Tinyview is an app by Newput Inc. that first launched in December 2019, promising “bite-size comics for your phone! Instead of reading in a zigzag order, read comics by scrolling up and down.” But what separates this app from other apps like Webtoon or Tapas? Let’s look at the content.
So far their sparse lineup appears to be mainly nonfiction comics with an intellectual bent. Tinyview currently hosts Itchy Feet, a travel and language comic by Malachi Ray Rempen; Matt Bors’s political cartoons; Fowl Language by Brian Gordon; Gemma, a series of short relatable gag strips by Gemma Correll; and their original series of scientist biographies titled In Science We Trust, as well as a series of one-panel cartoons about modern technology called Product Plug. I am reminded of The Nib, which Matt Bors founded, but less focused on serious journalism.
This is an underutilized niche in digital comics. Besides The Nib, there aren’t many online publications focusing specifically on nonfiction in comics form. So I’m baffled as to why the marketing and branding around Tinyview isn’t emphasizing the science and educational potential of their content, but rather the now-commonplace idea of mobile-friendly comics. The name “Tinyview,” and the tagline “bite-size comics for your phone,” all highlight an idea that small comics for phones are somehow new and special, when they really aren’t, not in 2020.
The description of the mobile app features a quote from Malachi Ray Rempen saying “Reading comics on your phone was a dystopian nightmare of constant pinching and squinting—until Tinyview came along!” which is just not the case. Webtoons, the vertical-format digital comics originating in South Korea, have been designed for smartphone reading around the world since the early 2010s. The overall impression this marketing gives off is that of a publisher unfamiliar with the digital comics landscape today.
The Tinyview site perplexes me. They seem to be soliciting new talent, but the “contact us” tab doesn’t work and there’s no options for pitching or submitting comics or ideas. There isn’t a list of contributors anywhere, and the artist on the “About Tinyview” comic is not visibly credited in that comic itself. The @tinyviewcomics Twitter account has 20 followers and 7 tweets despite being made in January 2020. The Instagram account has almost 1700 followers, but low engagement per post makes me suspect the follower count is artificially inflated. The comic about Tinyview mentions an “influence” currency, where sharing the comics can unlock premium content to read, but I don’t know how they expect that to work when they don’t seem to really understand social media themselves. However, the app itself is minimalist and easy to navigate.
As for the actual comics, the scientist biography series is… fine. Andy Warner’s contributions are pretty funny. But the comics themselves are less creative than a standard Webtoon. Each biography is formatted the same: narration in a yellow caption box over a key moment in the scientist’s life story, repeat for about 20-25 panels. There is no use of the gutter size to control narrative pacing, no stylistic experimentation. The art is clean and competent, but it feels like it’s just there to serve the words. It doesn’t feel like the innovative use of the medium the advertising claimed.
Product Plug, the one-panel cartoon series, is fascinating to me because it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a short cartoon and thought “this could be longer.” Of the fifteen cartoons already posted, all of them feel incomplete somehow. It’s just so… bizarre.
In general, Tinyview as of right now feels like Quibi, multiplied by The Nib and divided by Bill Nye The Science Guy. I don’t think the guys who made this app know a lot about webcomics, or comics as a whole. I have no idea what Matt Bors is doing here, but I hope they’re paying him well.