Robot 6

Mark Waid designs ‘truly digital comics’

Mark Waid made his career in print comics, but over the past few years he has become increasingly involved in digital work, and this short video demonstrates where his thinking is going. Waid believes that the day of the print-first comic is coming to an end, and that creators should be designing their comics with the digital reading experience in mind.

Most “digital comics” offered by large publishers are little more than clunky adaptations of previously existing material first designed for standard portrait-format print comics, not for landscape-format monitors and tablets. When reading a print comic, you can see the entire page at once, and artists use that as a design tool. But print comics captured on the screen are almost always too large to “take in” without scrolling about or enlarging or isolating individual panels—the comics equivalent of the old “pan-and-scan” evil of presenting widescreen movies on square televisions by inelegant cropping and editing. Hence, my new passion.

In the video above, Waid demonstrates his new type of comic on his iPad, although it must be said that this wheel has already been invented, at least in part, by the webcomics crowd. Dan Goldman’s Red Light Properties, for instance, has the same sort of “page turn” that Waid uses — story elements appear or the panel shifts as the reader taps (on Waid’s iPad) or clicks (on Goldman’s webcomic). Scott McCloud was talking about the “infinite canvas” years ago, and a lot of webcomics creators already work in a horizontal format that is appropriate for computer screens. That doesn’t mean Waid’s work isn’t important, though; as a prominent creator and thinker, he is likely to have both the audience and the creativity to push this medium to the next level.

(via Comics Alliance)

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Comments

5 Comments

Thanks for the coverage. Because I had only a very limited space at the In Media Res site to explain what I was doing, allow me to add here that I hardly think I’m the first guy to use these techniques–I’ve been studying webcomics for a while, have been talking at great length to some of the real pioneers (special thanks to Scott Kurtz, Brian Clevenger, Balak, Alex DeCampi, Scott McCloud and SO many others) and exchanging information, and so forth. I’m still giddly enjoying the experimental phase, playing with techniques to see what works well and what doesn’t, what still feels like comics and what gets thrown out because it doesn’t, and so forth.

The demo video, natch, is just that–a quick-and-dirty illustration of techniques, not of the story itself, not really meant to be read and enjoyed as a digital comic yet (which is why I stopped the demo with a few pages left to go). Something I captured on my iPhone on the fly. But if you want to see real progress…well, be there for my announcement at Wondercon next month….

I’m impressed by your effort, Mark. Though I don’t fancy myself a digital comics reader (I do however read a few webcomics), I appreciate the lengths creators like yourself go in order to further the industry.

On a tangent note, you were on the guest list at Emerald City Comic Con 2011 last year, and I wanted to get your autograph, but couldn’t find you at all–I didn’t even find your table. I even asked a few of the creators in the artist alley where you were (Brandon Jerwa even told me to look for you by the hat you were supposedly wearing. Was something wrong that day?

We’ve had many discussions at my LCS about this very thing.

The comics that are currently being produced by all of the comic companies will never adapt very well to the digital realm. They have to be restructured to actually be viewed properly in a landscape or strict portrait mode and you can’t do that properly nor effectively with double page spreads or panels that zig-zag into each other.

For current comics from the major publishers to be sold digitally and reach the masses that they want them to reach, the whole design will have to be reconsidered. It’s hard to enjoy a double page spread on a 9 inch screen.

By the way, Mark, I look forward to your announcement!

Thanks for putting together the video, Mark – and that looks like an interesting project.

I’m a huge fan of the potential of digital comics, I bought a Kindle Fire primarily for that reason. I’d buy almost all my individual comics digitally if publishers would stop expecting me to pay the same amount for a digital file as a physical paper product – I can still get paper comics cheaper with a discount thru mail-order, even with shipping factored in. I can’t see why a 99 cent price point can’t work – offer the individual issues for that, and then print trades under a more traditional pricing model. If something really catches my eye and I want it on my bookshelf as a keeper, then I don’t feel awkward about paying twice for the same material, if I didn’t get gouged the first time around. And the bottom line is if the price point is too high, in either paper or digital, then pirate scans become that much more attractive, and no one wins in that scenario except for the reader who got a totally free ride.

In my mind, the biggest hurdles to getting more people to read comics isn’t the material or medium itself, it’s the pricing and inconviences of the format. This should be a huge boon toward getting new creative voices into the industry, as well – eliminating the expense of printing allows self-publishing to be more viable. And it allows creators to essentially give away a free comic to spark interest in their work, which is impossible with print. Having digital exclusive material that can really take advantage of the format’s strengths, like the video showed, is the next step toward larger acceptance – especially if it’s material from established, respected creators like Mark.

Reading comics in this guided view is really a different sort of experience – I feel like I spend more time with the material, pay more attention to the art in the individual panels, and there’s more of a sense of suspense because my eye’s not accidentally catching a spoiler image when I turn the page. I’m not even really aware of ‘where’ I am in a story because I can’t see how many pages are left, so sometimes I’m not braced for the usual end-of-issue cliffhanger, which can literally come out of the blue — it’s just a lot more fun and reminds me why I like the medium so much in the first place. All it needs to be is a little more reasonably-priced and it’d be perfect.

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