COMICS REMIXED: TRANSMEDIAL AFFORDANCES ACROSS DIFFERENT COMIC BOOK VARIANTS

In this presentation, I examine transmedial features—images, transitions, and sound—across different comic book variants including digital comics, motion books, web comics, and motion comics. I explore the roles that the affordances of different comic book formats have in the acts of reading and authorship. Finally, I addresses how classroom teachers can utilize different comic book variants and their subsequent affordances to achieve academic goals.

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TRANSMEDIAL AFFORDANCES

Today, comic books, like other multimodal texts, have undergone a digital transition. The new, digital platforms available to authors, illustrators, and publishers offer a range of new affordances “that change the transactions between readers and multimodal texts in significant ways” (Serafini, Kachorsky, and Aguilera, 2015, p. 17).

  • Visual Images: Certain digital platforms rely on static or still images, while others utilize varying degrees of motion. These differences afford readers different opportunities for engaging with the text.

  • Sounds: Digital comics and film variants rely on varying degrees of diegetic sounds (that originate from the text’s world) and non-diegetic sounds (that are not present in the text’s world). Different degrees of sound usage afford readers/viewers different narrative experiences.

  • Transitions: Whether imitating the page turn from one tableau, spread, or image to another, or relying on film editing conventions, transitions in digital comics afford readers different levels of autonomy in co-constructing narratives.

References:

Serafini, F., Kachorsky, D., & Aguilera, E. (2015). Picturebooks 2.0: Transmedial features across narrative platforms. Journal of Children’s Literature, 41(2), 16–24.

DIGITAL IMMIGRANT COMICS

While digital immigrant (citation)  comics are more traditional in format, they offer the reader a lot of autonomy in their reading experience. They can control the pace and the amount of information revealed (whole page or individual panels). Motion and sound are imagined, and thus, rely on readers’ prior knowledge and experience. Readers infer a great deal of information in the gutters, or whitespace, between panels making them more active co-authors during reading. Often, readers need to be taught to attend to the features of comic books that allow them to take on this co-constructive role.

  • Multiple panels appear on one page.

  • Motion is imagined by the reader.

  • Apps can imitate page turn sounds.

  • Readers infer content in the gutters.

  • Readers control the advancement from panel to panel or page to page. 

MOTION BOOKS

These comics still offer the reader a great deal of control over the pacing of the narrative. However, they offer less control in regards to the overall experience. In some cases, sound effects and music are added meaning that readers do not need to imagine these modes. However, the motion of the panels contributes an additional meaning making resource for students. Analyzing what these effects add or take away from the narrative can help kids think about authorship from a design standpoint.

  • A single panel is revealed at a time.

  • In panel motion is imagined by the reader.

  • They use effects and music to varying degrees.

  • The reader can turn off sound by muting device.

  • Readers control the pace of advancement for panels, speech bubbles, and pages.

  • Panels move when they are advanced.

  • Readers can infer content in the gutters and from panel movement.

WEB COMICS

Readers have a similar level control over the reading experience to digital immigrant comics because they infer a great deal of the information. However, authors have a little more control over the readers’ experience because they can control the design of the website, limiting advancement opportunities. The infinite nature of the internet allows for unique and flexible formats, so authors can experiment with narrative structure and disrupt traditional linear storylines. Since this flexibility has not really been taken up by web comics authors and illustrators, students might be able to contribute to and extend this experimental genre.

  • Multiple panels appear on one page.

  • Motion and sound are imagined by the reader.

  • Readers infer content in the gutters.

  • Readers control the advancement from panel to panel or page to page.

  • Rare, but flexible formats disrupt linear narrative structures.

MOTION COMICS

Motion comics offer readers/viewers a unique multimodal experience. The auditory mode utilizes sound effects, music, and character voice acting which add an extra dimension to the narrative. The film-like quality might be more enjoyable for students who are less familiar with the comics’ medium. However, the lack of control might frustrate avid comic readers. Motion comics offer an opportunity to discuss production decisions because many motion comics are variants of popular and famous comics such as Watchmen. However, some motion comics are all so “web-series” that can only be accessed in this format. These comics contribute character development and additional world building to existing comic series. Students can discuss what these “web-series” motion comics contribute and debate the necessity of such additional material.

  • Images are bound by the frame.

  • Limited animation is used on small objects to create “flavor”.

  • Actors voice characters.

  • Sound effects and music create a film like quality.

  • Frames pan across images to direct focus.

  • Film editing is used to transition between images.

  • Readers do not advance narrative.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Kachorsky, D. (2015). Valuing the visual: Tips for teaching graphic novels and comic books. Colorado Reading Journal, 26, 13-18.​

 

Eisner, W. (2008). Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist (Will Eisner Instructional Books). WW Norton & Company.

 

McCloud, S. (2011). Making comics. Harper Collins.

McCloud, S. (1993). Understanding comics: The invisible art. Northampton, Mass.

McCloud, S. (2008). Reinventing Comics (Mencipta Ulang Komik). Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia.

Serafini, F. (2013). Reading the visual: An introduction to teaching multimodal literacy. Teachers College Press.

© 2016 Dani Kachorsky
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