Thursday, July 22, 2010

To the iPhone, Okita! 13

I was pointed to this comic as one designed for the iPhone.

My response below:

An interesting comic, thanks for pointing to this. It features attractive art, and like me, they are using a limited color palette.

But it doesn’t look like it was designed for the iPhone format in the sense that I mean, even if they always intended to take it there first. It looks like it was scanned from a printed comic: there are gutter shadows evident. But even if these are some other production artifact, and the book went to Comixology before print, it was clearly (and well) designed with the printed page in mind.

One of the things I’ve noticed about the Comixology and Panelfly apps is that they allow for panning and dollying of a comics page to come in close on panels. This isn’t new. People have been taking a film or video camera to a comics page for along time and doing exactly these things to “read” the page. I did it myself for a video class I took at UCLA back in 1973. (The portable cameras weighed 50 lbs.) I panned across a very large comics page I had drawn, amply demonstrating that not only did I fail to fully grasp the limitations of comics, but I didn’t understand video very well either.

The ability to control the pace and direction of the reading experience no doubt makes it all much more immersive than watching a tape. But these are also very clearly features designed to accommodate the fact that the screen size is tiny and incapable of presenting a full page in a readable condition at once. These are necessary features if you are bringing your print comic to these devices. I have no idea if Arrow’s app allows for this. From the few examples I’ve seen, it appears to be a slide show approach and that is what I’m doing, placing 1 to 3 (in a few cases 4)panels to a screen shot.

Young readers with open minds and hearts may take to these pan and dolly features like flies to shi-- uh, sugar and I’ve got a canalized old brain, but it seems clear to me that these apps are designed to bring an old medium to a new venue and creators are not considering this as an entirely new medium.

One example:

I’ve encountered this with Okita. My panels are drawn at different sizes for the purposes of matching a story to the page. The marks that I use in my drawings are made with a narrow selection of tools and consequently have a certain scale and degree of detail. When these different sized panels are scaled to fit the rigid size of the screen, they are enlarged or shrunk to different degrees. This is complicated by a variety of techniques I’ve used to add to or subtract from the original art.
But the result is that the quality of the marks can be crude or quite subtle depending on how the original is scaled. I make no judgment here of the relative value of each. I often like crude marks for their energy, but the point here is that these qualities are controlled by the need to fit different drawings into a single slot, and not by the design intent of the artist.If you draw with the intent that your art will appear as a specific size/resolution, then you can get the specific results you want-- or at least a consistent line quality.


I’ve indicated this earlier. If you address each screen shot as a page turn then you begin to think in terms of 1 to 3-4 panel units and how you make each of these engaging, or how you express an idea in a unit of this size. Just as the old adventure comics of the newspapers moved at a different pace then a comic book does (Terry and the Pirates is a great example), so an iPhone comic suggests a different kind of pacing, and that is very much what I am looking for in my decisions about how to cut up the Okita pages.

Sometimes the results are not fully satisfactory, but then it wasn’t designed for this format, and that’s my point.

No comments:

Post a Comment