An experiment here. First I want to talk about Mark Waid and his thoughts/advancements in digital comics. After that I have some thoughts on our digital lifestyles. And to finish off, we’ll see if I can tie them together nicely. Here we go.
Some months back, (seriously, it’s been in my Google Reader [now Feedly] for 143 days upon writing this), Mark Waid presented his thoughts on comics in the digital age at the O’Reilly Tools of Change Publishing Conference. Waid’s resume includes well-remembered runs on The Flash, Captain America, 52, his current work on Daredevil, and plenty more. But recently, he’s placed a special focus on the new capabilities of digital comics, I.E. comics viewed on our modern electronics, including desktop computers, a tablet, or a smartphone. One of Waid’s allies is Yves Bigerel, who created the best example of what comics can do now. Though Bigerel does not come up in the video, I know how integral he has been in much of Waid and Marvel Comics’ attempts at digital comics. If you have any interest in the evolution of an artform, it’s worth a watch.
For more examples, you can read my post from last April. Then, as now, I loved this stuff.
And here is where we switch tracks. I swear, it ties together. I think.
So why did the video sit in my Reader for so long? It’s 22 minutes! It’s not tl;dr, it’s too long, didn’t watch.
I’m sure I’m not the only one whose computer is less comfortable to sit at than his couch. And on the computer, I’m so much more likely to find another distraction. Many videos don’t need to be videos; the visuals are unnecessary. I can shift the video’s window to the side and do something else. If something catches my eye from the side of the screen, I can look over. But for the most part, it has the attention of my ears, but not my eyes.
If I’m scrolling though Facebook or Tumblr, I don’t want to stop to watch some video. I really don’t. A dog walking on two legs? Two minutes is too long. When on my computer or phone, I’m in charge. I control what’s on the screen and the pace at which I progress to the next image or story or whatever. Once I’m actually watching a video, I’m frozen. I’m not doing anything else, I’m slave to that video’s creators. At 22 minutes, you have be dedicated to watching that video. You carve out time to watch your favorite TV show. Conveniently, the 22 minutes of story are split by commercial breaks, even in our Age of DVR. We need those breaks, not only to pay for the production of the show, but to go to the bathroom or the fridge. We get released from servitude for three minutes.
And now for the dismount …
Control is also what was lacking in the early attempts at comics in the digital age. Motion comics weren’t comics. They were bad, limited animation. Most had lackluster voiceovers. Remember the one for Watchmen? One voiceactor for all the parts, including the women. And you can’t control the pacing. You hit play and 26 minutes later, it’s over. Sure, you can pause to study the background elements or rewind to hear a piece of dialogue again. But no one watches TV like that. We assume we see what we need to notice and if we don’t quite understand something, we can fill in the blanks soon. But reading, we’ll go back to savor a certain line or trace where a shadow came from. And though they’re on a brightly lit screen and not a dead tree, digital comics are all about that level of control. Each tap or swipe, a door opens, a punch is thrown. We take control.