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Webcomics and Hypercomics, Oh my!
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2001 7:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Please excuse the rampant self promotion that follows, but I have a few pieces of webcomic and hypercomic work that I'd appreciate some feedback on. I'm currently studying for my Masters degree in hyperfiction, for which all these pieces were produced. More on that in a minute.

Hiddenfactions

A random hypercomic that changes every time you reload it. Some combinations work better than others and reading several combinations works best of all. It's all done with javascript.

Higherfunctions

A hypercomic about reality migration. For some annoying reason, this one only works properly when viewed with Internet Explorer.

While it has the appearance of containing multiple pages, it's actually all done on the same page, with anchor tags jumping the reader around. That means all the loading gets done up front and the flow of the story isn't interrupted every time the reader clicks a link. I got the loading bar effect by repeating all the panels in the story in a line and resizing them within the html.

The April Murders

This was my first experiment with a down scrolling trails based webcomic. A story about murder and the end of the world that was written in January about events that might take place in April. None of them did, I hope.

Interview With A Madman

Further trails experimentation. The story is, well, about an interview with a madman. It's rather odd.

A Webcomic Tetrad

Basically, this is a reframing of some of the points raised in Reinventing Comics into a Marshal McCluhan style Tetrad. It originally formed part of an essay on the same subject for my Masters degree. It's done in Flash, so you'll need the Flash 5 plug-in to view it.

A Final Dream of Clocks

This is really more of an illustrated hyperfiction than a hypercomic. I include it here for contrast and because I'm rather pleased with it. It's Flash 5 and hefty Flash 5 at that, so you might need a fast-ish machine to get the best out of it.

My big project for the summer, which goes towards a third of my Masters degree, is going to be a flash-based hypercomic that builds on my work to date to (hopefully) produce something new and strange and different.

I think hypercomics as a medium have huge potential, but I've yet to see much on the web that lives up to it. Along these lines, I'd be interested to hear what people think works in the pieces above and what doesn't.
I'd also like to see any other good examples of hypercomic work that people know to be out there. I'm now in the early planning stages of my summer uberverk and all input is good input.

-Merlin
http://www.e-merl.com



[ This Message was edited by: Greg Stephens on 2001-06-11 03:05 ]
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Merlin
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2001 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

D'oh! - forgot to enter my username and password when I made the post, so I can't edit it. That broken link should look like this:

Hiddenfactions

- Merlin
http://www.e-merl.com
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2001 3:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's OK- I can edit it. Your link is fixed! Blatant self-promotion is all good here. We want to see what's being done out there. Comments on the comics after I go read them...

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2001 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Merlin, thanks for posting the links to your comic and giving us the chance to see them and give you some feedback:

HIDDENFACTIONS
I've clicked away at this for quite a while, reading several combinations. At first it was OK, I thought I could even discern a bit of plot, and a lot of the randomness seemed smart. After a while though, theories I was building up in my head to explain things were broken down as different names were attributed to the same actions/events, until finally I felt like I was in a room with people who were talking openly about their history before I came along. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't catch up.

This comic was very very inspiring though, I'm now thinking of experimenting with something similar, but limiting the randomness to a large set of 'truths' for each panel position. (i.e. each click/reload may or may not reveal more about each scene, and after many rereads, eventually the whole picture can be built in the reader's head, even though it can never be seen all at once).

HIGHERFUNCTIONS
Once again, I'd like to compliment you on the technical execution of this comic. The loading bar is a smart trick, as are the no scrolling frames and the 'instant' loading of new pages.

I'm pretty sure I read the entire hypercomic, although it is hard to tell. A back button would have been nice (and possible (via javascript)). This is mainly because several of the links narrate quite well together, and it feels like I am on a thread, but then when I click on a link which I am guessing is explantory (and often it was) I couldn't get back to the thread I believed I was on. This, to me, broke the narrative that was there, and made it feel more like a 'world' than a 'story'. Even if the thread was only a figment of my imagination, I'd still like to return to it.

THE APRIL MURDERS & INTERVIEW WITH MADMAN
The second of your two trail comics was by far the best. I'm not going to send a link to it to my grandmother, but you knew that when you put it together. For most of the comic the text did all the work, the right hand images mainly being talking heads, with the exception of the spooky looking statue (that worked) and the teachers. This is not a bad thing though, as it made the break to colour photos when the Madman remembers his sanity all the more striking. Considering your subject topic, and my normally 'goody two-shoes' taste, I think you did a really good job on that comic. (I still can't find John Cleese).

A WEBCOMIC TETRAD
Once again, I was excited by the tech in this comic. In fact it is the very best Inifinite Canvas kin I've seen yet, mainly thank's to the draggability and the changing cursor. Congrats.

(After seeing this comic I sat myself down and fuggled around with Flash, ActionScript and FlashKit.com for several hours trying to replicate it, but I simply can not get both custom cursors and draggability to work at the same time. How about making a .fla available for people that want to experiment with a draggable infinite canvas, but can't figure out the ActionScript. )

A FINAL DREAM OF CLOCKS
Yikes. You've put a swag of hours into that one. I almost feel guilty saying anything negative about it. Nevertheless, here is some honesty.

Once again, I can't be anything but impressed with your technical prowess, everything looks and works great and is very imaginative. Your text is also full of some very good lines (I like the randomn deity generator) and many poetic bright spots.

However, and this is a big however. A Final Dream of Clocks just doesn't hit the spot(for me). I think it is the big brother of HIGHERFUNCTIONS, and that didn't really do it for me either. I like stories, I like narration, and both these ask just too much from me the reader (in the figuring out department). After a while it felt as though there wasn't actually anything to figure out, but instead it was simply a large collection of arty stuff nearly randomly connected by word association and only related in that it all has the same tone and author. After a while your hyperlinks lost their meaning. I felt: "What was the point of clicking here or there, both lead only to more confusion". Perhaps it is all over my head.

I don't feel like leaving such a big post on a negative note, so I'll finish by saying that I think you have produced some of the most advanced experiments I have yet seen, all of which appear techinically sound, and with that, given a little more attention to the story-telling side of things, I think you have created the foundation for a lot of exciting work. I'm looking forward to seeing your future projects.

Also, I'm interested in finding out more about the nitty gritty of your Master's programme, if you are able to post a hyperlink (I'm hoping to start a degree in Interactive Media this September).

Cheers
Lyle

lyle@mooloo.com
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damonk13
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2001 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nicely done, sir -- you have accomplished with your drag cursor in Flash what I wish I could accomplish for some of my own tries at playing with the canvas, which were simply large image files with which the reader would scroll around the screen to follow:

THIS, THIS, THIS,
THIS, or THIS.

While I find that I more or less achieved the "effect" I was looking for, I am aware that the image files are fairly large in byte site (making them anything BUT bite-sized), and I am limited to horizontal and vertical scrolling, which is not as smooth as your dragging processs...

Perhaps one day, if I can devote more time to my hobby, I can learn from your deft flash techniques and improve my own attempts at "canvassing..."

...

Your other two trail comics were likewise interesting, though in terms of form they were fairly standard -- I felt that they could have been arranged vertically or horizontally without it making much of a difference...

I guess I enjoy comics where the form has a "purpose" that coheres with the content. For example, in your Flash comic, when your character comments on the going "backwards" or choosing between doors, then the form fits and enhances the effect. However, like I said earlier, i do not feel that the trails serve a purpose that enhance or add to the content of the pieces in your other two trail comics, which makes me think "why do it that way?"

...

As for your hypercomics, both were very impressive for their respective innovative approach to the comic reading experience; I agree that the one large file which uses targets was a wonderful idea -- I particularly liked the "changing slides" effect of the fast scrolling between hyperclicks...

All in all, very nice work, sir.

And good luck on your thesis -- in what department are you taking this, if I may ask?

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[ This Message was edited by: damonk13 on 2001-06-13 18:50 ]
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Merlin
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2001 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the thoughtful feedback. Here are my thoughts on your thoughts, as I had them.

At first it was OK, I thought I could even discern a bit of plot, and a lot of the randomness seemed smart. After a while though, theories I was building up in my head to explain things were broken down

Welcome to the world's first Twin Peaks comic simulator! I'd say your reaction is probably pretty much on the money. Essentially just a collection of random vagueness, this one really relies on the reader to fill in the missing pieces for themselves. But I'm still quite pleased with how well it conveys its "There's Something Strange Going On" vibe. Glad its given you some ideas for other things that can be done with technique.

A back button would have been nice (and possible (via JavaScript)).

Doable, but why not just use the back button built into your browser?

I'm not going to send a link to it to my grandmother, but you knew that when you put it together.

But I bet she'd love it!

Considering your subject topic, and my normally 'goody two-shoes' taste, I think you did a really good job on that comic. (I still can't find John Cleese).

Thanks! I have quite a dark sense of humour, of which this piece is an example. Cleese is the last teacher to appear in the school sequence. Bonus points to anyone who recognises where the still I based that frame on comes from.

How about making a .fla available for people that want to experiment with a drag-able infinite canvas, but can't figure out the ActionScript.

Good idea. I'll put up the .fla file here:

http://www.e-merl.com/stuff/comtet1.fla

There's actually very little complex action script on that one. The entire comic is just one big drag-able button (although I disguised that fact by replacing the usual pointers with custom ones, so as not to give the game away).

Yikes. You've put a swag of hours into that one.

Yup. While the other pieces were the work of a few days each, Clocks took a bit more than a month to finish.

However, and this is a big however.

I can see what you're saying about why Clocks didn't tick for you. It might help if you think of it as 12 interlinked short stories rather than one big thing. Or it might not. I dunno, Clocks was a weird one. I had Morrison's Invisibles playing in the back of my head when I was working on it and there was a lot of reality/fiction crossover going on (which is really one of the points of the piece).

Also, I'm interested in finding out more about the nitty gritty of your Master's programme, if you are able to post a hyperlink (I'm hoping to start a degree in Interactive Media this September).

I've had great fun on my Masters so far. It's pretty much been a natural extension of my degree in Software Systems for the Arts & Media, except with a lot more freedom to explore whatever issues I want (like hypercomics, for example). The University's page for the course is here:

http://www.herts.ac.uk/extrel/PGP2001/faculties/art/digi_prac.html

And the page for the undergraduate Interactive Media degree that lead up to it is here:

http://www.herts.ac.uk/extrel/UGP2001/faculties/art/soft_art.html

The website were you can see a bunch of other Hyperfiction work from our course (as well as get a better definition of what a hyperfiction actually is) can be found at:

http://www.geocities.com/hypeorfictions/

Hope that lot proves useful.

- Merlin
http://www.e-merl.com
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Merlin
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2001 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some more feedback on feedback.

THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS, or THIS.

You've got some funny stuff there, and I like the branching panel flow you're using in places. A little tip - when you're working with black and white line art like this one:

http://framed.keenspace.com/d/20010119.html

You'd be better off saving that image as a 16 colour gif file, rather than a jpeg. That'd shave a good 100k of the file size and bump down the loading time.

Your other two trail comics were likewise interesting, though in terms of form they were fairly standard

Yeah, these were more about narrative and less about experimentation in form. I basically liked the look of descending trail comics and thought 'lets have a go at that.'

All in all, very nice work, sir.

Thanks!

And good luck on your thesis -- in what department are you taking this, if I may ask?

See my above post for course details (and Flash .fla's, should you get time for a tinker).

- Merl
http://www.e-merl.com





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damonk13
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2001 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

and belated feedback on your feedback of my feedback ^_^

Quote:

On 2001-06-17 15:57, Merlin wrote:
You've got some funny stuff there, and I like the branching panel flow you're using in places.


Thanks muchly -- i wasn't fishing for compliments, but am flattered by your kind words!

Quote:

A little tip - when you're working with black and white line art like this one:

http://framed.keenspace.com/d/20010119.html

You'd be better off saving that image as a 16 colour gif file, rather than a jpeg. That'd shave a good 100k of the file size and bump down the loading time.


Yeah, i know... at the time, i didn't have the software to convert files into .gif format, and i made the mistake of removing all the original bitmaps of that... however, i may try unconverting and reconverting, to see if i can keep some of the "quality" and reduce the file size...

Quote:

Yeah, these were more about narrative and less about experimentation in form. I basically liked the look of descending trail comics and thought 'lets have a go at that.'


s'cool. it still looked nice and worked well. ^_^

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