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  1.  (7043.21)
    Digital technology does change how comic art can be presented. A lot of comic artists are still stuck in a style that was developed for letterpress printing - pure black line. If black line is your artistic choice, great, but it's no longer technologically compulsory. And it's not just about creating art digitally - nearly any mark you make can be scanned and put on the web, and if it's greyscale it can also be printed very cheaply. I can draw in biro and publish it as it looks, and I've just done a 24 hour comic exploiting the grey tones you can get when a permanent marker starts to dry out.

    But I can't be doing with all this nonsense about how the screen is landscape so the page can't be portrait, like it's so hard to turn the scroll wheel on your mouse. Anybody who's too lazy to scroll down a page and click a "next" button is also too lazy to read an online newpaper article or a thread on message board - basically, not a reader.
    • CommentAuthortim.x13
    • CommentTimeOct 20th 2009
    I've been thinking about this concept for some time. I live in NY (Brooklyn) where space and cash are two things that aren't easy to come by. I can't afford (space-wise) to buy (money-wise) every comic/GN that I want to read. For the most part I use the local library system.

    I've been keeping my eye out for an e-ink reader that can handle color, and possibly minimal well as companies who are embracing the digital wave.

    I don't see why the two formats can't be mutually existent. Paper will never go away. It's just too cheap and too easy to produce/buy. Unless, of course, e-readers become just as cheap and ubiquitous.

    I've gone way off the track here, I fear. These devices change almost monthly, and I can't imagine why both the 'frame' format and the 'page' format can't both be used to great effect on any size device. The frame works well on smaller devices, but would look just as stunning on a larger device (tablet, ereader, kindle); like a series of splash pages. Very dynamic.

    The full page may not work as well on a smaller screen, but as @PatrickBrown suggested, it's just a simple matter of scrolling. Or reformatting to the particular aspect ratio.

    All this technology does is, really, put more tools and guidelines in the hands of artists. That's never a bad thing.
  2.  (7043.23)
    My first response got eaten by rabid web rabbits (or maybe I got sidetracked by my sick cat and closed the window by mistake) so the short version-

    The big problem with formatting a digital comic is that there's so many screen formats out there, and it's not going to change any time soon. I read on a 16:9 monitor at home, but elsewhere it's good old reliable 3:4, and of course there's millions reading on their iPhone/Pod thingies. I like the About Digital Comics format, although I'd like to see a counter to let me know how long what I'm reading is going to be, and it could use the ability to bookmark as well. That specific example felt a little cramped to me, though, but making it bigger gets right back to the question of who's viewing it in what resolution.

    Personal solution that won't work for everyone- I'll read online when it's the only choice, but I'd rather have a nice graphic novel. I'm one of the readers who reads Freakangels online every Friday and then runs right out and buys the graphic novels on day of release.
    • CommentAuthorWakefield
    • CommentTimeOct 20th 2009
    Tough task for artists as well. Now they need to have some programming know-how and understand user interface design, as well as all the traditional fundamentals for creating a good comic book.

    Another issue, as James Cunningham and Patrick Brown touched on, screen sizes and resolutions vary. If an artist draws a splash page that's meant to be viewed in its entirety, a low resolution that requires extensive use of a scrollbar undermines that work. It's not a matter of the reader's laziness, it's a matter of how the artist wants his or her work to be presented. He or she would have to cede a lot of that control.

    Also, people process information differently on a large screen versus on a small handheld screen versus on the page. All of which affects the way the creator tells the story.
    • CommentTimeOct 20th 2009
    I like how Nate Piekos does Atland - it's designed to be viewed onscreen and sold as a widescreen comic.

    When Larry Gonick's The Cartoon History of the Universe did a transition from print to digital for a game back in 1994, he readjusted his image to fit the screen in a similar fashion without losing the flow of the book's charm.

    I'm investigating the idea of doing something similar with our chatty indy comic you've seen me promote.
    • CommentTimeNov 10th 2009

    Scanning over a two page splash with your eyes and taking in the whole thing is a lot harder to do when you can't even get a good view of the full page. Format matters when you are writing with images.
    • CommentAuthorTheDeeMan
    • CommentTimeNov 10th 2009 edited
    The thing about webcomics is that there is no "you have to do it this way or that". You can more easily experiment with webcomic format then you can with print. You have to find what works for you. Monique (my partner on "The Continentals") is always experimenting with her other comics be it number of panels, panel arrangment, color, tones, etc. Stan Lee did several comics for a digital comic site (the name escapes me) who only showed comics that read from left to right like strips. Didn't work for me because it felt odd, but if that's your thing that's your thing. Webcomics allow you to be a square peg if that's what yuo are. A lot easier then print IMHO.


    THE CONTINENTALS. Murder, mystery, intrigue, adventure--And steampunk!
      CommentAuthorEthan Ede
    • CommentTimeNov 10th 2009 edited
    Ultimately, the major way to make money off webcomics is through printed volumes. And no one wants to read a printed volume that has the same image 14 times with different balloons because that's how it was designed for the web. Changing the resolution and dimensions of the art is necessary and good, but almost every time someone claims to be bringing some innovative new aspect to digital comics, what they are really saying is: they thought up a gimmick. And unfortunately we've all seen the same three gimmicks in webcomics time and time again. Most of the real innovation in webcomics is subtle, and it translates to print.

    The real place, that we, as webcomics creators, need to push ourselves, is not down the road of flash gimmicks, motion comics, and voice over; but the same place any creator needs to- storytelling. If the storytelling isn't there in the writing and in the art, then it doesn't matter how many bells and whistles surround it, the comic will fail. The web and webcomics offer great differences, and -I think- advantages over storytelling in western print comics at the moment. These are the avenues that the webcomics community should be exploring, and these are avenues that the most successful webcomics creators have been in for a long time now.
    • CommentAuthoruwspub
    • CommentTimeNov 10th 2009
    I completely agree that storytelling is the key to success. I'm not so sure about printed volumes. You have to have something to sell, but digital offers a lot these days -- iphone, Kindle, nook, Android, etc -- and these are catching on. I'm not discounting print -- far from it -- just saying it's not the only monetization method out there.

    The key here, is to figure out your format and how to make the books to fit it. And there will be some compromises, and some hard decisions. With SOLDIERS, we're getting positive and negative views of the word balloons (as you say "same image 14 times with different balloons"). It works very well for a rapidly changing, very small screen. A larger screen? Not so much. And Kindle? It works, but not as well. And that's just dialog. How about action sequences? The scenes we're making for later issues are incredibly dynamic and transfer beautifully to the fast & small screen. But Kindle is slow and small -- the timing certainly has an impact on reader reception.

    I'm beginning to think that a slightly smaller digital page may be best. Phoenix Requiem/Meek/Roza/etc operate on a (roughly) 500 pixel wide page about 800 pixels tall with oversized letters. It fits on the screen well, can be read inside of a .cbz or .pdf reader on most screens, and with the Infurious Media Reader App, transfers very well to the iphone. It's a little tight with Kindle -- but it fits and is legible. And, best of all, that format can go right to print in a Manga sized book.

    I'm going to continue to make SOLDIERS as we are -- I want to play with the dynamic nature of the format -- but we're going to put a couple of books out in the "small page" format and see how we like it. I want to use SOLDIERS to push the edge of digital, but scaling it back up for print is going to require re-lettering and some additional artwork. Damned if you do, damned if you don't...

    • CommentAuthorTheDeeMan
    • CommentTimeNov 10th 2009 edited
    I get what you're saying, Rob. I just don't like all this iphone, kindle, crap.

    I know. You're saying what's the difference between that and webcomics on a computer? Basically I'm a print comics guy. I use the web mostly as promotion for the eventual print volume. Because like Ethan said, the money in webcomics is in print volume. See Girl Genius as the perfect example. Started out as a print comic and failed, moved onto the web and became a huge it, sold it's print comics to it's online audience and their sales spiked.

    Because the only people making money off of webcomics are the ones who already are like PvP, Penny Arcade, etc, etc. The rest of us have to find
    a way beyond webcomics to make money from webcomics and that ultimately brings us back to print.


    THE CONTINENTALS. Murder, mystery, intrigue, adventure--And steampunk!
      CommentAuthorEthan Ede
    • CommentTimeNov 10th 2009 edited
    I get what you're saying, Rob. I just don't like all this iphone, kindle, crap.

    nor do I, not that i think that they are bad in themselves, just limited. Only people who buy an iPhone can read iPhone comics (or an ipod touch), only people who buy a kindle can read kindle comics. Any reader can buy a book. It's all about limits. It's not that I am a print comics guy in particular either, that is a limit as well. I want there to be as few limits as there can be on my work. Limits keep away large populations of readers and lead to pigeon holing. "Oh that's that iphone comic right?" "Oh that's that kindle comic?" - or that whatever comic. No, it's a comic. No motion, no voice acting. For me its all about taking hold of what publishing to web means in terms of advantages, working on my craft, making sure it can be translated into as many methods of delivery as possible, and avoiding gimmicks.

    Before we, as a community, get ahead of ourselves trying to incorporate elements that may not suite the medium, that may change it into something less than comic, less than animation, I think we need to look at the basics of making a webcomic. Is the site easy to navigate? When I go to a new webcomic, if I cannot tell instantly and I mean fucking instantly how to navigate through the strip- I don't read any further. If i have to go to a menu screen in between every screen of art, I don't read any further. We don't want to make webcomics harder to read than books, we want them to be easier. And with a book I don't have to read the table of contents over again between every page.

    Is the site well designed? HOT TIP: if you are not going to spring for a reader, and insist upon using a separate web page for every comic page then don't load that page with fucking banners and shit, then they all have to load every time. Simple is better. I personally don't use readers, because I never want anyone to have to download any new program to be able to read my books. Again trying to avoid limits. So we keep the layouts for the comics extremely simple, and legible. Too many comics have a ton of flashing shit all over the page surrounding the actual comic, it is distracting and it causes the site to bleed readers. Think about where the image will be on the screen when it loads I don't want to have to scroll just to see every page. t should be aligned with the top of the screen, if some extends below -that is fine- I will happily scroll to keep reading, but not to start. Remember that when a reader is going through the comic, they have to go through these steps every time they start a new page, and gets annoying quick.

    These are the things we need to work on in order to make webcomics push through into the future. Anyway this isn't directed at anyone in particular, I just spend a lot of time and effort trying to make sure things are simple, accessible, and executed well, and nothing annoys me more than bad webcomics/comics.
  3.  (7043.32)
    Ethan- words like that make me read things. Lightyears Away instantly hooked my brain, and the presentation is perfect. It looked great on my monitor, presentation was simple and instantly clear, and starting on the first strip made me read the whole thing. Admitted, that's only 4 strips at the moment, but I'd easily have kept going if there were more. Same for Creation Science, which I'm looking forward to the last two pages of. Great stuff!
  4.  (7043.33)
    @Ethan. I agree wholeheartedly. When I started Audley I got into all sorts of design and styles which some people liked and others didn't. I tarted it up because people were bleating about not being able to navigate the menus through their phones etc etc. So then I decided that all of that was too much effort which was distracting me from actually getting on with it and that was a problem because I know how big the fucker is going to end up before it finishes. So after a few different styles to try and accomodate readers I abandoned that made it as simple as I possibly could , got back to work and let word of mouth do the rest. In doing so I have a fairly dedicated readership, am happy (actually surprised) that I have any sort of modest following at all considering how mental and seemingly confusing it all is and that give me hope that what I'm doing works. In fact just a couple of weeks ago I heard from someone who said they had found my site had spent all night reading through the entirety of it. To me that person is worth a dozen flipping through it aimlessly on their toys.
    • CommentAuthorjonlaidlow
    • CommentTimeNov 11th 2009 edited
    I was very impressed by the free Walking Dead #1 app on the Ipod Touch - it has a setting to show the whole page before zooming on each panel, and another setting which rotates the panel for best fit in the screen. In practice this might become annoying - you are constantly shifting the device around - some panels work best in the landscape layout, some in portrait, but I found the active engagement with the comic to be great fun - I'm too often guilty of reading a comic first for the words and only really appreciating the art upon a second read through, but this forced me to concentrate on both the full page layout (albeit at a reduced size) and then panel by panel until I reached the next full page layout.

    I haven't been so actively involved in reading a comic since Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan. Back when I was trying to be a student, my thesis was to be on the physicality of Sternes' Tristram Shandy and I think too often we forget that the format and presentation of a comic should impact on the reader's experience - for whatever reason, this version of the Walking Dead did just that.

    I'm still unconvinced by comics on devices - I immediately rushed over to an online shop to try to buy paper copies of the Walking Dead collections, not further issues via the comix app - but if they could be sold cheaply, they might be a nice way to read a comic and get a discount on the collected edition (which was the longbox idea, right?).
  5.  (7043.35)
    I still think motion in web-comics has a place, not as elements introduced within the image over time, but ambient background, like a waterfall or a flickering street lamp.

    One thing I really wanted to do was an animated gif for the panel of this hypersphere. I thought it would have put a great sense of otherworldliness into the static, 2-D comic images. But the animation we had really didn't work with the look of the book.
      CommentAuthorEthan Ede
    • CommentTimeNov 11th 2009 edited
    @James Cunningham
    Lightyears Away instantly hooked my brain, and the presentation is perfect. It looked great on my monitor, presentation was simple and instantly clear, and starting on the first strip made me read the whole thing. Admitted, that's only 4 strips at the moment

    Thank you very much, that is what we strive for. And I'm glad my comic was able to back up my rants, nothing is worse that someone who is all theory and no application. Light Years is still new (there are 5 pages now, since it is Wednesday) but work began on the webcomics portion site (the scripts started years ago, I am always writing 5 or 6 different scripts at a time) back in April. We knew we had to have the infrastructure first. And we thought and talked about it a lot. For instance I find comments on the actual page to be annoying, and offends Adam as a graphic designer, but we still wanted people to be able to comment on strips if they wanted to. So we moved the comments to a totally separate blog part of the website. This definitely will mean that less people comment on the strips, but those that want to, will. And in the mean time the actual comic doesn't get cluttered.

    @ Audley Strange
    To me that person is worth a dozen flipping through it aimlessly on their toys.

    You bring up a great point, which is: at this point people reading comic from their phone give our websites (not just my website, I have talked with many other creators) very fickle traffic. Google Analytics gives me a break down of the browser and OS of every reader who comes to our site (and screen resolution, which is very helpful) and by far the visits that come like clockwork come from computers. @jonlaidlow makes this point again in his post, when he states that the walking dead app convinced him to buy the walking dead comics. If apps do this then they are successful and worth it but I won't count on them to be a solid source of readers, at least for now. Who knows how long the iPhone will be the killer phone. Probably a while, apple is very good at that. But I would hate to have my comic collection interrupted because I wanted to buy a different model of phone.

    Also I went to your site, and found it very easy to navigate and read. I will definitely go back and read more when I have time. You've made things easy for the reader and that has its rewards.

    @Brendan McGinley
    I still think motion in web-comics has a place, not as elements introduced within the image over time, but ambient background, like a waterfall or a flickering street lamp.

    I'm not going to say I have never used a GIF in a webcomic, I have. I have used GIFs to make a cursor blink on a computer screen, and another to make a panel very slowly fade to black. These were experiments in comics that I wrote and illustrated and for me I think they merely served to showcase my weakness as an artist. In the end I think it is in the execution. I am personally staying away from motion in comics for the moment because I don't want it to be a crutch. Adam, the artist I work with, is a good enough story teller to pull off any effect I need without motion. I have seen it done well rarely, and terribly often, but that can be said about almost anything in comics.

    Great discussion so far, I am enjoying this.
      CommentAuthorEthan Ede
    • CommentTimeNov 18th 2009
    I came across this webcomic last night and sat transfixed reading the entire archive: Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life. It is one of the best examples I have encountered of a webcomic that makes use of devices only available in the digital medium without coming across as gimmicky. It could also be adapted for print pretty easily. So like I said before it can be done, but it needs to be done really well. This guy is great at every element that makes a print comic work first, and then he thinks about specific ways to use the web to his advantage. And that is the way it has to be done.

    I have an ulterior motive for posting it here: the comic isn't done and the artist has seemed to stop updating, so I want to send some traffic and hopefully comments his way to get him updating again.
  6.  (7043.38)
    I've been thinking A LOT about this over the past 5+ years as a part of my job as a video game designer/producer and I've come up with the following (very simple) conclusions:

    1. The browser is the world's most important entertainment medium. It reaches a wider audience, with fewer barriers than any other distribution medium ever.

    2. The browser is an interactive medium that creators are still sorting out. Creating non-interactive entertainment in a browser is like putting radio shows on TV (which they did during the early years of TV - we've made these mistakes before). Your average Flash game gets more traffic in a year than most of the best webcomics out there. That's how important interaction is.

    3. People like to read at their own pace - do not take this away from your reader (which is why I believe motion comics are better suited for television than the Internet)

    I'm doing a webcomic in flash that explores these things - some parts of the experiment are working out fine, others need work - but it's an ongoing process.

    What I do know is that I enjoy clicking through the pacing of comics more than reading 'print comics' online.

    My comic is here:
      CommentAuthorEthan Ede
    • CommentTimeNov 18th 2009 edited
    Interesting thoughts Shane, you made some points I can agree with and some I strongly disagree with. For instance I definitely agree that the webcomics community in general is still trying to sort out what do with the browser, though I would disagree on why. You say that it is a matter of interactivity, I think that most webcomics are still struggling how to lay their comic out in the browser and make it readable and easy to navigate. This whole point of the browser being interactive and therefore webcomics need to be interactive seems to be the central argument you are making, and with that I definitely disagree.

    Creating non-interactive entertainment in a browser is like putting radio shows on TV (which they did during the early years of TV - we've made these mistakes before).

    I don't think these two things are similar, nor do I think that either are/were a mistake. Radio shows were put on television for a couple of reasons. One being that television was very new and there weren't enough shows to fill the program schedule. Another being that a lot of radio shows had a built in and dedicated audience, an audience that could be brought over to television. Putting radio shows on TV did increase viewership, and eventually television came into its own and there were enough shows being produced to fill programming slots. I don't see any negative consequences of this that would denote that it was a mistake. Now I can see the start of the analogy you were setting up; maybe the browser is a new technology and until we can fill its programming blocks with things suited for it we are putting in older technology, older technology that can bring its built in readers with it. That part works, sure, but from there it breaks down. Because no matter how many 'interactive' webcomics we see made, we will not see a decline in ( I don't even know what to call them 'print comics' doesn't work because they are webcomics, and I don't want to call it traditional, because this is a medium that defies tradition, I think I will refer to them as static, as the feels like the opposite of interactive, even though I don't think 'static' is the right term either.) static webcomics. They are two different things and the rise of one is not equal to the fall of the other. And I definitely do not believe we will see a day when we look back and say "man it was a mistake to put those non-interactive comics in a browser, fuck I am really embarrassed now." Now it's no secret that I think a lot of webcomics out there are mistakes, and that I think a lot of creators should be embarrassed, but not because they put non-interactive entertainment in a browser.

    Let's take a moment to figure out what we mean by an interactive comic, because it is an important distinction to make. The first things that spring to my mind when I read 'interactive comics' are choose-your-own-adventure type comics, there is some level of interaction there. I liked choose-your-own-adventure books, but I can't think of a single one I liked more than a 'non-interactive' book. I've read a couple of choose-your-own-adventure webcomics, none that I like more than my favorite webcomics though. But I doubted that you meant choose-your-own-adventure comics by interactive comics anyway, so I went to your website and read your webcomic. So it seems that the interaction you are talking about is clicking the right arrow to reveal more panels on the page and more dialogue. I've seen this a lot recently, sometimes it used to great effect, most of the time it is not. You do it very well sometimes and sometimes there are problems. I've already addressed some of the problems with this format in prior posts: it can lead to lazy story telling, too much dialogue for the 'page' to support, and problems if the work is ever to be printed and sold. Another major problem is that it often causes sloppy, confusing and lazy lettering. Balloons can be placed anywhere on the page because the letterer is relying on the order in which they pop up, and not how they work with the page. You go on to say:
    People like to read at their own pace - do not take this away from your reader

    I absolutely disagree that adding in panels and dialogue in this manner allows any better control of pace than having them all available on the first click. Having two balloons on the page does not make me rush through the first. In effect what this does is break every page down into smaller pages, you loose the concept of panels and ultimately create more work for the reader. I get very annoyed having to click my mouse so many times if the story and comic are not extremely good. Another issue is that this can lead to more focus being placed on the lettering than necessary, and less focus being devoted to the artwork. Finally I don't know if this is any more "interactive" than simply clicking a next button and moving to the next page, or for that matter turning a page in a book. it is certainly more clicks of the mouse, but is that really interacting with the comic?

    Your average Flash game gets more traffic in a year than most of the best webcomics out there. That's how important interaction is.

    First, can you please show your work? I would really interested to see an average flash game getting more hits than 'one of the best' webcomics. It's not really important though because that statement is a non-sequitur. The average celebrity gossip site also gets way more hits than most webcomics, does that mean that our comics should all be about reality TV stars? Google gets way more hits than any webcomic, should I incorporate a search engine into Fat Baby? Comics are comics, they are not games, and they are not animation. If someone wants to make a game or an animation they should do so, I make comics.

    Ultimately my point is not that interactive comics should be scorned, that is not my point at all. Comics can be whatever you want them to be, as long as they work. The problem is most don't work. I don't think that there is anything that makes an interactive comic inherently better than a static one, in fact i think it adds a lot of potential pit traps- pit traps that if the creator is not at the top of his game- he will fall into. I think we should all focus on making the best possible comics we can, no matter what tools we use to do it. I think we should hold story telling paramount, and if a gimmick gets in the way of storytelling we should get rid of the gimmick.

    At the end of the day in this industry we all live or die by the quality of our work and the quality our work alone.

    And Shane, this post is certainly not directed at you, you brought up some issues I see a lot of and that i wanted to address. I read, and enjoyed petra's call and for what it is worth, I will continue to read it if you keep making it.
  7.  (7043.40)
    Real talk here: If you're more worried about ways to make your comic interactive in some arbitrary fashion than you are about the comic itself, then you've already failed. Who cares about giving the reader interactivity? This is comics. This isn't video games. I honestly would feel kind of insulted by an audience that demanded control over pace and content. As a storyteller, that's my JOB. If they get frustrated that they can't control when balloons pop up or the like, then maybe comics aren't for them. People are inventing an identity crisis in sequential art where there isn't one. A lot of people are gravitating to the medium because it isn't movies, it isn't animation, and it isn't prose. The knee jerk reaction to go "oh we have all these outlets for motion graphics now, we need to get these antiquated comics juiced up with jerky animation at the click of a mouse or else today's media consumer won't care about it" is ill-informed. Like Ethan said, content and quality are king. No amount of pop up balloons, sound effects, and cheap animation is going to mask a second rate comic, just as the lack of the aforementioned gimmicks isn't going to diminish the quality of an amazing project.

    If you have an idea that can ONLY be done through the use of browser work, then by all means. There's plenty of ideas that I've had that also utilize user controlled space to create non-linear narratives, although these were more about gallery installations using illustrated stand ups that tell a story as people walk through it. Even there though, I'm thinking about how to control the pace and experience using one parallel narrative to distract the viewer from the other narratives until they walk into the next scene. But the point is not to shoehorn stuff into the book just because you think it will be more attractive to some nebulous demographic. People will stay if you produce a product that keeps them interested, and no amount of browser trickery can help you do that.