Recent Comments

Katherine Tanski
Mark Waid

Before I start, I have to admit that you are one of my favorite comic book authors, and the fact that you’re contributing to this project makes me like you even more. 

Roger’s point above that you are "replacing space with time" is an interesting one, but it makes me wonder about the "cool" factor (in the McLuhan sense) that has always made comics unique when compared with other visual genres like film. When comic panels and pages become "animated" does that lessen the participatory impact? Personally, when watching the demo I found that while I enjoyed being able to see one panel at a time (because as you said, scrolling and stretching traditional forms of digital comics is ultimately unsatisfying), I disliked having captions and word balloons placed on top of the image, and I disliked the sequence where panels were added on the same "page" one at a time. It almost felt like a motion comic. 

I don’t want my medium to be changed. What I want is a new way to enjoy the medium I already love. I want a different kind of reading experience. What I would love authors and distributors to look into are different kinds of "special features", such as behind-the-scenes stories or drafts of artwork, more akin to what comes with a DVD, and more social media options, such as a direct link to email the comic author, or artist, or even the company. Or perhaps a link to an online forum for discussion just about this comic.  It seems to me those kinds of experience are what are missing from the traditional digital comics experience. If you’re purchasing a digital comic, you’re not hanging out in a comic book store speaking with other fans about the latest issue or admiring the latest artwork sketches in the display case. 

It’s this sense of community, being invited in through the use of behind-the-scenes features, and through interactions with other fans, that digital comics creators are ignoring. It’s this sense of community that made me want to read comics in the first place. As local comic book stores continue to close, online reading communities will become more important, and digital comics interfaces can act as doorways to this interaction. 

Laurie N. Taylor
Mark Waid

First, thanks for sharing your comic!

One aspect of this example that I find particularly interesting is the use of text. With the full screen of the iPad used for a single panel, in some cases, it seems like you’re exploiting the possibilities of that size to show the image with some text and then add subsequent text panels after the user touches the screen (seconds 31-34). This effectively shows the time progression of the panel, using panel placement and structure for implied timing as with print comics and then also using the timing of the user feedback/touch to progress the text/story. 

As Roger notes in his comment, the definitions of comics and sequential reading are further in play when digital comics explore the form and the reading practice even further. I think the explotation of the small, but large screen when presenting a single panel on the iPad is very interesting and informative. Clearly, works on the iPad can also be shown/used on iPhones and other devices, but are you conceptualizing of your work on one or the other or many? As you shift your from print to digital, I’m curious as to how you’re framing your creative and design processes and your perspective on the affordances and constraints of the platform for presentation/use.

Roger Whitson
Mark Waid

I really love what you are doing with text and time in the video you showed us.  Digital comics can add a temporal depth to sequential storytelling that complicates most traditional definitions of comics. If, as you can see from my post, Ware is using the touch function to complicate the need for visual sequentiality to be communicated with space - your comic does the same thing with text - replacing space with time. 

I’m thinking of Theirry Groenstein’s argument that comics are definied by what he calls "iconic solidarity," which means, "independent images that, participating in a series, present the double characteristic of being separated […] and which are plastically and semantically over-determined by the fact of their coexistence in presentia" (18). In Groenstein’s definition, it is the very fact that images are presented together that makes it possible for them to be read sequentially and not, for example, as a mosaic or as a single composition. (Though comics have played with this tension in the past). 

From what we’ve seen, I think digital comics complicate that situation a little bit. Even though we still are in the realm of sequential and coexistent images, and may need to be for the product to look like a comic, there are small ruptures using temporal and tactile media, that can change that experience. I also like what you say about keeping the control of the text in the hands of the reader. I think that’s key.  

Roger Whitson

@Laurie and @Aaron: I also think of digital fiction like Andy Campbell’s Spawn. If you look at the site, you’ll see that portions of the text appear and disappear based upon clicks from the mouse. It’s not as haptically realized as Touch Sensitive (I’m left wondering why there isn’t an iPad app for the piece), but it is another artistic form that is beginning to experiment with touch. 

But I also think that Ware is parodying haptic interfaces in general as a second-order materiality. The description mentions that this is "his first (and likely final iPad-only comic strip" and describes Ware as "our otherwise normally corporeal cartoonist." I keep thinking about how a piece like this plays upon the less conscious interfaces on eBooks and the comic book apps I mentioned above. I’m addicted to my Kindle Fire, and love reading books on it even more than "ordinarily corporeal" books. For me, it’s an issue of interface. I like how pages glide as I swipe my finger. I have the feeling that people who consider digital comics as less corporeal or less material are suffering from what Nick Montfort identifies as screen essentialism: the idea that nothing material lies underneath the human-user interface.

Roger Whitson

I think Motion Comics are really interesting, mostly in terms of how much they fail to "add" to the stories that are adapted. One of my colleagues did a presentation on Motion Comics for a paned I chaired, and he mentioned the same thing: namely that motion comics try to engage interactivity but often fail.  

Drew Morton

 A few months back, I had the privilege of writing about motion comics for In Media Res.  I’ve never much cared for them and I was curious to see where else digital technologies would take the comic book form.  Most of my experiences since that piece came out have been limited to Comixology or the DC Comics application although I thank Roger for highlighting the Chris Ware app, which I have just downloaded and worked my way through.  What I appreciate about Ware’s "Touch Sensitive" (and yes, it does seem to be making light of how wired in our culture is and where that could potentially head) is that it keeps the McCloudian act of closure, even if it goes on to frustrate it.  Unlike most motion comics, the digital comic tends to retains that unique property, be it Ware’s application or even the DC Comics app (reading Batman #5 on an iPad was quite the experience).  I’ve seen it in a few motion comics (most notably the "Inception" motion comic) try to bridge multimedia presentation with viewer interaction, but I don’t tend to find that form of readership very rewarding.  

Roger Whitson

@Ernesto: Your talk looks really interesting. And, yes, I agree that Ware’s iPad comic is more interesting b/c of his investment in material culture. I’d love to see what Ted Striphas says about this discussion. He and Jay David Bolter use the phrase "the late age of books" to designate our current historical moment in which "books have become ubiquitous social artifacts" and have also been transformed "from industrially produced stuff into ‘sacred products’ (and sometimes back again)" (9). It seems like Ware’s approach to both digital comics and print comics falls into the tension Striphas identifies in book selling and marketing. 

Ernesto Priego

 I’m glad I discovered this; I’m looking forward to the whole week. It’s been very good to read Roger here! 

I addressed some of these issues in my PhD. You’ll get an idea in this presentation from 2009. Ware’s McSweeney’s iPad app hadn’t come out yet, but you’ll see I showed Ware’s work as well to discuss the role of materiality in comic book textuality. 

Ware’s app is even more interesting because it comes from Ware himself, an author who has fully engaged in materiality-as-meaning through his Acme Novelty Library, sketchbooks, book covers (including McSweeney’s), etc. 

I guess everyone agrees that though a printed book was made with digital tools (word processors, desktop publishing software etc.) a printed book is, well, a book. What text is created today, completely or partially, without digital tools? E-books are e-books if they are read on digital reading devices. Digital literature would be different: it is media-specific, born digital, made for digital reading and digital readers, for the capabilities and parameters of existing technologies. Something similar happens with comics.

Nevertheless, unlike prose, comics created to be read on print or inheriting the conventions of a medium originated within print culture are forced to a layout "reassembly" when adapted to screens. (I wrote a bit about it on my HASTAC blog). ComiXology’s ‘Guided View’ is witness to this reassembly: though the text or publication to be read was not necessarily designed to be read digitally, the digital reader, the digital channel of distribution imposes a way of reading. We are back in 1995, when in his famous "The Wheel of Culture" article Ben Davis invoked Yeats : how can we tell the dancer from the dance?





Aaron Kashtan

I haven’t seen Touch Sensitive, but it reminds me of certain Nintendo DS games where the act of drawing on the screen with a stylus is incorporated in some way into the diegetic gameworld. For example, in Trauma Center the stylus represents a scalpel and other surgical tools. In GTA: Chinatown Wars, you use the stylus as a screwdriver. I like this sort of thing because it involves a certain self-awareness of materiality, an awareness that the material means by which the reader/player interacts with the text is actually a part of the text. 

Laurie N. Taylor

Chris Ware’s use of the touchable screen interface is interesting considering some of the affordances for print comics. For instance, in Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art, the chapter on "The Frame" includes sections on "The Page as a Meta Panel" and "The Super Panel as a Page" explores affordances of the page and panel that are changed when the primary mode becomes the touch interface of the iPad screen.  Ware’s use of the touchable screen interface expands structures and affordances from print comics into the digital medium and specifically for the touch screen interface as it relates to the narrative. I find Ware’s use of the touchable screen to mirror alienation in the narrative particularly evocative for thinking about works like NYPL’s Biblion exhibit app. The Biblion app seeks to support exploration of an exhibit through the touchable screen interface in a manner that is framed, in some ways, like a comic panel with the screen like a window. The Biblion app also attempts to make the screen an exploratory space with different ways to navigate the exhibit items and stories. In some ways, I would posit (based on my experience with the Biblion app) that the goals for the Biblion app are not fully realized because the interface seems to be used more technically and less affectively, something that could be informed and possibly improved by Ware’s use of the touchscreen. With Young’s The Carrier, there are immediate connections to other forms like video games, so I’m curious as to your thoughts on how Ware’s Touch Sensitive relates to other forms?