Monday, February 18, 2013

Digital Comics Revisited... Again

I've been trying to stay away from the whole "future of comics" discussion lately, I'm just rather tired of it. But I decided to watch Mark Waid's talk on "Reinventing Comics and Graphic Novels for Digital" (found on YouTube here: ) to see what he had to say. I won't go into it in too much detail. I will say that I admire what he is trying to do with Thrillbent. One way or another, digital is here to stay so talking about what can be done (storytelling wise as well as money wise) instead of just ignoring it (or going in blindly) makes sense.

But in terms of the storytelling, here's where I have some issues. I wouldn't call them serious issues, they may only apply to me, but I've found some of the storytelling tricks/techniques to really not work for me. One in particular that I've grown a dislike for is when you keep the page/panels almost the same when the reader goes to the next "page", only changing little things (an expression, a gesture, some dialogue, or whatever else). And sometimes it doesn't work for me when even big things change. To put it simply, when this is done I feel like I'm doing one of those "spot the 8 differences between these pictures" games. I stop focussing on what exactly is happening and focus on going back and forth trying to spot the differences. I can't seem to help it. And even when I do spot the differences, I keep looking through every background detail to see if there's something I'm missing. It completely takes me out of the story.

So maybe it's just me but I actually prefer it when the visual hits me in the face with what I need to know instead of appearing to play games with me. So if the changes are significant enough, it's less of an issue for me, but as I said there's still something in me that isn't sure. It sort of reminds me of scenes where we see two characters fighting only to have one character stab the other with a dagger that seems to appear out of the blue. I wonder where it came from and have to go back two pages to see that the character picked it up while other stuff was catching my eye. Or, other times, I can only guess the character had it hidden somewhere as its origin is never quite revealed. In my mind, unless you really want to keep it from the reader, make it clear. Slide in a quick panel showing the character's hand snatching the dagger or pulling it from their pocket. This is different than the other scenario where two characters are fighting and one retreats only to reveal to the reader later that they pick pocketed the thing they were fighting over. Basically, the scenario where you really want to surprise the reader. But think carefully over which you want to do. Surprising the reader with the dagger may work in some situations but you should really think about whether that makes sense for the story you want to tell. And  if you're thinking "Ha! I'll outsmart my readers by hiding these things from them" then you might want to rethink your approach. This isn't really what's happening in the video, just something I was thinking of about visual storytelling.

But there are tricks that Mr Waid shows that do work for me (some better than others and some I feel could use some tweaking). I think the piranha page works to some level. I think the page where two people are talking in the kitchen while the flashback panel between them has some merit but I wouldn't have minded some change in the talking characters (raising a glass to their mouths from time to time, actually moving away from filling the pot at the sink, etc).

In the end, it's an interesting talk. But of course, I almost always find comic talk interesting. :)

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