August 17, 2005

Keeping Digital Comics Comics

by Andrew Stern · , 1:44 pm

The somewhat surly NYTimes new media critic Sarah Boxer (if you recall, she wrote a pretty harsh review of the last Boston Cyberarts Festival) has been browsing web comics lately, and she’s concerned.

The comics that use digital technology to break out of their frozen boxes are really more like animated cartoons. And those that don’t are just like the old, pre-digital ones, without the allure of the printed page and with a few added headaches for reader and creator alike.

She describes several examples of what bothers her, backed up by a quote from Gary Groth of Fantagraphics, who when speaking of what artists are doing with comics on the web says, “the greater the use of technology, the closer we get to film”.

As we’ve discussed before, there’s a lot you could do with digital technology applied to comics that doesn’t turn it into film. It’s probably true that the easiest eye-catching technology to apply to comics, that some artists are doing, is to use techniques like Flash, and yes, that risks changing the form so much that they’re not comics anymore. I agree with Boxer’s last statement:

If comics want to exploit the Web without losing themselves, it looks as if they will be walking a very fine line.

I wish Boxer has seen this piece, for example.