In class we discussed the potential of comics which employan infinite canvas and how it dramatically altered our perception of spatial-temporal relations in the medium. The thought of liberating comics from restraints imposed by page size (such as demonstrated in “Click and Drag”) piqued my interest. After reading digitally formatted comics on my computer, I wasn’t as satisfied as reading traditional print comics. However, I found reading comics on my tablet to serve as an ideal technology for interacting with comics. Additionally they increase portability, distributability and market penetration of the comics medium. I will strive to expand on the first two of these statements, addressing the latter two in a future post. Ultimately I hope to persuade readers to open upto adopting a novel comics platform with massive potential.
Much like printed comics,tablets enable readers to physically contact the story. While this small aspect of the extradiegetic space may not immediately appear significant, most readers accustomed to paperback literature will appreciate details such as this. Using a mouse to read acomic feels disconnected and impersonal. When using a tablet, transitions between panels is accomplished by swiping across the surface and in some instances tapping on the glass, making the experience feel very fluid and intuitive. Studies have demonstrated the inherent correlation between touch and emotional response, so it would not be a stretch to assume that the way in which a reader touches a story they are emotionally invested influences their experience. While it is understandable that most comics fans would prefer owning and indeed reading comics on a physical paperback copy, digital format comics on tablets offer many more advantages not provided by a paperbound platform.
One major advantage to using a tablet is access to the net, where a massive library of comics already exist. Moreover, by displaying comics in a digital format, artists are more capable of breaking linear constraints, whether it be by offering explorative elements such as in the previously mentioned “Click and Drag” or integrating an element of choice and reader involvement in the form of interactive elements such as seen in Margot’s Room (brought to my attention by Eric Bailey’s blog). While I am not saying that these elements are subjugated to digital comics alone (in fact choose your own adventure stories have provided such involvement for decades), the simplicity of transitioning between two thoughts with a gesture (i.e. a tap, swipe, or drag) provides an intuitive and simple means to accomplish otherwise complex tasks. Moreover, changes in the extradiegetic space are not limited only to digital comics employing novel panel arrangements, but can serve to present reformatted comics in a more fluid and uninterrupted manner. For instance, a manga reader iOS app called “Mangastorm” simply lays out pages in a vertical fashion such that page breaks are replaced by a single continuous stream of panels as you scroll downward. The app demonstrates that by simply reorganizating the panel layout of a comic, reading interruption can be reduced and readers are kept constantly engaged.
Possibly the biggest advantage to using an app like Mangastorm is the capability to store hundreds of chapters and even volumes of content on a single device the size of a notepad and to instantly access content at any time and place. Carrying the “Brunnetti Anthology” from place to place was cumbersome enough, imagine the difficulties which would be imposed by carrying hundreds of full issues with you! The convenience provided by storing all one’s content on portable device is highly beneficial, enabling readers to truly enjoy comics at their leisure. Moreover, as was discussed in our page design lecture, many comics employ an unwieldy book design to accommodate desired levels of detail, but by using a digital format one could enjoy the same page on a portable size by zooming or swiping through an image. If the effect of the page is not compromised by rearrangements, pages can even be reformatted (or split up) to give readers a better handle on pages which would otherwise pose a portability issue.
Overall tablets offer an experience which only diverges moderately from reading paperback comics, yet designing comics in a digital format enables artist to incorporate elements which transform the diegetic and extradiegetic space in their narratives. Tablets offer increased flexibility in presentation both in terms of panel layout as well as what can be presented on the screen. Tablets are not limited by the borders of the display and as a result can depict heavily detailed images without rendering them messy, confusing and otherwise indiscernible. In our modern civilization where people receive massive amounts of information through digital means whether it be social networks, media outlets, or other sources, technology is tightly integrated into people’s lives. A tablet not only serves as convenient for storing and viewing comics or other files, but is a device with which people interact on a daily basis. I believe that the handiness of being able to store comics on a device which lends itself so well to the medium and exists as a piece of hardware millions of people are already accustomed to represents a potential evolution of comics formatting. Digital comics are still burdened with a plethora of contingent issues such as piracy, and other problems which will be discussed later, however the benefits of adopting tablets as a primary comics platform can serve to increase reader enjoyment and convenience substantially. Though I’m very interested in hearing the opinions of those who are already so devoted to the medium. Do you think that tablets offer the benefits necessary to warrant preference over your paperbacks, or maybe you already use them to this end? Maybe the backlight of the screen makes reading on a tablet annoying or maybe you simply prefer the feeling of pulp under your fingers.
Anyways, looking forward to hearing your thoughts,
1) Valeria Gazzola, Michael L. Spezio, Joset A. Etzel, Fulvia Castelli, Ralph Adolphs,and Christian Keysers. 2012. Primary somatosensory cortex discriminates affective significance in social touch. PNAS. 109 (25): E1657–E1666