Timeframing: The Art of Comics on Screens

The Slippery Slope of Time

At the time McCloud wrote Reinventing Comics, a range of experiments in making comics “come alive” on screens were already underway. Calling these efforts a “slippery slope,” McCloud points out the logic that “if partial sound and motion can help create an immersive experience, won’t full sound and motion do the job more effectively?” One of his concerns is that readers of such works will find the persistence of comic panels and their temporal mapping no more than an annoying affectation—exactly how many responded to the use of split-screen techniques in Ang Lee’s film Hulk.
In About Digital Comics, Balak, in explaining the interface for the work, points out that “he [the reader] clicks to see what’s next, with no fancy gimmicks coming from the temporal world to ruin the experience.” In both cases we see a strong bias against introducing temporality into comics.
These are legitimate concerns, but I think what was overlooked in these initial points of view is that partial motion isn’t just the absence of full motion—it has aesthetic and expressive qualities of its own, qualities that animators have been exploring for a long time, qualities that most motion comics ignore, and qualities that are remarkably durable, even in the face of “high resolution” movement. It’s a matter of discovering (or perhaps rediscovering) the aesthetics of partial or constrained motion, which is exactly what has been happening over the last few years. 

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