Comics talk:
This weekend, among other things, I’ve been chairing a talk in Wolverhampton during a day devoted to comics; the panel of artists and writers talked about the industry structure and a lot of nuts & bolts issues; but also speculation about the future of comics. About how web-comics are currently more akin to a Victorian magic-lantern show than a traditional four-colour wood-pulp print comic. There was also talk about how the location of web-comics (a PC in the living room) takes away something from children’s ability to use comics as a ‘private world’, reading them under the bed or up in a treehouse, away from adults. This has the potential to impact on the development of reading-for-pleasure, especially amongst boys. We also talked about how the snobbish university system devalues comics production; there are Film Studies degrees and Creative Writing degrees which focus on ‘proper’ literature, but where are the degrees in Comic Book Production?

I also suggested that a multi-player multi-narrative computer-based role playing game could use avatars to wrap itself in the superhero genre quite easily. I don’t mean shoot-’em-up style, but an ‘interactive comic’ which is more like a theatrical play. But imagine this; while your superhero-themed multiplayer role-play goes on over the net, your PC’s game software is capturing eight multi-angle screenshots per character-interaction, and dumping them (along with speech-ballooned dialogue) into sequential directories on your hard drive. When the game is over, you load up some comic-compiling software which fills adjustable panels with the sequenced screenshots from the game. A dropdown menu lets you choose which of the eight captured screenshots to use in any frame, then you position the speech balloons, select fonts and touch up the dialogue. The resulting set of panels and pages is then put through a filter so it looks like a traditional four-colour comic. Then you print out your comic, maybe on special ‘comic pulp’ paper. Imagine a multi-user computer game as being a cutting-edge ‘stage-set/theatre’ to produce ‘old-style’ paper comics – imagine software which is ‘Dungeons & Dragons meets Poser meets Photoshop ‘.