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Comic books made the leap to the online world long ago, but Microsoft and Disney are aiming to take things a step further with the release today of a new “Tron: Legacy” graphic novel built in HTML5, the next generation of the underlying language of the web. The project, available here, is designed in part to showcase the use of HTML5 with hardware acceleration in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 browser.

The smooth, side-scrolling novel feels something like a traditional comic book, but the panels and characters move and snap into place as the story unfolds, with dramatic music underneath. It was built in about a month by a small team led by the Vectorform interactive design company.

“It really brings it to life in a completely new way,” said Nachie Castro, Disney Publishing global editor.

One of the goals of IE9 is to make the web feel more like an application, and the Tron: Legacy graphic novel is “a pretty great illustration of that,” said Ryan Gavin, a senior director for Internet Explorer. There’s also a complete Tron: Legacy app for the iPad, but Gavin said the technical performance of the web version in Internet Explorer 9 should compare very well.

The core technology of the web is extending beyond the browser, as well. Microsoft said this week that the next version of its Windows operating system will rely heavily on HTML5 and JavaScript for applications.

Of course other browsers also support HTML5, and the graphic novel also seems to run well in Google Chrome, in my usage this morning. I’ve had less success running it in the latest version of Firefox. Mozilla and Microsoft have disagreed in the past over which web standards to emphasize.

See this detailed technical post on Microsoft’s Exploring IE blog for more on how the Tron graphic novel was created.

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