This week I am looking at a comic, by Stuart Campbell, that has combined static images, text, sound and subtle animations to create a comic that is could the the definition of digital. The content of the comic is futuristic and the revolutionary use of digital tools gives the whole story a cutting edge feel. Nawlz is a science fiction story that focuses on Harley Chambers as he uses futuristic dregs and technologies to experience dream like hallucinations while awake. This comic is most definitely for adults with lots of profanity and some nudity and may not be for readers that will feel uncomfortable from ambiguity in the narrative created by the dreamlike images with the electronic music and flashing animations enhancing the stories atmosphere. But for readers who are comfortable with it the ambiguity adds to the intrigue of the story.
The story of Nawlz is very confusing at first, author Campbell, drops the viewer right into one of Harley’s dreamlike hallucinations, or castings, providing little information about what is happening or why, the vivid static images and the interplay between music and animations makes the casting state very surreal and adds to the tension of not being sure about what is happening. I found the uncertainty of the plot added to the dreamlike atmosphere of the narrative, because like a dream it made sense and was nonsense at the same time. After the first chapter Campbell included a recap which helps make sense of what happened before and highlights some important events that the viewers saw but did not understand in the first chapter. The ambiguity followed by a sublet description that let me make the connections was very engaging for me and made me an active participant in the preceding chapters of the Nawlz.
There are strong voices in the discussion about comics moving into the digital world that say that animation and sound is a slippery slope leading to animated cartoons. These voices see the need for static images and text to be the foundation of comics. And I agree with this sentiment, but I have found that when applied to enhance the static image or text – in order to set a mood or to make a strong point – both sound and animation can work in digital comics. Nawlz is the perfect example. The piece still founded, as a comic should be, in static images and text but the author uses both a sound track and subdued animations to effect the mood or in rare but powerful instances, pound home a point. Campbell also uses animated text boxes to present text and let viewers navigate the comics, which feel seamless in the digital future that Nawlz takes place in.
Sense of Audience
Nawlz has a very specific audience and Campbell knows how expertly engage them. Lovers of digital future science fictions, the cyberpunks, will be overjoyed with this work because everything from the music to the text boxes invoke a future where community members are sounded by digital communication and information 24 hours a day. People who loved Neuromancer or the Matrix will be right at home with in Nawlz.