Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Gearing Webcomic Content Ramblings

In the comments to my last rambling (the one before the reviews) Von Allen posed some interesting questions in discussing making webcomics, either for portable electronic devices or something else: "Should content be geared to these screen dimensions? Or a compromise between the requirements of print versus online versus handheld? Or something else?" So allow me to ramble on the options...

Gearing Content to a Specific Medium/Device
There are some definite advantages to doing this. The comic creators have control over how content is presented and can feel their message is as they want it to be where as different mediums/devices may "distort" it. Looking at a print comic for example, they've been around for a while now and writers and artists have built up a library of techniques that have worked, and what hasn't. And that library is still growing. But I find that when print comics are taken directly to another medium (whether it's "motion comics" or just scanned in) you are now adding a new level that can change how the book is read.

Additionally, creators can take advantage of some features of the medium/device and how those users are used to using it. A print comic can be pretty limited in comparison to what you could do with the infinite canvas of a computer monitor. You can even direct the reader as you like through the panels or scenes. Webcomics are very young in comparison to print comics and I think it'll be exciting to watch them do so.

And there's the question of whether you can really compromise for every scenario. Who knows what the next device will be? How it will be used? At least if you build your comic for the iPhone you know what the reader will be experiencing. Attempting to compromise for every medium possible would be impossible.

By not gearing your comic to one medium or device you are also not restricting your audience. For those of us who don't have an iPhone, comics made for that device won't be read unless it eventually gets ported to a medium we do have access to. And if the creators don't have control over that transfer then it may not work as well as it should. And here we're allowing the reader to pick the medium they are most comfortable with. Some are more comfortable reading comics on the computer or handheld device than print and prefer to make that decision for themselves. Because as much as I talk about the creators controlling their work, it's the readers who buy it and who interpret it. Some readers may be okay with a creator saying "This is how I envision this work, take it or leave it" while others will want a more flexible environment that accounts for their personal tastes.

Also, gearing your work to one medium/device can actually be limiting in some ways. You are limited to the abilities of that device and you fall into a narrow view. Making your work more generic and forcing the device to have to do the work of presenting your comic in a readable format (by people writing software or whatever else to present comics in a readable format) means you can actually open up some options to the creators.

Technology changes very quickly and gearing your work to a medium or device could be a waste of time if that medium/device is obsolete by the time you're finished your comic.

Final Thoughts
I really don't want to say "This is the way I think it will go..." or even "should go...". A lot of people (even a lot who read comics) who might read this rambling would probably say "they're just comics, who cares about the 'medium' and all these other 'artsy' ramblings?" And though I may disagree with the idea that they're "just comics", a lot of readers don't care about this stuff, they just want to escape into a "good read". There's also the more business minded because let's face it, people need to make money to live in this world. I've barely touched on the business side of things, it can be a rambling of its own, and the business factors will be a (if not 'the') driving force behind a lot of decisions made by the creators and the companies behind them.

So yet again, I have no answers, just more ramblings. But I do think that one way or another this will be one of the more memorable times for comics, for good or bad. There is so much possibility for comics going so far beyond what they are now while at the same time, with that possibility of success there's plenty of room for failures.

And I don't see an answer in sight any time soon. I mean, look at print comics, that medium in itself is still in growth. They are still finding news ways of getting their stories out there, you could even say the idea of writing for the monthly book versus the TPB still hasn't been settled (according to some) and probably won't any time soon. And not everyone agrees that this is even an issue.

So feel free to share your ramblings, hopefully I'm not the only one who ponders these types of things. :)


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