A Networked TV Commercial – Digital Story Critique Week 14

*I HAVE BEEN READING AND CRITIQUING DIGITAL COMICS, FOR MY MASTER LEVEL STUDIES, IN A CONTINUING SERIES TO DEVELOP MY EXPOSURE TO AND UNDERSTANDING OF THIS NEW LITERACY

I found something that is so much fun for my digital story this week. I have been thinking of interactive digital comics sense reading the Alexander chapter about networked books and have been searching for a comic that is more interactive. I also wanted to explore what is being done with comics on media platforms. I was drawn to Instagram as a possible platform because of its natural connection to static images. Also for some reason I feel more connected to social media I access from my phone. Maybe It feels cozier because I can read it on my couch. What I found was not what I expected. I thought I would find a lot of one off comic strips that set up and deliver a punch line in one panel, much like Gary Larson’s Far Side but did not find as many as I thought I would, what I found blew my mind, and surprisingly it was a promotional comic for the Adult Swim cartoon Rick and Morty.

Story

This is one impressive advertisement. By setting up multiple user accounts on Instagram and then linking those accounts through tags, Adult Swim has created a choose your own adventure set in the strange universe of Rick and Morty. This piece is full of Easter eggs that showcase the non sequitur humor of the show. The narrative is not overly developed beyond finding the hidden Easter eggs but with vast number of worlds to explore and user participation this promotion frees uses to build their own narratives on the foundation of rick and Morty’s zany university.

Project Planning

The attention to details in Adult Swim’s promotion is impressive. There are so many pictures that are unique but match seamlessly with the the pictures from the next stages in the chosen story line. Animation was strategically used as a reward for finding hidden Easter eggs. Finally the trailers that were hidden in the worlds to explore were subtle reminders of who was producing this awesome simulation but not so over powering to make the project feel like a commercial trying too hard to be cutting edge. I also found a similar example of this type of choose your own adventure Instagram feed from Old Spice but it was not as robust as the Cartoon Network endeavor and never shook the advertisement feel.

Media application

Adult Swim has done a great job creating a digital story that is entertaining and convey their product in a favorable light because they use the tools of the Instagram platform in a creative and new way.  This is such an engaging way to use the Instagram platform and inspires me to develop my digital story in a way that uses established web 2.0 tools in unconventional ways.

A Networked TV Commercial – Digital Story Critique Week 14

Simply Digital – Week 12 Critique of xkcd: Click and Drag

*I HAVE BEEN READING AND CRITIQUING DIGITAL COMICS, FOR MY MASTER LEVEL STUDIES, IN A CONTINUING SERIES TO DEVELOP MY EXPOSURE TO AND UNDERSTANDING OF THIS NEW LITERACY

I found a surprising digital story this week. I was surprised because I found it as a single installment of the continuing xkcd web comic.  xkcd is a well known comic strip that is housed online. The drawing are usually simple – stick figures and line drawings, but they provide a strong delivery of the witty and poignant dialogue from writer Randall Munroe. I love this strip but do not see digital features that transform xkcd episodes from traditional comic strips into digital stories. The digital environment provides a great format to deliver this excellent comic strip to a wide audience, but the narrative and way the story is told is the same as if xkcd were published in a newspaper. What surprised me was the exception, an installment titled Click and Drag. This strip  uses an element of the infinite canvas to turn a single panel of the strip into a window that shows a portion of a large and sprawling drawn world. Viewers click and drag the image within the panel to change their view and explore Munroe’s world.  For a critique of Click and Drag I will look at Munroe’s story, media application and project planning

Story

The simple message of Click and Drag is shared with the text and then brilliantly illustrated with hundreds of static images on an (almost) infinite canvas. The technology, text and images all work flawlessly work together to share a simple but universal message. The simple story supports the exploration of the Munroe’s huge digital world, because if the story were complex and the digital world vast the combination would have been overwhelming. With a simple message the exploration is carefree and facilitates all the narrative features working together.

Media application

Looking at the sprawling world thought the panel/window make the images you find surprising, because you stumble upon them without any warning. This enables Munroe to spring jokes and poignant thoughts on the unsuspecting viewer. I even found myself laughing out loud on a few occasions. The panel as a window also enables the viewer to have a unique experience when using the click and drag features, because that viewer is in control of how they explore the digital world, and gives the viewer an interactive reading experience.

Project Planning

I would be interested in seeing what Munroe’s Click and Drag world would look like fully zoomed out. The picture must be massive. While I was playing the digital world seemed to go on (at least left and right) forever. I thought eventually the world would complete a circle and I would be back where I started but it never happened nor did I find an end.  This world must have taken considerable planning to create, not only is it a massive world but in every nook and cranny of the ever changing landscape are figures interacting, philosophizing or cracking jokes.

 

This is a really simple comic strip that is both fun to play with and has a useful as a message about the world we live in. I also see it as a metaphor for interacting with the digital world. Through our computer screens we view the constantly changing landscape of the sprawling digital world and just like the figures that populate the world in Click and Drag, the citizens of the digital world have engaging and surprising stories to tell. The more we explore the more stories we will be exposed to.

Afterword

I decided that there must be a way to see the whole massive drawing from Drag and Click so I searched the web some more and found a zoomable picture. I have only one word: impressive.  

Simply Digital – Week 12 Critique of xkcd: Click and Drag

Simply Beautiful – Week 10 Critique of The Boat

*I HAVE BEEN READING AND CRITIQUING DIGITAL COMICS, FOR MY MASTER LEVEL STUDIES, IN A CONTINUING SERIES TO DEVELOP MY EXPOSURE TO AND UNDERSTANDING OF THIS
NEW 
LITERACY

I feel so fortunate that I choose the focusing topic that I did for my digital story telling master level course. If you have not been following this blog, that theme is comics and graphic novels and I have been critiquing digital comics to see how the art form is evolving from pen and ink into the digital environment. I have focused my critiques on reviewing the digital comic’s story, flow, organization, and pacing (FOP), and media application. I have chosen these because it is the intersection of these factors that demonstrate if a comic, or story told with sequential static images, has been fundamentally transformed by the digital environment it is rendered in and with the digital tools used to enhance the story.

I am fortunate because I have discovered so many amazing and beautiful digital comics over the last ten weeks! And this week I found a comic that is my favorite so far. It is an adaptation of a short story written by Nam Le, adapted by Matt Huynh called The Boat. It is an autobiographical description of a teenage girl’s escape to Australia from Saigon after the Vietnam War.

Story

This story is heart-wrenching and heartwarming at the same time. The characters experience threats and dangers at ever turn of their voyage and it keeps the tension of the narrative high, but they are able to take moments to make human connections and hope for a better life and that is what keeps the plot moving. Huynh’s beautiful art adds to the tension or tenderness of each scene and gives the written work even more impact.

FOP

Huynh used an infinite canvas to render his digital comic which let the reader to continually scroll down to read the story. this created a nice for the comic and let the reader be in charge of when the scroll when faster or slower. For me I like this freedom because I like to pick up the pace of my reading when the tension is high. The comic also had hyperlinks to side stories and information that pertained to particular part of the overall comic. I found that following the links was distracting to the flow of the story but after the first one I skipped over them and then went back to look at them later, and was happy to do so because these sides bars were full of interesting facts and background for the digital comic.

Media Application

The combination of writing, statics images, digital tools was amazing in The Boat. As I have said the story is great and the art is beautiful. The digital tools are applied to give the reader a sense of the audio and physical setting of the story. The story is accompanied by an audio track that gives background noises from the deck of the boat or the passengers interacting. To give a physical sense of the boat Huynh manipulates the static images to move back and forth to give the reader a sense of being on a rocking boat.

The collaboration to make  The Boat was incredible and made it truly moving piece, that I highly suggest you you read it for yourself.

Simply Beautiful – Week 10 Critique of The Boat

The Infinite Canvas on Your Phone – ILT5340 Digital Story Critique week 9

*I HAVE BEEN READING AND CRITIQUING DIGITAL COMICS, FOR MY MASTER LEVEL STUDIES, IN A CONTINUING SERIES TO DEVELOP MY EXPOSURE TO AND UNDERSTANDING OF THIS
NEW 
LITERACY

I have bepith headshoten following my favorite comic book creators on Twitter hoping to expand my exposure to what is happening with comics, especially what is happening with digital comics. This week I was rewarded for my efforts. I had been following Scott McCloud sense I critiqued his TED talk The Visual Magic of Comics. Over the weekend McCloud tweeted about a
digital comic that was employing the concept of the infinite canvas – were the static images of comics are freed form the boundaries of physical paper in the virtual world (read more about the infinite canvas in my blog post here).  The comic that was given McCloud endorsed was The Firelight Isle, by Paul Duffield, and the McCloud seal of approval is enough for me to check it out. I will be using three criteria to critique this comic:

  • Story
  • Media Application
  • Originality, Voice, Creativity (OVC)

Story

The story of a of the digital comic is what make it worth reading, without a compelling narrative a digital comic is just a showcase for a flashy new technology. Duffield does a phenomenal job of creating the mystical world his comic is set in, while simultaneously developing his characters and building the plot. None of these elements are explained outright but as the story develops the reader is giving a greater glimpse into the Firelight Isle world. This approach to the story adds to the mysterious mood of the comic and grabs the reader’s attention.

Media Application 

As I mentioned Duffield employs the infinite canvas to display this comic, his particular canvas spreads infinitely  down, or until the end of a chapter. This downward limitation of the infinite caves limits the options for the flow of the comic in some ways but enables Duffield to use panels and boarders following conventions of print comics because there is ambiguity about the direction the comic is flowing in. Also the downward flow of the comic makes it awesome to view on you phone or tablet because you just scroll down with out any interruptions in your viewing.

OVC

What I liked best about The Firelight Isla is the way that Duffield was able to creatively weave his story, static images and the digital canvas itself together into one beautiful piece.  Duffield calls his digital canvases ribbons and decorates each as if they were tapestries, with striking blue colors. This ties into the story because a central plot point is the creation of a religious tapestry, died using the same bold blue color from the ribbons. I the Firelight Isle world this blue is a sacred color, only to be touched by the imposing religious figures. The attention to the details, in the story and in its rendering in the virtual world, are what make Duffield’s comic an amazing work of art and a must read.

 

The Infinite Canvas on Your Phone – ILT5340 Digital Story Critique week 9

The Dark World of a Tech-Noir – ILT 5340 Digital Story Critique Week 7

*I have been reading and critiquing digital comics, for my Master level studies, in a continuing series to develop my exposure to and understanding of this New Literacy

Last week I reviewed Mark Waid’s talk at the 2013 O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change for Publishing Conference, in his talk Waid discuses and presents some examples of the digital comics that he and his collaborators are sharing, FOR FREE, on the site Thrillbent.com . The examples from the talk were amazing and I have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to critique a Thrillbent comic. To maintain consistency in my critiques of digital comics I will use the same evaluation traits as previous critiques:

  • Story
  • Flow, Organization, and Pacing (FOP)
  • Media Application

These traits seem to me to be the most important factors in determining if a digital comic is, not only an engaging and worthwhile read, but also if the comic is truly a digital story or merely an analog comic book rendered in a digital space.  

The comic I chose for my critique this week is Pax Arena (link) – written by Mast with art by Geoffo. I was initially drawn to this comic because it fits my favorite niche comic genre, science fiction noir also known as tech-noir – movie buffs think Blade Runner. I thought if there was one comic on Thirllbent, and there are dozens, that could grab my attention it would be Pax Arena and this comic did not disappoint.

Story

The Pax Arena story revolves around a police investigator who takes the law into her own hands, when an innocent accountant is placed in a gladiatorial match on the Pax Arena satellite.  Pax Arena serves as a prison and provider of the most popular form of entertainment in this dystopian future – pitting inmates against each other in death matches and broadcasting the events back to earth; reality TV style. The establishment tries to sweep the accountant’s murder under the rug as a regrettable mistake but our hero, Agent Zoë, knows better and will not rest until guilty parties are made to pay. The story checks all the important boxes for a tech-noir. A dystopian future, gritty black and white art, a hero that is both futuristic and invokes old school sensibilities of the film noir detectives. Zoë takes no nonsense, will not let the guilty go unpunished and blackens the eyes (figuratively and literally) of any bureaucrats or yes men that stand in her way.  

FOP

I loved this story, I do think, however that the story run may have been shortened after the plot had already been developed, because of some idiosyncratic scenes that seemed dropped in to set up the action packed climax, these build up scenes seemed out of place and jarring in the lead up to the awesome conclusion. Overall, however, FOP in Pax Arena was great. The action starts off right away in the gladiatorial match on the satellite, and rarely lets off the gas for the rest of the, relatively short, eight chapter run of the story. The author and artist do a beautiful job of introducing rich characters and developing a scary future world, while keeping the viewer on the edge of the seat wanting to see what happens next.

Media Application

Thrillbent employs digital pages to showcase their comics. These pages are closer to a PowerPoint slides than a traditional paper page. Static images can be layered on top of each other to create the feelings of movement or depth.  Parts or panels on the page can disappear and appear in order to move the readers eyes to important images or text. Or old backgrounds and images can fade away to reveal completely new scenes. Pax Arena uses all of these digital comic storytelling devices very well and is a great introduction to the Thrillbent approach to digital comics. I even realized that Waid used sections from Pax Arena during talk to demonstrate how he envisions the future of digital comics and the digital page.

Pax Arena is definitely a digital comic, the story would be funimnetaly changed in a print format and is a fun, but not groundbreaking, tech-noir story. This comic is a great introduction into the digital comics of Thrillbent Comics and their concept of the digital page. Which I feel does a better job of facilitating action than do the digital comics that employ the infinite canvas concept.  

The Dark World of a Tech-Noir – ILT 5340 Digital Story Critique Week 7

In a Galaxy Far Far Away – A Digital Story Critique

I began my survey of digital comics by looking at comics created specifically for the digital world. Comics that could only exist in on the infinite canvas of the digital world. As a comic reader, however, these comics are outliers in the set of titles I read. I generally still read comics that are produced to be printed, most often, digitally thought a scanned digital edition. Though delivered digitally these comics are far from digital comics because they are still bound by the physical limitations of printed comics. I decided this week to look into the ways that those traditional comic producers are presenting their content in the digital environment to see what, if anything, these publishers were doing to explore this new literacy of digital comics.

I found a company called ComiXology, to be a big player in digital presence of the major comic publishers. This Amazon subsidiary acts as a comic book store for the digital editions from the collections of 75 comic publishing companies, including the collections of both the major comic publishers – DC and Marvel, and the smaller but highly influential Image, Dark Horse and Archie comics. Most importantly it seems that DC and Marvel are both closely aligned with ComiXology. Marvel employees ComiXology technologies in the digital comic reader on Marvel.com, and DC links its digital collection directly from its website to the ComiXology page. All of these comics are still just digital versions of traditional comics, or as I have begun to think of them – analog comics.

ComiXology has created a specialized reading technology, called Guided View, that attempts to create an “immersive and cinematic experience” for the reader (ComicXoogy website). This is an attempt to make uses the qualities of the digital environment to create an enhanced  reading expericne without changing the physically published comic. I decided to critique a ComiXology title to determine how successful Guided View was a creating that enhanced experience.

I was fortunate enough to find a comic on ComiXology that I also owned as a physical comic book, Star Wars: Free Previews. This comic is a free teaser book that was used  to launch Marvel comics’ new Star Wars series of titles. This continuing series explores the lives of the heroes and villains from the Star Wars universe in adventures not highlighted in the movies. Because I had access to both I first read the book online using the Guided View technology and then reread the physical comic to note the differences in my experiences and then used pacing, media application, and media grammar as my  critique criteria.

star wars comics

Pacing

The pacing in reading the two formats of the same title were vastly different. The digital Guided View version zooms in on panels or sections of panels giving the reader only a small view of the greater page, the time spent on each panel and the decision to move to the next was up to the viewer but there was little motivation to linger on the small window and lots of motivation to see what was happening next so I quickly moved though panels. My reading of the print comic was at a much more leisurely pace. I like to look at the new pages as a whole, then at each panel, then usually at the whole again. Also when reading the physical comic there were no restraints on moving backward to reread pages or character interactions, the Guided View comic, true to its clam, was more of a movie experience where the story only moves forward.

Media Application

I thought that the Guide View reader was a fun way to read a comic, one that I could see myself using occasionally, maybe when checking out series or authors. The technology removes the ambiguity of panel order that may occur in some comics and does and awesome job of building tension and not spoiling surprises because the reader cannot sneak peaks of future panels. I am guilty of both getting confused by panel order and sneaking peaks of what is happening at the bottom of a page but for me that is part of the magic of comics. I watch movies when I want a story told to me and I read comics when I want to interact with the story. I would read new series with Guided View because I am not yet involved in the illustrations and written content together as a single piece of art, using Guided View to read these books makes sense because I am still learning if the book has a story that is  compelling enough hold my interest and Guided View focuses attention on those story elements.

Media Grammar

The only failure I found with Guided View, and probably the reason I will seldom use Guided View, is the resolution and clarity of the art is compromised by zooming in so close to each panel. Because Guided View fills a whole computer screen with one comic panel the resolution becomes fuzzy and the art is not crisp. The art is at least half the point of the comic, if you lose quality there then you are going to lose my interest. I am interested, however, to use Guided View on a mobile phone, because the screen is smaller so the distortion maybe less and it is difficult to read full pages of comic on those small screens.

 

Overall I do feel that I would use Guided View again, but not often and definitely not to replace my current comic reading habits. I think that people new to comics would enjoy the movie like experience of Guided View and could use Guided View as a bridge to the comic book genera because of comfortable viewing experience. If the resolution on the zoomed in panels were to improve then Comixology may be able to gain even more converts from comic book traditionalists.

If you are interested in a peek into the lives of your favorite  Star Wars characters or are want to check out Guided View for yourself you can find the Star Wars Free Preview here, you will need to sign in with an Amazon account.

In a Galaxy Far Far Away – A Digital Story Critique

Digtal Story Critique week 4 – Failing Sky

For my digital story critique this week I want to continue to dissect web comics highlighted in NPR’s A Sampler Of Web Comics To Keep You Clicking. To keep create consistency in my critiques I am going to use the same three criteria:

  • Storyfirefighter headshot
  • Flow, Organization, and Pacing (FOP)
  • Media Applicaion

I am hoping to develop a pool of digital comic critiques that when analyzed will shed light on but new trends emerging for the paradigm shift of comic to digital comics. Specifically how are the physics of the virtual word harnessed to create an engaging frame for the story that is being told and how are story and digital storytelling tools integrated. 

 
The second web comic I chose from the NPS piece was Dax Tran-Caffee’s Failing Sky. I read the first installment of this weekly web comic and was very impressed. This is a beautifully rendered piece of art, with a mysterious and compelling story, that is reflected in the sometimes confusing but intriguing navigation of the comic thought the infinite digital canvas. 

Story

Tran-Caffee’s story seems innocent and inviting but has a mysterious or forbearing undertone that was unsettling for me. These underlying therms gave the beautiful art an intangible depth and drew me deeper into the story. I am jazzed to continue reading Failing Sky and discovering more of the world Tran-Caffee has created. 

Flow, Organization and Pacing

The FOP of the drawn Failing Sky comic provides amazing support for the pace and tempo of this comic. Tran-Caffee masterfully uses the infinite canvas, discussed by Scott McCloud (who I have discussed in blogs here and here, to harness the virtual world his comic exists in. 
 
The technical rendering of this exemplary digital comic, however, detracts for the overall flow of the comic and creates a risk of, in my opinion, Failing Sky losing viewers attention. Between each of the pages for Failing Sky I experienced extended loading times that, if I were casually browsing, I would have probably moved on. Especially because Failing Sky eases into the story with some ambiguous pages right off the bat, rather than a knockout attention grabber on the first page. I would suggest investing in ways to upgrade the platform that is delivering this AMAZING story to put it in front of the eyes of viewers in the most seamless way possible.

Media Application

In Failing Sky Tran-Caffee seamlessly weaves his beautiful art and lettering with a infinite canvas in the virtual world. The drawings look like pages from a sketch book. The heavy grain of the paper gives the story a comforting feel of a memory, fleeting but full of information – like a sketch. The infinite canvas is used to highlight significant or turning points in the plot by altering the ‘physical’ direction of the narrative flow in the virtual world or crating large panels that need to be explored in order to find clues about the story. 
 
The technical rendering of this digital story could be harnessed to create a more worthy platform for this beautiful art. Beyond long loading times that interrupt the flow of the story the website for Failing Sky feels out-dated and does not reflect the cutting edge ideas that are embodied in the presentation of this comic. Also this digital comic is not accessible on tables which is a crying shame because the virtual canvas Failing Sky is drawn on would be ideal to scroll and investigate through touch screen accessibility, giving the viewer a tactical connection to this digital masterpiece. 
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