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. 

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