Timeframing: The Art of Comics on Screens

Stepwise Time in Born Digital Comics

Comixology's “guided view” was made to bring traditional print comics to the screen, but in the world of “born digital” comics there's another approach that’s gained some currency, one that mixes both spatial and temporal transitions. While he wasn’t the first to use the technique, the French illustrator Yves Bigerel, also known as Balak, helped to popularize it with his 2009 work About Digital Comics, a manifesto of sorts. In this piece, the reader advances from one frame to the next by clicking or pressing the right arrow button. The transitions are simple cuts from one image to another. We still read time from left to right as in a traditional Western comic, but each new step can introduce visual changes across the entire field of view and all of its panels simultaneously, an effect that takes advantage of the temporal qualities of the screen.

Balak went on to call this technique “Turbomedia” and the approach has since been taken up by Marvel in their Infinite Comics series, as well as by the digital comics publisher Thrillbent. In The Eighth Seal, published by Thrillbent and created by writer James Tynion IV and illustrator Jeremy Rock, we see clever use of this approach as a woman transforms into a hideous creature, and the subsequent reveal that the change is only occurring in her mind, even as the danger she poses to herself is all too real. This technique requires no animation or sophisticated interactivity, but still takes advantage of the potential of comics on screens.

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