I want to develop a working dialogue with narrative analysts in the UK and US. To facilitate this I asked them two questions about the future of the narrative form. Below is my original message:
I hope this message finds you well. And I hope you don't mind my impudence.
As part of my preparations for my interview for MA in Sequence Design/ illustration course at the University of Brighton I have a huge favour to ask.
I need to find out what the key thinkers on the subject of visual narrative make of the following two questions.
Q1. In your opinion what will be the most significant event/ change in the production of visual storytelling over the next decade?
Q2. In what way do you think the movie industries will irreversibly change as a result of the plethora of comic book adaptations?
That's it. I do hope you will have time to help me. In addition I would like to quote from your research in my Masters dissertation if you are happy with that. I've spent the last 5 years exploring this subject an I now have the opportunity to test some of my theories and create some strong visual solutions.
Thank you so much.
Here are their responses:
For #1, I'd say interactive digital apps. For #2, No. Film adaptations have little to do with the graphic and diagrammatic storytelling qualities of print comics. The film industry was always mined print culture for story ideas but transformed them into something very different.
Q1 . In your opinion what will be the most significant event/ change in the production of visual storytelling over the next decade?
Digital readers or pamphlets are going to have a major impact in the way comics are distributed, read, and possibly how they are created. As the technology gets better and cheaper, it's going to become increasingly attractive to people to read comics on digital readers. I think the screens will be big enough and high enough resolution that people will be able to read comics in full-page mode, rather than in the "pan and scan" style that is now used by apps like Comixology and Panelfly for smaller platforms like smartphones. (that style is not ideal but it has its attractions as well.)
I believe that the ease of digital publishing is going to make it easier to keep out-of-print work in circulation. I'm considering making my early, out-of-print books available as ebooks, and very possibly for free. (The cheap/free model is necessarily part of this new technology. I'm not knowledgeable enough about the economics of it to comment except to say that anecdotally, making things available for free at least increases exposure and in some cases has led to higher sales of print or pay versions of people's work.)
I think it's too early to say for sure, but my hunch is that as the readers get more sophisticated, some artists are going to find ways to exploit the interface for narrative and experimental purposes. there will be lots of corny animation and "motion comics" but there could also be instances of Scott McCloud's "infinite canvas" and hypertext comics that could only work on these new platforms.
I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.
Hope that helps, Karl, and good luck with your interview.
It would be a great pleasure, and I'm flattered to be asked.
Good luck with the interview, and of course you can quote me.
In answer to the first question, 'In your opinion what will be the most significant event/ change in the production of visual storytelling over the next decade?', I would say two things. First, the technological change that is being brought about by hand-held devices, especially the iPad. For example, from late summer, mainstream comics will be available digitally as well as in print form. Amazon is trying to migrate customers to downloading. And the Marvel app has proved remarkably popular. For more on this, please see: http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2011/05/dc-comics-relaunches-everything-announces-day-and-date-digitalprint-publication/
The second change will be less spectacular, but just as telling. That is, the way in which visual storytelling will be taken up by mainstream media outlets as a 'natural' way of imparting information. You can see this happening already, for example, on The Guardian's website. There, picture stories have become commonplace, with slide-shows and embedded video, etc. Journalists have had to learn new skills i.e. how to put pictures (photos, illustration, film, etc.) together in a coherent sequence. It's not about writing anymore. And this will be the future - or part of it - for students.
In answer to the second question, 'In what way do you think the movie industries will irreversibly change as a result of the plethora of comic book adaptations?', I'm rather more cynical. The movie industry is 'in bed' with comics because they're owned by the same companies e.g. Time Warner owns DC. The comic book adaptations cause a spike in comic sales, but nothing more. The companies don't seem to be investing in new stories, but relying on old properties e.g. the superhero tales like Thor, Iron Man, etc. This is bad news because it's not sustainable. When the well of old heroes is dry, what happens then? I think the movie industry will turn elsewhere for inspiration. The big 'properties' that have been holding-up Warners recently are the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises. They're now looking around for something new, but I can't see that coming from the world of comics. So, will the movie industries change? No - they'll still look for profits where they can find them.
I hope this is of some help, Karl. Please do ask me anything else you need to.
Hope to see you at the LCC show??
Q1. In your opinion what will be the most significant event/ change
in the production of visual storytelling over the next decade?
Democratisation and diversity - tools and distribution easier and
cheaper enabling more varied people to make their own visual stories
and reach a global audience.
Q2. In what way do you think the movie industries will irreversibly
change as a result of the plethora of comic book adaptations?
Movies have always 'borrowed' from other successful sources for story
and brand material. Some perspective is needed here, as this current
spate of superhero-adaptations is mostly driven by corporate
marketing (in Marvel Studios' case, self-marketing). Movie people
today grew up reading Watchmen and Dark Knight. What will the next
generation bring to movies?
That's it. I do hope you will have time to help me. In addition I
would like to quote from your research in my Masters dissertation
if you are happy with that. I've spent the last 5 years exploring
this subject an I now have the opportunity to test some of my
theories and create some strong visual solutions.
Sure, keep in touch= why not join Comica Social Club 2011 on
Facebook, last Wed of month, meet-up of comics-makers, readers and
Good luck with Brighton
Look forward to meeting you 19th and congrats on Camberwell, I;ve
done some comics lectures there, it's a supportive college.
Would be intrigued to see what the others commented!
My responses to their answers:
much appreciated. Love the stuff your doing (as featured in many a comics/ narrative anthology).
The film industry will probably always be like that. The digital 'revolution' could go much further but I suppose has to progress by stages.
I have my interview on Thursday so I'll put your feedback to good use.
you are a star. Thank you so much. Your review of the future is impressive and does follow some of my own thinking. I'm amazed at the directions the medium is moving in. In my day I had to find my monthly Marvel fix at the local store. It was quite a while before I discovered the independent comic book retailers and the wider subject matter therein. If I was starting out now my options would be almost unlimited.
Thanks for your support once again.
this is excellent. You really know your stuff. I've noticed the same changes and thought a lot about the impact of the i-pad and apps on consumer behaviour. The movies are the movies, thirsty for profit and cheap ways to get hold of IP. I hope something more underground might emerge.
I will check out your link and chew over your comments. Thanks again.
My interview is at the end of June. Wish me luck.
I didn't get a place at Brighton but I did get into Camberwell
College of Art instead. My research project will be the same. I am
part of Comica social group but haven't made a meeting as yet.
I will be at the IWM conference comics and conflict on 19 august.
Thanks for your comments. They sit well alongside Roger Sabin's,
Matt Madden's and Ben Katchor's responses.
Thanks again to Paul Gravett, Roger Sabin, Matt Maddin and Ben Katchor. Unfortunately Danny Fingeroth has yet to reply.
I want to extend this method of investigation and will contact Scott McCloud, Jessica Abel, Brian Michael Bendis and Ruth Modan to ask them further questions that have come out of my initial request.
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