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.

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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

Digital Storytelling Project: the Research – A Response to Chosen Text Week 12

*THIS POST IS PART OF A CONTINUING SERIES OF RESPONSES TO SCHOLARLY TEXTS FOR LEARNING WITH DIGITAL STORIES, A MASTER LEVEL COURSE I AM ENROLLED IN AT UC DENVER.

For my digital storytelling class I have begun developing a digital project of my own, I don’t know the final way that I’ll deliver my message but I want an ongoing series where I review graphic novels and make suggestions for viewers based on their hobbies, interests or preferred genres of literature or entertainment. I often have suggestions for my friends and family for graphic novels they should enjoy based off their other preferences and I want to offer that to a larger audience. I do not have a background in the reviews will need to write so I took the opportunity this week to to research some articles about creating book reviews to support my project.  I found four particularly helpful pieces that I am going to use to support my crafting of the graphic novel reviews in my series. These articles are:

Each provides text information on the how or the why of reviewing books, by synthesizing these lessons I can create engaging and informative graphic novel reviews. Summarized below are the lessons I took from each article.

How to Write a Book Review

Asenjo’s article is mostly a list of questions to what a reviewer should ponder to support in the development and writing of a review. The questions are organized by the steps of the writing process and aim to keep the review informative and engaging. These questions will be very useful for keeping in mind before, during and after reading my chosen graphic novel and during the prewriting and writing of the review. It was especially good to be reminded to preview the book (something I always tell my students to do but never bother doing my self) and develop opinions about what the title means, what I can learn from introductions or prefaces and how the book is organized. For my reviews this would also include previewing some art work and determining what tone it sets for the narrative.

Book Reviews Hanout

This handout from the University of North Carolina provides some background on what a review is and made a point to highlight that a reviewer’s purpose is to make an argument not just to summarize the author’s points. For the university writing center this means determining if one agrees or disagrees with an author and providing evidence as to why, in my reviews I will argue why my viewers should read a particular graphic novel and then support my claim by connecting the narrative with my viewer’s interests, hobbies or preferred genres.

Tips for Writing Book Reviews

First I want to state that I did not realize, until linking to Luisa Playa’s article above, that it is written for teen writers. Playa’s article, however, is concise and is a useful outline for making sure that a review is covering all bases the intended audience will be expecting.  Also I am using this project as a springboard for having students create their own reviews of graphic novels and so it is nice to have manageable reference guide that they can follow and to have created exemplars that follow the same model. Playa’s tips are to start with a brief description of the first half of the book or so, no spoilers! Next share what you liked, anything you disliked and a wrap up with an optional rating.

Writing Book Reviews

This how to guide from the Writing Tutorial Service at Indiana University provided similar tips as the UNC handout but had a great reason for why reviews are useful for the reviewer. In education it is important for students to understand why they are participating in a learning task. So I want to share this quotation with my students and keep it in mind myself when I am writing graphic novel reviews. “Reviewers answer not only the WHAT but the SO WHAT question about a book. Thus, in writing a review, you combine the skills of describing what is on the page, analyzing how the book tried to achieve its purpose, and expressing your own reactions.”

The ideas I found in these four text have given me plenty to think about and use to scaffold my own graphic novel reviews now I have to apply what I have learned to take the next steps in my digital project.

Digital Storytelling Project: the Research – A Response to Chosen Text Week 12

What’s Your Genre? – week 11 digital story critique

*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.

This means that people who have an interest in comics finally have a storefront that sells them something besides Punchman Adventures #45 (Part 5 of the 13-Part Crosstime Punchfest Spectacular)

I have been developing a podcast, or vlog, or YouTube video series (not sure which one yet) to use as a digital storytelling project for my masters class. What I want to do with the series is threefold, first I want to review the graphic novels I have been reading, second I want to take inquiries from my viewers for graphic novel, comics or digital comic suggestions, they should be read based on their hobbies, and interests or preferences in literature and entertainment and finally I what to highlight the spectacular collection, in both in print and ebooks, available at the Denver Public Library.

To prepare to give reading suggestions to my nonexistent viewership I have been looking into expanding my own horizons in the genres of graphic novels that I am reading. While doing this research I found a very interesting Thought Bubble column on ComicAlliance.com titled What is the Future of Non-Superhero Comics. Author, Matt D. Wilson, asks this question to five comic creators shares their insights.  I am going to critique this column using:

  • Story
  • Sense of Audience
  • Research

Story

The general consensus from the writers is that the digital environment is helping the genres of comics be able to diversify. This is happening in two ways. First digital comics that can be produced with low overhead giving creators opportunities to create and publish the stories that interest them, not what the corporate comic publisher see as viable. Next the digital comic book stores provides the consumer of comics greater access to these new comic genres, both digital and traditional, because in the virtual world shelf space is not limited to proven titles, unlike brick and mortar comic book shops are forced to only sell proven titles to stay afloat. This message is presented without any comment by the author and does not need it because the authoritative voices from the five comic creators.

Sense of Audience

Like comics themselves ComicAliance.com’s content is dominated by the superhero genre and the audience of the sight, comic book readers, have ample experience with this genre.  The readers of this particular column are looking for something new because they feel the comic book media has become stale because of the dominance of superhero titles.  The comments and message of this column reaches that audience nicely and provide an optimistic message and suggestions for many titles that are not the standard superhero fare.

Research

This columns strength is that Wilson found interesting interviewees with interesting points to share. The comic creators Wilson accessed are experienced with both creating comics that fall outside of the superhero genre and have connections to the world of digital comics. Kevin Church, especially, who I quoted at the beginning of this blog, was able to use humor and compelling evidence to support his claims and make the reader excited for a bold new world of comic genre.

What’s Your Genre? – week 11 digital story critique

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

Integration of Comics with Mainstream Literature! – A Response to Scholarly Text Week 10

*THIS POST IS PART OF A CONTINUING SERIES OF RESPONSES TO SCHOLARLY TEXTS FOR LEARNING WITH DIGITAL STORIES, A MASTER LEVEL COURSE I AM ENROLLED IN AT UC DENVER.

I often use an alert from Google Scholar for articles dealing with graphic novels to help me find texts for these posts. I don’t always get articles that fit what I am doing or don’t consider scholarly enough; Google alerts me for a lot of thesis papers. I have found, however, that I can use the author’s references as a resource to more articles. That is what happened this week, I looked at a suggestion from Google that was not going to work but found a great article in the references, James Bucky Carter’s Going Graphic. This article, written in 2009, for the journal Educational Leadership is a great how to for integrating graphic novels into standard literacy education in a K 12 classroom. Carter argues that comics help create “well rounded” literacy learners so it is best to create more robust literacy instruction by incorporating comics and graphic novels .

It is easy to view graphic novels and comics as a genre of literature but Carter states that this is a misconception. Comics should be seen as a separate art form with its own genres that mirror the traditional literature genres. There are great graphic novel examples of historical fiction, biography, realistic fiction, mystery, science fiction and more genres and these titles should be presented with similar written texts.  I have made the mistake of using graphic novels as a separate mini unit in my literacy block, and I now see how much more engaging it is for the learner to have access to both written text and sequential images and text in the same genre.

Carter also provides another important word of caution for teachers using comics in the classroom, by reminding the reader that comics and graphic novels are “not necessarily kids stuff”. He tells some cautionary tales of teachers giving graphic novels to children that depicted inappropriate scenarios, and the eventual consequences for the teachers who had not carefully read the materials that they gave to students. The opportunity to offend could be more subtle, the “naked buns” effect describes a situation where a concept, such as “naked buns” is inoffensive in a written text but could be seen as defensive when drawn in a comic.

Going Graphic is a great checklist for the teacher that is thinking of incorporating graphic novels into her practice.  There is also a great beginners list of age appropriate titles that a teacher can share with her students.

Integration of Comics with Mainstream Literature! – A Response to Scholarly Text Week 10

My Digital Response to Storytelling Text – Week 9

*THIS POST IS PART OF A CONTINUING SERIES OF RESPONSES TO ASSIGNED READINGS FOR LEARNING WITH DIGITAL STORIES, A MASTER LEVEL COURSE I AM ENROLLED IN AT UC DENVER.

I decided to try something new this week and created a digital response to the assigned readings from my Digital Storytelling class at UC Denver. I hope you enjoy:

My Digital Response to Storytelling Text – Week 9