Timeframing: The Art of Comics on Screens

Temporal Polyrhythms

A few artists are already doing this. This is a piece by a French illustrator known as Boulet, called Our Toyota Was Fantastic. It's a collection of GIF animations that recall the childhood experience of riding in the back seat of a car on a long night drive.

In these panels, there is a strong rhythmic component in the flashes of light that pass across all three frames simultaneously, as if these were three live views of the action. Even with that implication of liveness, the traditional temporal map of comics remains intact—we continue to read from left to right, while simultaneously enjoying the rhythmic sensation that ties all three panels together. Note also how the rhythm of the moving text differs from that of the lights, establishing a kind of temporal polyrhythm.
In these panels, the car has entered a tunnel, where the flashing light patterns evoke a hyperspace jump. Note that the beat of the lights and that of the wobbling text have now synchronized, emphasizing the intensity of this part of the experience.
Here, this intensity is dialed back, and a new rhythm is introduced: that of the car's turning signal. Keep in mind that all of this rhythmic play is going on without any literal use of sound whatsoever. This piece could be considered a form of visual narrative music, one made possible by the seamless fusion of the temporal map of comics with the serial time of the screen.

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