I have seen the future and it won’t stop moving

So what’s the future of webcomics? Heidi MacDonald and Scott McCloud think that webcomics may need a little action in the back section, if ya know what I mean.

In other words: motion comics.

Scott McCloud, noted advocate for webcomics providing things that are impossible in print, commented at his blog:

Got two emails in the last few days with links to two new webcomics using navigation techniques that neatly sum up this interesting technological moment we’re in.

Turbo Defiant Kimecan by Mexican artist Ferran Daniel uses Flash to load one panel or element at a time. We’ve seen a few comics like it, but this one gets points for some pretty artwork. Curious to hear what people think of this sort of loading order, now that we’ve seen it a few times. (Maybe time to revisit this discussion?)

Meanwhile, along comes an HTML 5 comic, Never Mind the Bullets (cooked up by Steaw Web Design to show off Microsoft’s IE9). More proof-of-concept than anything else, but it’s kind of cool and got me thinking about how that layered effect could be used in other ways. (thanks again to Randy Oest for the tip).

Of course, the real shoot-out going on this year is between file formats, and with the recent back-and-forth in the mobile space over Flash and HTML 5, it’s helpful to have some concrete reminders of the very different creative directions each might take us in.

From Heidi MacDonald at The Beat:

McCloud has been pointing to these kinds of formal explorations for a while; neither of the above succeeds as comics or interaction BUT they do present intriguing possibilities. Every technology gets its D.W. Griffith, and it’s just a matter of time before some kid latches onto what’s intuitive and informative about these possibilities.

In the comments, Swiss artist Michael Kühni links to his own experiments with Flash, which are far more successful.

There’s also Boi by Vincent Giard, which uses Flash to convey that hungover feeling–to good effect.

There’s also Dan Goldman’s recently concluded Red Light Properties, another Flash-based story which had several technical upgrades along the way.

Overall, we see an unevenly evolving picture, as individuals mess around and come up with novelty ideas, some charming, some…awkward. The two examples McCloud points to do suggest possibilities however — Never Mind The Bullets, while poorly drawn, suggests the ability to follow stories in a more spatial way (clicking to go into an environment) without going full-on animation.

Both acknowledge that the example have met with quite a bit of criticism. (McCloud: “I’m not endorsing either approach as “the future of comics” or anything. But it’s always interesting to see how many different reading models there are, and even failed attempts can sometimes contain useful ideas.”) This is only right, since Flash, especially the glacially loading variety from our pals at Zuda, is a bad word around these parts. But is this, perhaps, what we are to expect our webcomics to be in the decade to come? After all, just a decade ago, it was enough to have a screen filled with dancing bananas and MIDI files. Is it possible that these two examples represent the next level of sophistication?

(h/t Spy6teen, whose trackback led me to the articles, and commenter Pierre Lebeaupin, whose comment on Never Mind the Bullets led me to that particular comic in the first place)

About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on September 23, 2010, in The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. That’s just ridiculous. Why is Scott McCloud so obsessed with motion comics? It’s a novelty is all.
    It’s not about doing what’s impossible in print, it’s about doing what print isn’t doing. Isn’t that way anyhting sells on the internet? Because the more ‘mainstream’ version limits itself to what it know it can sell and doesn’t like to do anything else?
    The animation aspect is nice and it blurs the lines between comics and animation, but it’s not some big evolution of comics.

  2. Just for the record, I HATE nearly all motion comics. That’s not what the above discussion is about.

    • Perhaps “motion comics” is a poor term. It’s not motion comics in the sense of the stuff that Marvel and DC put out on iTunes, which are basically bad cartoons. However, I sorta do consider a lot of the Flash-style click-forward comics to be motion comics as well — just a different degree. I’m talking about the camp that Wendy Pini’s Masque of the Red Death and Nawlz fall in. They’re not tiny movies, but they do employ movement as a large part of the attraction (which is true in the case of Never Mind the Bullets, less true in the case of Kimecan, where it’s mainly frame-to-frame transitions).

  3. Hello
    I would like to show a little story i did, which i describe as “slideshow comic” :

    http://ude-geki.webcomics.fr/page/ude-geki-1

    it’s in french, sorry, but you can easily understand. :)

    Have a nice reading.

  4. Pierre Lebeaupin

    Oh, shucks… I thought it would make the rounds of the tech sites (and you’d also see it from elsewhere), but apparently it didn’t; so I should in turn hat tip to Daring Fireball ( http://daringfireball.net/linked/2010/09/21/never-mind-the-bullets ).

  5. I mentioned this over at S16, but its worth mentioning here.

    This really isn’t an innovation of any sorts. Brendan Cahill’s OTB was a flash based motion comic that came out in the early 2000s, and to be honest, nothing has changed years later. Clicking to advance or scrolling over objects, waiting for images to appear isn’t exactly anything groundbreaking.

    If you want to engage viewers with webcomics on an innovative level, you could try something that allows them to alter the storyline at any given point depending on where you ‘click to advance’ or whatever you decide to look into with your cursor.

    If you want to be innovative with webcomics using technology, follow the lead video games take. Make your comics like a big sandbox world that people can go and explore on their own and then have the ability to follow the linear story as they wish (think Grand Theft Auto).

    This type of free-roam in a comics environment would be cool on a personal level. Sure it may cause some issues with management, but its simply just an idea that stretches beyond pressing a button to advance to a new frame.

    • I agree with you. A number of webcomics appeared in the past, surfing on the wave of the new technologies, but the novelty effect runs off really fast once both readers and authors realize fancy technology by itself does nothing in terms of delivering greater enjoyment in reading, it only gives props to the webmaster and kills any possibility of a printed run.

      The idea of an interactive webcomic seems cool but would require a massive work from the artist – by the time the comic makes only 10 2-way forks, there’s 1024 different storylines already. If the author wants such level of interaction, it’s better to just make it a game already.

      • That’s always been the conundrum. Back when Ebert was still sticking to his guns that video games weren’t art, one of his arguments was that when the narrative is too heavily skewered towards storytelling, then the game starts to cease becoming a game and heads down the path of being a movie. You start to see this effect in a lot of modern JRPGs, that have long cinematic cut-sequences. Your proposal takes it the other way. At some point, it ceases being a comic and starts being a game. Unless we’re willing to expand the definition of a comic to include interactivity.

        In that case, does that mean Japanese dating sims are basically interactive comics? They’re all still images and branching decisions that lead to different storyline conclusions.

        • That Vincent Giard link is amazing, there´s no need for words to support the use of motion a vehicle of innovation.

          Many webcomics creators don´t even care about using even the most basic principles and narrative techniques develeped by the greatest comic artists.
          I fear many would simply add crappy GIFs and carry the pet peeves hated by modern animation fans into the webcomics realm.

        • Well almost. The correct definition for dating sims and some other similar works is “visual novel” and heck, an web-visual novel wouldn’t be all that bad an idea, but calling it a comic would be a strech, unless the author is actually willing to draw unique entire pages for all possible situations.

          I see what you mean, and that’s quite the reason Chrono Trigger is regarded by some as the best game of all times. Writing a game with a coherent and enjoyable story that still allows the player to choose how to proceed is a monumental task.

          I’ve seen a video somewhere about how you should not hire regular writers to create interactive media, and when playing Doom³ it shows why – instead of the chalenging run-n-gun of previous games with tons of secret levels, it’s an overscripted survival horror that leaves too few decisions for the player to make, while poking the player into reading walls of text and hearing minutes-long audio logs trying to find the damn locker codes.

        • so phoenix wright ace attorney games are comics???

  6. What was that all about? was it some kind of prank?

  7. Hmm I just don’t see what it adds to Turbo Defiant… Having that sort of format, I mean. The other one that does that that I can think of, Platinum Grit, uses it to its advantage because it shows it one panel at a time, and you get some really neat almost animation-esque sequences with the expressions. Not so with TDK.

    {Also fangasm scott mccloud reads your WEBSITE.}

  8. Hmmm.. I’m sure they will kinda suck at first but it is possible someone will take it to another level. Look how cartoons evolved even eventually to to CG.

  9. Hey! This is my first visit to yoour blog! We are a team of volynteers and starting a new project in a community in the ame niche.
    Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a outstanding job!

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