Sunday, 5 December 2010

A miniature essay/rant about mobile comics

Action Ash

Since the late thirties, when publishers realised that comic books could be so much more than reprints of popular newspaper strips, the medium of comic books has remained fairly unchanged. That is until recently, with what could be the mediums greatest change just on the horizon.

Obviously comic books have always been mobile. With soft paper covers they can be carried around and read while commuting or at lunch time. I myself read them on the bus all the time, but would having a comic on some kind of mobile device be more convenient?

Converging with mobile media would indeed make it convenient for a lot of people to read comics. Readers who were not able to get to a comic shop could simply download the content for a price and the medium could be brought to a wider audience, especially if available in multiple languages.

There is also a novelty aspect to mobile comics. The idea of reading a comic digitally, on a mobile phone seems to excite some comic fans; however the reality is often less pleasing. Reading something that was designed to be read page by page can be tiresome to read panel by panel on a tiny screen. This is where the iPad comes in handy, with its much bigger screen. It seems a lot more enjoyable reading a comic on such a device, but in my opinion, still preferable to read an actual comic. So why bother with mobile comics at all?

The problem lies with the fact that the medium wasn’t designed to be read in this fashion. There needs to be a re-design, a re-formatting of content, for comics to be fully accepted on mobile devices. There are huge design issues when it comes to displaying comics on a mobile device, such as layout, composition, perception of story and established mood, which just haven’t been taken into account.

The key to the design of a truly great mobile comic is to figure out a whole new and inventive way of telling stories in comic book form that is specific to screens. The future of mobile comics depends on a yet to be discovered format that will take the medium in a completely new direction.