools for inspiration, for editing and to assist them create stories and illustrations faster than they would have ever done manually. With an increase in internet penetration and the number of digital comics readers, demand will increase exponentially and creatives will resort to these digital tools to create content that will satisfy these demands. On the distribution side, digital technology will occasion the proliferation of indie publishing. Authors or creatives will not need to pay editors huge sums to get their works edited and proofread, and they will be able to sell their work to people across the world more easily. Also, since there is a noticeable growth in the number of people who use their smartphones to consume comics, creators will resort more to digital tools to create comics which can be best experienced on these devices. This means that with time, we will see the emergence of new digital comics formats, a race to create the most innovative digital comics reading experience out there.

The Zebra Comics Blog: How has technology impacted the way your company creates and distributes digital comics?

Fensou Miles: Indeed, technology has impacted the way our company creates and distributes digital comics. Already, most of our creators are using artificial intelligence as personal assistants in their creative process. Daily, each creator has to produce work that will normally be produced by five different creators. Given this important volume of work, creators have no choice but to resort to AI, which can help them produce so much work in limited time. Also, our comics are distributed via a subscription based application (Android and iOS) and a website, which points at two things: firstly, we use digital means to distribute our products (thereby answering your question), and secondly, our creators are called upon to create large amounts of content to meet that high demand that is usually experienced on subscription based content platforms. This therefore reinforces the need to use AI tools to ensure that we catch up with demand, while ensuring that we do not sacrifice the quality of our productions. Personally, I believe that in the near future, creatives who use AI tools in their creative process will outperform creators who don’t, and thereby kick the latter out of the content creation market.

The Zebra Comics Blog: What role do you see emerging technologies such as AI and virtual reality playing in the future of digital comics?

Fensou Miles: Let me be honest; the role of emerging technologies such as AI will be more and more central in digital comics. As I mentioned in a previous answer, more creatives will turn to AI as an assistant for their creative process. The line between human and AI creations will be so blurred that at some point, we will begin to see comics that are created entirely by AI tools. With this kind of development, many problems will naturally  arise. Amongst these problems are legal issues pertaining to the ownership of these creations. If a creator uses an AI to create an entire comic book and puts it on the market, who will own the intellectual property? What if the AI creates a product which is criminal in nature? Who takes the blame?

Emerging technologies will help increase the trend in the use of virtual reality in the consumption of digital comics. Comic book creators will be able to get their fans to experience their comics virtually, providing them with an even more immersive experience. At the same time, interaction between creators and fans will be heightened as, through virtual reality, they will be able to meet each other physically in a virtual environment. An economic system will grow out of this and see the growth of other things like the sale of digital items through VR and much more. From this, there is no doubt that AI, virtual reality and other emerging technologies will affect digital comics in very serious ways.


The Zebra Comics Blog: Can you talk about a specific technological advancement that has had a significant impact on your company’s operations or products?

Fensou Miles: Yes, of course. The availability of graphic tablets has changed the way and the speed in which we create comics in our company. A couple of years ago, obtaining a good graphic tablet for the production of digital comics was very difficult. Firstly, they were expensive and secondly, they weren’t always available. Most often, we ordered these graphic tablets from stores abroad and it usually took months for them to be delivered. Worse of all, getting spare parts for these tablets was a nightmare, making operations very difficult. Today, graphic tablets are available everywhere, their accessories are no longer scarce and they are much more affordable than before. We have been able to acquire quite a good number and this has accelerated our production speed. Also, these graphic tablets now come with different options, like an integrated screen, which makes them very efficient in the creation of comics. To crown it all, cheaper versions of these graphic tablets are available, and they still get the job done. These advancements have undoubtedly helped us reduce costs and increase productivity.

The Zebra Comics Blog: How do you balance the use of technology with maintaining the creative integrity of your digital comics?

Fensou Miles: For creation to take place, one requires inspiration, and it comes in different forms; it could be from something one saw on social media, a conversation one had, a thought in one’s mind, an image one saw in a museum etc In fact, inspiration can come from anything and anywhere. Now, how do I balance the use of technology while maintaining creative integrity? Well, normally, I start off with an idea, and this idea is usually not very clear. It will require some work for me to take this idea and transform it into something meaningful and monetizable. At this level, I make use of technology, specifically AI to be able to fine-tune the idea and make it look interesting. On a normal day, when I have an idea and I am not very certain about how to create something bigger from this, I resort to AI like ChatGPT to help dissect my idea and break it down to bits, thereby reinforcing my creativity. After that, I go back to what the AI has provided as feedback and I work on it, so as to render it as authentic as possible.

The Zebra Comics Blog: How does your company approach the use of data and analytics in the creation and marketing of digital comics?

Fensou Miles: We use a lot of data in the creation and marketing of our digital comics. For starters, we make sure that the way the comics appear on our PCs and laptops in the office should be the same way they appear on the phones of our users. For us to be able to achieve this, we gather data which tells us the kinds of smartphones, tablets or PCs our users use to access our platforms. From this data, we can acquire the devices and test our comics on them before we put them on the market. Sometimes, we find out that the comics do not display well on these devices and we therefore have the opportunity to fix these issues and ensure that the user has the best experience possible.

Going further, we have tools that provide us with data on the content which is consumed on our platforms. We can see the number of people who view a particular comic, where they are viewing it from and this helps us to decipher what people like and what they dislike. This kind of data can help us to pick out a specific book, identify what makes it good or bad for a particular audience, and use the results to create similar products which will satisfy particular communities and foster our business. Given that Zebra Comics PLC focuses on the creation and commercialization of comics based on African cultures and traditions on a global scale, we have to look at our data closely to make sure that we are doing the right thing and that our users are very satisfied.

Technology is here to stay. Whether we like it or not, it will continue to affect different aspects of our human activity in very deep ways. From the advancements in hardware to the birth of artificial intelligence, technology is more rooted in our lives than it has ever been. This is also true for companies like Zebra Comics PLC and sectors like digital comics. As Fensou Miles has clearly pointed out, technology has and will continue to have a huge impact on digital comics. Actors in this domain just have to adapt to this trend or they will have nothing but their tears to console them on the other end of the rope.

Fensou Miles is Technology Officer and comic book creator at Zebra Comics PLC. He is the creator of the comic book IP, WRONG DIAL, which is available on the Zebra Comics App and Website. He holds a Master’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and he is a great lover of art and entrepreneurship.

4 thoughts on “The Place of Tech in a Digital Comics Company: An Interview with Fensou Miles”

  1. Cabrel Guiswe

    I’m a creator, this tells me how much I can do in my creative process while leveraging technology.

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