Update 3: A bit of theory…

29 06 2010

Last week I mentioned that I had been thinking a lot on my theory work. This week I have nailed a large portion of that down and the subsequent thoughts that go along with it are the primary focus of this update.

Comics are a form of temporal communication, that is, they display a series of images or events through time. This is the primary underlying element behind comics as a form. It is the way we view this temporal element  that makes comics a distinct form of sequential art, one that has a specific set of reading codes and conventions associated with it. The codes and conventions of reading a comic are a part of the comic form but what if the way we read comics changes?
The digital platforms of screen culture have made for a change in the readership methods of comics and the way its temporal elements are displayed. These changes offered by the digital medium lead to new types of comic being available. Baring in mind that for these digital versions to be considered comics the temporal nature and the reading codes and conventions must remain relatively unchanged I have defined four different forms of comic:

Traditional Comics (t-comics):
These consist of sequential images which have a temporal relation to the images (frames) previous and after them and are displayed on paper in the form of a codex book. The readership can be broken down into the key elements of:

  • The page (and the reading associations that go with it)
  • The visual conventions to decode
  • The story

Electronic Comics (e-comics):
Consist of the same sequential image nature as the traditional comic but contained within a digital ‘page’ as opposed to a paper one. The reading conventions and temporal elements remain the same only with a simple interactive element comparable to the turning of a page in a traditional codex book. The readership of e-comics can be broken down into:

  • The page
  • The visual conventions to decode
  • The interactive conventions to decode (‘page’ turn)
  • The story

Interactive Comics (i-comics):
These comics consist of sequential art visual codes, conventions and temporal aspects but are navigated through interactive methods. The ‘page’ itself  is usually incomplete (not visible as a whole) in nature which changes the method of reading. The conventions of reading i-comics are:

  • The page conventions to decode
  • The interactive conventions to decode
  • The visual conventions to decode
  • The story

Multimedia Comic (m-comics):
These comics include elements of motion and/or sound that changes the way the temporal nature of the comic is read. They still consist of sequential images which have a temporal relation to the images (frames) previous and after them but also include motion, sound and interaction and keep some of the codes and conventions for the readership of comics. The readership of m-comics can be broken down into:

  • The page conventions to decode
  • The interactive conventions to decode (including playful/gameic interaction)
  • The visual conventions to decode
  • The audio and video conventions to decode
  • The story

T-comics, I-comics, M-comics and E-comics (T.I.M.E) all consist of the same basic temporal relationship between frames and the same visual conventions to be decoded. It is the addition of interactive and multimedia elements that changes the way we read these comics. Depending on the level of the interaction we can fit the comics into the different categories.

Levels of Interaction:

Depending on a screen comic’s level of interaction it can be defined as either an Electronic comic (E-comic), an Interactive comic (I-comic) or a Multimedia comic (M-comic). These levels of interaction are as follows:

  • Complete page navigation interaction
  • Incomplete page navigation interaction
  • Visual interaction
  • Hypertextual interaction
  • Playful interaction

Complete page navigation is interaction which is used to move the reader from one complete page to the next. A digital equivalent of of turning the page of a codex book. This would usually consist of a clearly defines button or action which moves you from the current page to the next or previous page. The action may be used to mimic the ‘feel’ or gesture of turning a page in a codex book. Complete page navigation is used in E-comic where it is the only form of interactivity used.

Incomplete page navigation is interaction that moves the reader around a page on screen as if viewing a larger page through a window. This method is used if the page of the comic extends beyond the confines of the screen and is used to navigate the story’s path. This interaction is often a vertical or horizontal ‘scroll’ or movement along the page of the comic following the narrative path of the sequential images of the story. This incomplete page navigation may also include multiple paths through the story providing the overall plot does not change from the readers choose to take one path over another. In some instances a single path through the comic may move vertically AND horizontally. This form of interaction is most commonly seen in I-comics.

Visual interactivity is interactivity that affects the visuals of the comic. This may be a colour change/enhancement when rolling over a frame to ‘focus’ the reader’s attention, the appearance of a speech or thought bubble when clicking on a visual cue within the frame or a number of other visual interactions. The visual cues may be overt or covert within the individual frames or ‘options’  that affect every frame. The visual interactivity should not affect the overall plot of the story but merely affect the visuals. The type of interactivity may be used in both I-comics and M-comics.

Hypertextual interactivity consist of elements of interactivity that exists within the comic and link the reader to sources outside the comic. These links can be convert or overt and link to information, previous comics, character backgrounds or other elements that relate to the comic. It is important that these elements do not affect the outcome of the story and exist to support and enhance the comic. These hypertextual inactive elements are most commonly used for events referring to previous issues (in serials) or to information related to the comic.

Playful interactivity refers to puzzle or game elements of interaction used within the comic. These are elements of interactive game where the reader must complete a task to continue the progression of the story/reading. Some may be optional whilst others may not. Playful interaction also includes choices made by the user that affect the outcome of the story such as branching narrative options. Puzzle elements may also be used here to force the reader to find or investigate an aspect before being able to move on with the story or access a certain part of it. These playful interactive elements are exclusive  to M-comics although an M-comic does not require this level of interactivity to be classed as such.

The following chart shows which type of interactivity can be used in each type of screen comic:

The five types of interactivity in screen comics are…

… and they are used in…




Complete page navigation




Incomplete page navigation



Visual interactivity



Hypertextual interactivity



Playful interactivity


The above theories are all my although they are based on my reading of other theorists works. The ideas of Traditional and Electronics are based on the ideas of Will Eisner which Interactive and Multimedia comics are based around the theoretical ideas of Scott McCloud.

As well as this theoretical write up I have begun the storyboarding process and begun to flesh out the “k-many” methods of interactive frame. I have also spent time re-writing my schedule to include two hours of visual methodology each day which I have also planned out as two one hour drawing/creating sessions in the morning and afternoon. The updated schedule can be found here:

Plan C (reworked)




2 responses

30 06 2010

wow I never knew there where so many types of digital comics. You really seem to know your stuff. I do have another question if you dont mind, I may of missed it but what type of comic are you heading towards?

30 06 2010

As I say these are just my definitions of different forms of the digital comic and an assessment of the types of interactivity that goes with them. They are in no way official catagories used by the community at large. As for my comic, it will be an interactive comic that uses interactivity as a method of enhancement.

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