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.

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A Networked TV Commercial – Digital Story Critique Week 14

Newlz; Using Digital Tools to Look into the Future – week 13 Digital Story Critique

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.

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.

Media application

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.

Newlz; Using Digital Tools to Look into the Future – week 13 Digital Story Critique

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

Comics in Motion – A Critique of a Saga Motion Comic Week 8

*THIS POST BELONGS TO A COLLECTION OF CRITIQUES OF DIGITAL COMICS AND RELATED MATERIAL, CREATED FOR A MASTER LEVER COURSE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO DENVER.

I decided to go in a different direction this week for my digital story review. I was inspired by last week’s L&K chapter and the concept of remixing in digital sorties. While looking around for examples of remixes in comics I came across a movement called motion comics, these digital videos uploaded to YouTube are created by users by taking copies of individual panels from the graphic novel and displaying them on the screen then adding a soundtrack of voice actors reading the dialogue and cinematic sound effects and music, even more sophisticated motion comics will take static images from the panels and animate the to give the comic a more cinematic feel. I found many of these motion comics and chose to review a price by Nuff Said Fred – remixing the Image comic Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I will be using the critique criteria of story, presentation and performance, and Project planning for my review.

Story

Saga is a wonderful science fiction story and an awesome piece to remix as a motion comic. The plot centers around Alana and Marko, members of two different alien races that are locked in a bloody feud, after a chance encounter they fall in love and have a child. The comic follows Alana, Marko and their baby, Hazel, as they attempt to flee from both sides of the conflict. Saga was a great choice for source material because it already has a captivating story and the remix is able to use that plot as a foundation to present the narrative in a fundamentally different way.

Presentation and Performance

The choice of sound effects, music and voice actors for this motion comic were well done. The music conveys mood without being overbearing and the sound effects are minimalist, thus making them effective in times they are used.  The voice actors’ performances  were clear and well rehearsed and gave each static image of the characters a layer of personality. I feel that the emotions were occasionally flat and that the voice actors did not always convey the true nature of the character reactions or statements.

Project Planning

the preparation of this piece involved scanning or filming the pages or individual panels of the Saga comic. Most of the motion comics I have seen keep the dialogue bubbles as part of the images that viewers see, Nuff Said Fred decided to remove the bubbles, the work is done in a way to try to hide where the bubbles were but the cover up was not perfect and there are distorted sections were the dialogue bubbles have been photo-shopped out. These distorted sections do not detract from the story and is a style choice made by the author, which works because of the amazing installations that become the only focus for the viewer’s eyes. The author has also chosen to not animate the static images in this video. Other example of motion comics have varying degrees of animated images, I feel that not having animation makes the work of the voice actors more important because they become solely responsible to create a new perspective through which to view the source material, and that Nuff Said Fred’s actors were successful in creating that perspective in this remix.

I would suggest checking out this Saga motion comic because it is well done and a great introduction to the Saga narrative.

Comics in Motion – A Critique of a Saga Motion Comic Week 8

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