What is an “Online Comic”?

It’s a little over a week until I’m at SxSW to talk about Online Comics with Richard Bruning (DC Comics), Ron Richards (iFanboy.com), and comic artist Rivkah. Richard is providing an industry perspective, Ron a reader’s perspective, Rivkah an artists perspective, and me? Besides moderating, I’ll be providing a technical perspective on what is possible with User Interface design.

In advance of the panel, I wanted to get down some of my ideas about User Interface design and online comics for feedback from interested readers.

Based on user interface design, I separate online comics into three basic categories:

Page Mimics

Balance & Grace Online Comic

Balance & Grace Online Comic Mimics a Page turning Metephor

Use the page metaphor with the linear “panel” concept for sequential story telling, either using fade, slide, or even simulated page flipping to transition between virtual-pages. Often these online comics are simply scans of print comics, so they keep the same vertical aspect, which is not optimal for the generally more horizontal computer screen.

Examples include:

Motion Comics


Sparks Motion Comic

Sparks Motion Comic

Although easily mistaken for a cartoon, these comics take existing sequential art and use a “tweening” process to create pseudo-animation. The story is still linear in nature, but becomes a more passive experience than static comics, which engage the reader to imagine the motion themselves. That said, motion comics are better suited than static images for the screen and Internet, but are still a young medium that I hope will become increasingly interactive.

Examples include:

Experimental UI

Experimental Comic "Shadows Never Sleep"

Experimental Comic “Shadows Never Sleep”

These are still comics in that they use static and/or sequential art, but presented in ways that break with other comic conventions in ways only possible in the online world. For example, “Shadows Never Sleep” allows the user to zoom in and out of the story, exploring the art and narrative at will. “ZoomQuilt II” breaks with the traditional horizontal nature of comics, instead allowing users to zoom vertically down the narrative.

Examples include: