Last week I wrote a critique of an amazing Ted Talk from comic book author/theorist Scott McCloud. One of his main points that has stuck with me from that digital story was McCloud’s concept of the infinite canvas. Meaning that in the digital world there is not the same constraints to the ‘page’ a comic is encoded on. A physical comic is limited by the end of each page it is printed on but the digital comic in the virtual world can has no limitations and can expend on, infinitely in any direction.
Fortuitously NPR ran a piece this week highlighting some current web comics that feature a fusion of the comic and digital media. I was instantly drawn to Stuart Campbell’s work These Memories Won’t Last. This is a moving personal narrative about the relationship between a grandson and his grandfather, who is losing his memory. I will critique this digital story with three criteria:
- Flow, Organization and Pacing (FOP)
- Media Application
Story and FOP I have decided, because of my critiques the last two weeks, are major factors in if a digital story is compelling to its audience. I want to look at digital comics using McCloud’s concept of the infinite canvas and am going to use that as a lens to critique Campbell’s media application.
These Memories Won’t Last tells the story of a young man who is dealing with his grandfather’s slip into dementia. Campbell’s autobiographic story is both touching, and humorous with both concepts being woven so well together that at many points panels were both at once. This story is engaging and keeps the viewer wanting to find out more and to see where Campbell’s character arch ends. I would have liked to have had a little more character development for Campbell in the early part of the story so that I had a better understanding of how Campbell and world are affected by his grandfather’s condition.
Flow, Organization and Pacing
The flow of this story is great and features the splicing grandfather sharing stories from his life and the harsh realities of Campbell’s interactions with his grandfather in the present. The transitions between the panels of the comic are smooth and move in rhythm with the comics reflective musical score. The easy pace and juxtaposition of the pleasant and painful memories give this comic a dream like quality that adds to the effectiveness of this digital story.
Campbell’s comic is an amazing example of McCloud’s concept of the infinite canvas. The story scrolls up and down following a virtual pulley that the viewer controls. I did not fully understand what McCloud was referring to until I experienced this comic and now I fully embrace his enthusiasm for the opportunities a virtual canvas provides. As the concept of the infinite canvas is fleshed out by new artists it will be amazing, not only because of the new directions the art-form will be freed to go but because of the many new opportunities to view the full potential of the infinite canvas thought virtual reality interfaces.