Baseball animated graphic novel out soon

Courtesy of Ryan Woodward

Google "animated graphic novel" and you won't find much. But you will find this: "Bottom of the Ninth," a unique, baseball-themed, soon-to-be-released story from Hollywood animator, character designer and storyboard artist Ryan Woodward.

"Bottom of the Ninth" tells the story of Candy Cunningham, an 18-year-old daughter of a former baseball star -- who herself has quite the ability on the diamond.

Soon she becomes the hero of her hometown, Tao City, playing a different version of the sport, called "New Baseball" or "future ball" ...

...but like sports stardom in the real world, this isn't all happiness and sunshine. Yes, Candy's "relationship with her father keeps her grounded," according to Woodward, "yet [it] complicates things at the same time."

This rare type of project is available in a pretty unorthodox form, too -- as a series of apps, the first one titled "Prologue" (exact release date still TBD).

One of the voices? A certain Dale Murphy -- who spent 18 years in Major League Baseball, most of them with the Atlanta Braves, with whom he won two National League MVP awards. Here he plays a fictionalized version of himself -- a legend-turned-announcer named "The Murph."

The novel's construction, as Woodward writes on his website, took "40 years of dreaming, [then] four insane months of animating, drawing, drinking caffeine, and acting like a 10 year old again."

Woodward, who recently worked on films such as "The Avengers," "Snow White and the Huntsman" and "Iron Man 2," expanded in an email with Playbook.

On the inspiration for the story:

"[It] comes from my own three daughters and as they get older. I see their talents and what they can become, and it also scares me because the right amount of success without the work to get there can destroy one's principles and integrity."

On the presence of baseball in Tao City:

"Baseball is the world they live in. This world lives and eats New Baseball (future ball)."

On why he chose baseball:

"I did play Little League when I was a kid, but that didn't really inspire me to do baseball. Of all sports, I like the nostalgia of baseball -- the American Dream and the heart this game has.

"It's not like any other sport. It has roots and traditions and legends, and a real Americana feel. Other sports could have propelled the story of Candy forward as well, but baseball has heart, and I really needed to communicate the heart and the passion in with the sport."

Check out some animation tests, animations and character stills from this intriguing work: