As digital comics become more popular, it’s becoming more important to understand what ramifications they have on the evolution of the medium. One of the first trends I want to address is the so-called Guided View, where the digital reader zooms in on each panel before moving to the next. This has a profound impact on the way we read and experience comics.
Last week, I talked a little bit about Montage and Collage in comics. In short, we experience every moment of a comic book in two forms. We read each moment as its own moment in a sequence of events, the Montage; and simultaneously as part of the whole construction of the page, or the Collage.
You can probably see where I’m going with this. When reading a comic with Guided View or a similar technology, we’re losing a number of elements. We don’t see the construction of the whole page, which would peripherally influence our understanding of the current panel. We also lose the sense of relative size of each panel, which is the most basic way that creators imply pacing. Reading the same comic on and offline would leave markedly different impressions.
I’m not suggesting we dismiss online comics entirely. Tablets provide a great replication of reading full page comics. Turning a laptop sideways can do the trick too. So what purpose does this Guided View technology have?
Creators need to look at it as an opportunity. Guided View and similar technologies offer great, unique storytelling potential beyond what is possible on the printed page. The future of digital comics will be digital only – creators attuned to the peculiar needs of digital comics will push the bounds of the medium. But so long as creators are designing for the physical page and then tearing it up for Guided View, digital comics will be a compromised experience.