Robot 6

Quote of the Day | ‘It’s not just a new distribution system, it’s a new system’

“I think the digital playground is still working out its own rules for comics and the best ways in which to incorporate comics. The conceptual problem is that when a new delivery system comes up, everyone tries to shove previous content into the new venue without understanding the benefits of the new form, like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. It’s not just a new distribution system, it’s a new system, and you have to adapt and create something new and suited to its rules. When television was aborning, the fledgling networks brought in radio drama writers who wrote dramas or variety shows that were structurally identical to what they’d done in radio; playwrights brought in from New York to give the new form legitimacy wrote one-set or two-set plays that could have been produced on any stage, they just filmed the play. Digital comics = the filmed play. We’re not there yet. But we’ll get there.”

J. Michael Straczynski, on the state of digital comics



I agree and disagree. It’s not a new distribution system. All of the economics of physical distribution are in play. Yes, more people will get to see it but Apple is already a monopoly and Comixology will become one soon enough, and that’s not good for the industry.

It is a new system because it allows publishers and creator to implement the “widescreen” format effect so that we can read comics more naturally horizontally. In Eisner/Miller, Frank Miller makes the point that most boks are vertical because they are prose and we don’t want to read lines of prose that are too long. He argues that the natural way to read comics is horizontally, the fewer the tiers the better, the wider the tiers the better.

Digital comics provides an easy and more natural way to test that theory. I think a great use of digital would be to revisit old comic book scripts and rewrite them to take advantage of the digital format. Maybe have pencilers reimagine older scripts, redraw them, taking advantage of the digital format. It could be interesting.

This is the pov of an old misguided fan/creator. He doesn’t understand what makes digital comics great.

What makes them great is they exist. They are not “new” as he says. People have been reading digital comics for over a decade now, legally and illegally. Millions of downloads can’t be wrong. It’s a good thing companies are shoving digital comics out, not a bad thing.

They do not need to be told in a “New way.” I read tons of comics on my Galaxy tab. You read them widescreen, not long screen. (Take note, Comixology app)

Writers will make a huge mistake when they try to say “Well I should write differently now.” Same goes for artists. Just write and draw for the printed comic. When it goes digital, don’t worry about it. Nothing is lost. People like myself and others already love digital comics, and have for a long time.

If you’re an old comics fan, you either adjust to digital, or never adjust and just read paper. But don’t expect comics to change for digital. They get uploaded and that’s it. Don’t overthink it JMS. He’s just not the type of fan that can adjust to digital properly. If you don’t understand and enjoy digital comics, you either have not read enough of them (I’ve read 1,000+) or you will never understand them.

Good observation by JMS. Certain approaches that work on paper don’t translate as well on the digital screen just as some things that worked on radio or in plays don’t work as well on TV. Long vertical panels can look neat on paper, but are awful in digital format. Splash pages are a waste since in theory every panel could be a splash page. Those are just two off the cuff things I could come up with. I’m sure there’s more.

The changes that will have to come about have more to do with the art and presentation more than with basic scripting and story telling. It’s all about getting the page layout right.

It would be a good observation if it weren’t already made by the entire industry almost ten years ago.

Jarrod: wrong.

As JMS says, the current paradigm revolves around shoving a preexisting formula into a new format. That’s always a decent stopgap but doesn’t reflect that the new format has attained a specific identity yet.

As a person who is personally well versed in digital comics reading, it is clear that format matters. Shape and proportion influence ease of reading and user comfort. Your comment is very much unhelpful because you attempt to shout down the very notion of exploration of what these differences can mean for the medium.

Anyway. That’s that.

@Aho: WROOOOOOOONNG! See my above post. ;D

I agree and disagree as well. Books are still read the same on kindle. Audiovisual content is still viewed online and on ipads the same way it’s been viewed on theatre screens and television screens. The radio to television analogy is completely irrelevant. Comics have a basic, simple, functional way of working that is universally understood: a drawing inside a box, then the next action is drawn in the box next to it and so on — it’s storyboarding. Simple. It doesn’t need fixing.

On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that when comics are released digitally that they can’t have special interactive features — like info buttons on certain panels that drop down menus where you can stream creator audio or info on inspiration or the original artist’s sketch of the pane/sequence or and original unedtied script page with notes and markings on it — this kind of thing would work especially well with releases of older graphic novels, like Watchmen, etc. where there is so much extra production content that can be sprinkled throughout for a richer reading experience rather than being edited down into the last 5 pages of a paperback. There is no limit on paper, thus no limit on content.

In addition to that, even dull things like credits can suddenly have connectivity to creators’ and editors’ websites, twitter, etc. Adverts can connect to the publishers’ social media outlets, while monthlies that are part of “events” can be skinned with a special interface in the theme of that particular event (i.e. X-Men vs Avengers, Flashpoint, etc), linking to content and news feed updates that only have to do directly with updates and releases or teasers of said event.

The possibilities are endless, but they don’t require damaging or “fixing” the fundamental function of comic readability itself. That’s where JMS is wrong. But other than, he’s right.

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