Friday, April 06, 2012

The Future of Comics

I'm not a big adopter of digital comics. I don't own any type of tablet computer or e-reader, and since the only real reason I'd get one is to read digital comics, I really can't justify the expenditure. But I do have a ComiXology account, and I have the app on my iPhone, so I read some comics that way. Other people with more insight than me have talked about the hurdles that digital comics need to overcome--the current pricing model, for one, and the lack (at least with ComiXology) of having an actual downloadable file vs. having everything stored in the cloud, as well as other things.

But I recently read Mark Waid and Stuart Immonen's "Avengers vs. X-Men: Infinite" #1, and I really enjoyed it, particularly how it played with the medium. Using the digital platform to vary how the reader is able to encounter the page is a good move, and one I hope takes off as digital comics become their own thing.

I think that's a big part of it, too: realizing that digital comics are not just paper on a screen. This week also saw the XKCD webcomic's "Umwelt," an April Fool's Day installment that changed its content depending on a reader's browser, location, referrer, and other variables. That was the kind of amazing, interesting use of the digital comics medium that I hope we see more of as artists learn its strengths and limitations.

And that's my big hope for digital comics in general: that it gets the comic-making community thinking more about the medium of comics in general. What are the things that make comic books unique? What kinds of stories can we tell in comics and not elsewhere? What assumptions are we making about comic-construction that are simply practical limitations imposed by old-school printing methods? These are the kinds of questions that need to be addressed for comics and digital comics to further evolve as distinct media.

It's nice to see that some creators are asking those questions and pushing those boundaries, even at the Big Two. Or one of the Big Two, anyway.

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