Sequart Podcast #1:

The Changing Format of Comics

Guests Kevin Thurman and David Balan discuss the future of the comics form, and the implications of digital comics.

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File: Sequart Podcast #1: The Changing Format of Comics
Host: Julian Darius
Runtime: 59:09
File size: 28.5 MB

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In 1996, while still an undergraduate, Dr. Julian Darius founded what would become Sequart Organization. After graduating magna cum laude from Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisconsin), he obtained his M.A. in English, authoring a thesis on John Milton and utopianism. In 2002, he moved to Waikiki, teaching college while obtaining an M.A. in French (high honors) and a Ph.D. in English. In 2011, he founded Martian Lit, which publishes creative work, including his comic book Martian Comics. He currently lives in Illinois.

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4 Comments

  1. Guys,

    I love the new venture! The topic of discussion is one that’s become quite relevant for me given my wife recently buying me a Kindle Fire for Christmas (and allowing me to play with it for a few weeks upon its arrival). While I was a hard-and-fast paper guy before, I’ve begun opening my mind to digital reading in the past year (I received a Kindle Keyboard last Christmas).

    I agree that the reading experience is different; however, I’m not sure I’m so willing to place a higher value on one experience over the other. I agree that reading comics on my laptop is not anywhere as enjoyable for a number of the reasons mentioned: You have other distractors at your finger tips, the scrolling pulls you out of the reading experience, etc. However, I find much of this mitigated by the Kindle (and iPad–I have an iTouch, so I can fairly generalize on both here).

    The touch screen swipes are actually easier than turning a page allowing me to experience the art even faster. Further, I enjoy the automated zoom feature which only allows me to experience the comic one panel at a time. Sometimes, I find I can lose some of the details of a smaller portion of a panel when I’ve been exposed to the entire two-page spread. What if my panel isn’t as visually stimulating as what’s on the half-splash on the next page? I could easily miss a subtle, nuanced detail or piece of important dialogue. Digital comics help keep me focused. This has been my experience using Comixology’s app, and compared to others (i.e. Marvel, Boom, Dark Horse) it is far less buggy and so much more smooth in its use and feel.

    Now, I’ll grant the fact that readers may lose some of the “epic” splashes as you have to zoom out to take it all in–and thereby lose some of the detail of the picture (at least, you will on the Fire. I can’t speak for the iPad). Still, each medium has it pros and cons and thus far, I am not seeing one out balancing the other. I wouldn’t normally consider myself a modern comic reader. I collect vintage books, and these–along with all of my trade paperback and graphic novels–take up the bulk of space in my comic room. The notion of adding even more comic boxes isn’t in the least bit appealing, particularly if I am only looking at it as reading material. However, given the ability to have access to new material without taking up any space and for reduced pricing (I buy the sale and back issues for about 1/2 price of the monthly cost), I’m far more willing to consider being a little more current in my comics reading.

    The only real drawback that I see to this new medium is the demise of the local comic shop (LCS). I’ve always enjoyed having a place to browse around for comics, being able to chat about this particular story arc, or knowing there was a place to scout around for new vintage collections brought to market. Online buying has already provided a major dent to this experience, and I suspect the success of digital comics will only continue to shrink the number of LCSs out there.

    • Regarding the issue of the “death of the graphic novel,” I’d like to think I have some good news: Not happening any time soon. :)

      I forget who mentioned it, but someone brought up the point that while we may not have a desire to keep hard copies of our mainstream, in-continuity trades, there will most certainly be a place for hard copy graphic novels such as The Photographer, American Born Chinese, Contract with God, and on and on. Why is this? Comics and graphic novels are getting a significantly increased amount of “air time” in college classrooms. And for literature courses, you really can’t compare the hard copy with the digital. Let me unpack that statement a bit.

      For OUT of class study, digital books can be great, and this can include digital comics. However, they have two hamstrings for IN class study that–I believe–makes the hard copy a must. First, annotating in a digital copy of a book–comic or language-centric–is far more cumbersome. The result is students can fall behind and get lost trying to take notes and keep up with class discourse. It’s not impossible to with a digital copy, but it’s certainly a distant second best. Second, flipping back and forth between multiple pages isn’t particularly difficult… when dealing with a hard copy. Try this sometime with a digital book. I did this over the summer in one of the doctoral courses and I absolutely struggled to keep up and failed miserably. While it was a great learning experience for where each medium flies and flops, I really just wanted a hard copy at that moment.

      Ultimately, I do think we’ll see a major shift in the production and distribution of comics in their monthly format. We’re seeing it in other forms of printed media (magazines, newspapers, etc), and I see no reason comics will change all that much. However, I think graphic novels are a different animal and generalizing the same results to them from the monthly floppies is an inaccurate comparison. Graphic novels are most certainly here to stay even if their sister publications will be undergoing significant changes in the near future.

    • Good points all around! We’ll have to invite you to one of these podcasts!

  2. Just let me know, and I’ll see what I can do to keep up!

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