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


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


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.


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

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


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)


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.


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

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. 


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. 

Critique: These Memories Won’t Last

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:

  • Story
  • 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.

Media Application

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.

Critique: These Memories Won’t Last

Scott McCloud Talks Science, History, and Comics

Finding a Digital Story

I have settled on a focus and I am excited to research and explore comics and graphic novels. To start I initially read a journal piece about bringing comics in the classroom, which I choose because I want to harness the strength of comics to increase my students’ engagement. In the piece the author references work by Scott McCloud called Understanding Comics. I found it at the library and I am waiting for it to be delivered to my local branch. I also found a Ted Talk by Scott McCloud, and what an amazing discovery!

McCloud’s talk is touching, thoughtful, informative, engaging and hilarious. McCloud discusses comics, his career in comics and his theories on why the art form resonates with its audience. The content of this talk speaks for itself but it is McCloud’s mastery of the storytelling craft that makes this a must watch. I choose my evaluation traits this week to highlight some of the many strengths from McCould’s talk:

  • Flow, organization and pacing
  • Research
  • Digital crafmenship

Flow, Organization and Pacing

McCloud organizes his talk around his personal narrative. The narrative starts with McClould’s father’s story and the nature of his upbringing. His story helps McCloud connect with his audience, because McCloud is able to share his struggles and lighthearted moments from his childhood.

The personal narrative format enables McCloud make interesting transitions between his talking points. His early life story connects to how McCloud sees his relationship with comics and his family. Then McCloud leads into his theories about of unique storytelling elements in comics by describing how he started into making comics. Finally McCloud introduces his vision for the future of comics with a story about buying his first computer.

The narrative supports the organizational and flow of McCoud’s talk.  McCloud’s pacing is prepared but natural and his delivery of jokes is flawless, making the talk engaging thought out. I Love the flow, organization and pacing of this presentation  because  the  impeccable delivery had me riveted from the get go.


McCould shares that he grew up in a family of scientists and engineers and that even as a comic artist he thinks like a scientist. the research and historical information shared in his talk confirms this  statement. Specifically at 6:40 McCloud describes four approaches to crafting comics and connects these approaches to the four subdivisions of thought as purposed by Carl Jung. Then at 9:40 he shares historical documents that show though out history the temporal progression used in stories that are told though graphics. This information gives his talk an air of authority and makes his theories believable.

Digital Craftsmanship

The most impressive trait of McCloud’s story is his use of digital craftsmanship. McCloud inter-slices digital pictures into his talk to illustrate his points or as the punchline of a joke. For example:

  • At 4:17 McCloud inserts a picture of the Simpson bully Nelson Muntz and executed a perfectly timed “Ha Ha”.
  • At 5:05 images flash in quick succession to highlight each word in a humorous rant.
  • At 12:50 McCloud uses a digital image of a monitor to illustrate the relationship to between computers and comics in the digital age.

The digital craftsmanship of this piece effectively transforms his simple speech into a multimedia experience.

The Story!

I feel fortunate that I was able to watch and share this impressive Ted Talk. Scott McCloud has expanded my world view of comics and I am a already devoted reader of graphic novels, too devoted if you ask family. The most important take away, however, is to intertwine, personal narrative, humor, and media into presentations to create an effective digital stories.

Scott McCloud Talks Science, History, and Comics