Playful Space and Paginated Time
The combination of comics and screens bring both of these techniques—split screen and loops—into play in the same world. Split screen turns space into a game, a playful system for showing relationships between people and things. Loops turn time into a book, enabling specific ranges of time to be revealed at the user’s own pace. In our current media moment, there are plenty of raw materials around from which these types of experiences can be made.
As an example, the TNT miniseries Mob City, which aired last fall, launched with an elaborate Twitter campaign that involved tweeting the entire script of the first episode. Some tweets were text only; some combined text and an image; and some were text and a Vine video loop. A special website for the promotion made it possible to scroll through the tweets and, in separate columns, watch as the actors commented on specific lines or clips. As I explored the site, it occurred to me that its creators had inadvertently published the raw materials for a digital comic, and so I decided to try adapting a portion of the script using the same technology I developed for Upgrade Soul.
This technology, called Panoply and created as an add-on for the popular Unity game engine, makes it possible to have precise control over how panels move and change from step to step, while still maintaining a smooth, momentum-like feel.
You can see here the first scene of the Mob City script, reformatted as a new digital comic that combines the images and looped Vine videos, with the text of the tweets appearing as captions.
What I wanted to show with this experiment is that the Mob City promotion, in its original form, actually already was a digital comic—a temporal map spatially juxtaposing vignettes of time—and that, in fact, digital comics are already all around us in the media landscape, whether we call them that or not. Reality shows, video games, web sites, all are finding their own ways to combine the spatialized temporal map that McCloud identifies as essential to comics, with various forms of serialized time, including time driven by the user’s gestures.