Welcome back to THREE QUESTIONS – The ongoing series of questions and answers with digital comics creators, innovators, and storytellers. This week we’re thrilled to speak with filmmaker and Eisner-nominated comic creator Alex De Campi!
Alex has been on the leading edge of digital comics and is one of the original “turbomedia” storytellers, notably on ComiXology’s platform using their “Guided View” format as a creative tool instead of merely a way to help read print comics on small devices. With her original series VALENTINE, Alex didn’t just help popularize a method of storytelling but also experimented with the creative process itself, effectively crowd-sourcing the translation of the comic into multiple languages. She has recently migrated VALENTINE away from ComiXology and joined forces with the progressive digital comics collective Thrillbent where she continues to tell great stories.
As the headline states, we’ve asked Alex three questions; the very same three questions asked of other digital comics creators. We think the similarities (and the differences) in their answers is often enlightening.
PERAZZA: What is the best thing about comics specifically made for digital reading?
DE CAMPI: That any transition can be a page turn. That you can’t see ahead and take in the next four-to-ten panels at a glance, the way you do with a paper book. As a writer, I find my pacing is pretty consistent whether I’m writing for digital-first or dead tree, but the experience of digital-first is so heightened for the reader, especially with my style of writing, which is thriller/suspense.
The writer also has a much greater control of the reader’s experience of time in a digital comic. Although you can slow a reader down or speed them up via the number of panels on a printed page, you have so many more tools to do this digitally, from having the reader tap to bring up dialogue, to adding in spacer panels or cutaways/reflective moments to drive home a character’s thought process or emotions.
PERAZZA: What is the worst thing about comics specifically made for digital reading?
DE CAMPI: I don’t see a lot of “worsts” with digital-first comics, except the badly-done ones, but hey, 70% of everything is badly done, isn’t it? Anything that overly invades on the reader’s control of time is problematic to me. Voiceovers, animation that’s not simple effect/atmosphere loops (eg. rain, fire, snow, etc). I talk in my “bests” about how digital comics give the creator more control of time, but you have to respect an ultimate line. The reader has to choose for the next thing to happen, and when it happens, by clicking/swiping. You can’t foist it on them – eg. by having an animation or voice dialogue just start five seconds in, unexpectedly. As a reader, that makes me so stabby.
PERAZZA: What do you see in the future for digital comics?
DE CAMPI: I think we’re going to see short, fully-animated trailers/intros. I think there will be a lot more borrowed from video games – not necessarily “Choose Your Own Adventure” (but I’d love to see that done really well. I fear the production of the redundant plot lines would make it financially unviable, though) – but, other video game tricks and tropes: looped atmosphere animations, looped music, SFX on transitions. I think digital comics have barely reached 15% of their potential. And if some nice entertainment company would just give me a good budget and a skilled coder, I will happily take that frontier and march it well forwards into the unknown. Ad astra!
PERAZZA: On est ad astra mollis e terris via!
If you’re interested in seeing Alex’s storytelling technique in action you should check out VALENTINE on Thrillbent. Alex is also the creator of SMOKE/ASHES and GRINDHOUSE, both available from Dark Horse Comics. Of course, for the social media minded, you can also follow Alex on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.