Course details

digital graphic novels

Description

DTC 338 Digital, Multimedia Graphic Novels investigates the forms and affordances traditional print graphic novels and their narratives might assume as they are transformed from print to pixels by various forms of digital multimedia. Students will read digital graphic novels, investigate how various digital media might change narrative opportunities, and, based on what they have learned, build their own digital multimedia graphic novel.


Background

This webpage works in conjunction with the course syllabus, providing additional information about assignments, requirements, expectations, resources, and models for the topics explored in class. Course changes will appear on this webpage. Last taught: Summer 2012, Spring 2011

Watch the course trailer . . .

This course evolved from DTC 338 Special Topics: Visual Culture taught Spring 2007 which focused on visual images from video, computer games, comics, advertising, and the Internet as cultural artifacts that communicate ideas. Posits visual culture as the ability to absorb and interpret visual information and the growing tendency to visualize things that are not in themselves visual, or cannot be seen. Students read and respond to major works and demonstrate knowledge by conceiving and constructing digital, multimedia visual information objects.

Visual culture is a field of study within cultural studies focusing on aspects of culture that rely on visual images and their ability to communicate ideas quickly and effectively. Visual culture often overlaps with film or television studies and may include the study of video games, comics, traditional artistic media, advertising, the Internet, and other media that employ crucial visual components. Visual culture can be defined across a broad spectrum:

Narrow/Specific Definition
Visual culture is the tactic with which to study the genealogy, definition, and functions of postmodern everyday life from the point of view of the consumer, rather than the producer.

Middle Definition
A fluid interpretative structure for understanding response to visual media of both individuals and groups.

Broad/General Definition
Visual culture is concerned with visual events in which information, meaning, or pleasure is sought by the consumer in an interface with visual technology (any form or apparatus designed to be looked at or enhance natural vision: oil painting to television to Internet).

Basis for Visual Culture
Visual culture is important because it provides the context for so much of our daily lives. This stems from two factors . . .

  1. The remarkable human ability to absorb and interpret the ever increasing bombardment of visual information
  2. Growing tendency to visualize things that are not in themselves visual, or cannot be seen

Digital display of visual information
Visual culture certainly benefits from increased and new opportunities for the display of visual information through various digital mediums. Web 1.0, for example, is noted for its delivery of multimedia (including visual) within static web pages. On the other hand, Web 2.0, interactive Internet-based technologies such as wikis, social networking (e.g., Facebook), collaborative social constructions (e.g., online multiplayer games), blogs, micro-blogs (e.g., Twitter), video-sharing (e.g., YouTube), social bookmarking sites, and others, is characterized by its ability to promote social, interactive collaboration/construction/sharing of content.

Web 2.0
The affordances of Web 2.0 prompt many voices collaborating through the dynamic structure of the networks to create, communicate, and connect the spaces, shapes, and artifacts of a social, online, digital culture. With Web 2.0 the emphasis is no longer on the ability of an individual or organization to determine and push out a narrative to the many, but rather the social collaborative ability of the many to create, distribute, and validate the narrative themselves. The results are already, and will continue to be, unique, and interesting, especially as they are applied to cultural artifacts already in place/use.

Graphic novels are an excellent example. As artists and writers and publishers of graphic novels move to embrace the many affordances of Web 2.0, is it possible to conceive of digital graphic novels that productively promote social conscious and civic engagement? If so, what forms, might they take? Ancillary to these primary research questions are several contextual considerations. Specifically . . .

  • What stories regarding social conscious and civic engagement might be told using digital graphic novels that cannot be told in other mediums?
  • How will these stories be told?
  • Who will tell these stories?
  • What form(s) might we expect from graphic novels as they are remediated by various digital media?
  • How will we access ("read") digital graphic novels? What platforms will we use? Will some be better than others? If so, why?
  • Beyond the "WOW factor," what benefits/capabilities will digital graphic novels provide to users/interactors/participants?
  • What new methodologies for "reading" digital graphic novels might we expect?
  • Will these methodologies preserve or change our current approach to a particular literacy associated with graphic novels?
  • Assuming preservation, how will it work?
  • Assuming change, what will it affect, and how?
  • How might new, digital, forms of the graphic novel, beyond a new income stream for their authors or publishers, provide benefit to the analogue world?
  • What problems might they solve? What value might they provide?

Focus

The focus of this course is action research and application of theory into practice to answer two questions . . .

  • Can digital multimedia effectively enhance the accessible and vernacular narrative medium represented by graphic novels so as to promote engagement, interactivity, and immersion?
  • If so, what forms might digital multimedia graphic novels assume?
The first question drives the action research portion of the course. The second question, investigated by production of digital graphic novels, promotes theory into practice. Specifically, we will investigate the forms and affordances traditional print graphic novels and their narratives might assume as they are remediated by or include attributes of digital multimedia.

Rationale

Special Topics classes (DTC 338) such as this one are designed to explore new and interesting opportunities in digital technology and culture not offered through the regular program curriculum. Special topics classes provide challenging research laboratories where faculty and students can apply theory to practice and work together to develop a new body of knowledge. This connection between learning and making follows from the "learn, think, build" focus of the CMDC program. This course is an appropriate focus for research and practice in creative media and digital culture for several reasons . . .

  • Graphic novels combine and juxtapose images, text, visual rhetoric, and multiple literacies to create a richly vernacular yet easily accessible narrative medium.
  • As a narrative form, graphic novels promote the telling of a variety of stories, from historical accounts to poignant memoirs, from biography to autobiography, from journalism to fantasy and science fiction, from humor to musings on modern life.
  • Graphic novels invite readers to dwell, to reflect, and to meditate inside a communication space where the pace and tone of interaction with the medium are pliant and controlled by the reader/interactor. This intrinsically increased sensory and interactive relation to narrative components provides a level of intimacy with a medium unmatched by cinema, television, theater, audio recording, or prose-only text (Sean Howe. "Introduction." Give Our Regards To the Atomsmashers: Writers on Comics. New York: Pantheon Books, 2004. ix-x)
  • Through compelling visual, textual, and narrative rhetoric, graphic novels expose readers/interactors to transformative, mind-changing epiphanial experiences heretofore reserved for other forms of text.
  • Graphic novels represent a cultural artifact undergoing significant and interesting changes as the traditional print-based forms are remediated by the socially collaborative digital multimedia narrative affordances of Web 2.0.
  • As suggested by the research focus of this course, graphic novels might prove effective media for promoting social conscious and civic engagement.

For these reasons, and because various forms of digital technologies may be used to augment the creation, production, and distribution of print-based graphic novels, digital graphic novels represent an accessible and vernacular narrative medium that provides an interesting and challenging research laboratory in which to examine and experiment with their transformation from print to pixels. We will define "digital graphic novels" as those produced and consumed by some form of computer technology (free-standing, online, or networked). Such digital graphic novels are intended for various computer-based or facilitated contexts. Their existence or utilization outside these contexts is often difficult, if not impossible. As a result, digital graphic novels may be substantially different in nature than the more traditional print-based version with which we are familiar. Questions associated with the form, utilization, and interactivity afforded graphic novels by digital technologies are interesting, and help form the rationale for this course.

Course structure

This course is envisioned as a series of lectures, discussions, collaborative workshops, individual and collaborative course projects, and presentations providing students an environment where they can work through a number of challenges, complete projects, and document their program learning. The following research questions will provide the course context, and its connection with the "learn, think, build" focus of The CMDC Program . . .

  • (LEARN) Lectures to supply basic theory and background
  • resources, both assigned and self-directed to promote creative thinking and critical assessment
  • (BUILD) Producing digital graphic novels in different forms to promote the development of critical thinking, as well as design and development skills
  • (LEARN, THINK, BUILD) Sharing work to promote the collaborative development of a body of knowledge associated with the course focus

Components

Course components may include individual and/or collaborative projects, exams, attendance, and participation. Course components are separate yet integrally interconnected. Success in each is required for overall success.

Final grades

Information about final grades . . .

Emergencies, weather closures, and more

Information about University policies . . .

Goals and objectives

WSU and Creative Media & Digital Culture (CMDC) program learning goals associated with this course . . .
WSU Learning Goals . . .
CMDC Program Learning Goals . . .

Defining Terms

Graphic novels are not generally considered "comics" or "comic books" even though they employ many characteristics from both mediums. The basic characteristics of cartoons, comics, and comic books, and how they inform graphic novels, are outlined below . . .

  • Cartoons are a visual approach to communication that generally involves a simplified or reduced-detail drawing of a person or situation, often combined with words and meant to focus on specific details, or messages. The result: amplification through simplification (Scott McCloud Understanding Comics 30).
  • Comics (or, comic strips) are a medium that may employ but at the same time transcend the cartoon visual style to tell an expanded, often continuing, serial story through the use of juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information or to produce aesthetic response in the viewer (McCloud Understanding Comics 9).
  • Comic books are serial stories told with sequential images, usually combined with text, often printed on newsprint, collected, and stapled between covers. Most comic books are published monthly and are intended for quick distribution and consumption. They tell only a portion of a larger, longer, continuing story.
  • Generally speaking, graphic novels are long-form works in the medium of comics noted for their ability to juxtapose images, text, visual rhetoric, and multiple literacies over a perceived timeframe to create a believable and sustainable narrative engagement with the reader. Graphic novels cover a range of forms and origins. On one hand, they are often collected serial comics published in a higher quality format—slick paper, additional features, perfect binding, paperback covers. On the other hand, graphic novels can be purposeful long-form work in the medium of comics where the author/illustrator desires to tell a complete, deeper, richer story than is possible through traditional comics forms.

The key characteristics of graphic novels are . . .

  • Graphic novels are longer because they expand on comic book conventions of sequential, visual narrative. They tell a complete story by providing, in one unit, a beginning, a middle, and an end to the narrative.
  • Graphic novels strive for a simple, pared-down style and avoid tricky angles and perspectives (Charles McGrath, "Not Funnies" The New York Times Magazine 11 July 2004: 30). This is a conscious attempt to put narrative first, and to distance graphic novels from the more mainstream eye-candy associated with comics and juvenile literature. This same process has played out in photography, film, and music as each strived to evolve itself into a high art form.
  • Graphic novels tend to have authorial integrity—a unique vision—often absent in comics. Rather than produced assembly-line style, graphic novels are often the work of one artist/writer striving to create something substantial and uniquely their own.
  • Graphic novels are often written for mature readers. Their themes are often more introspective and may revise or reinvigorate a traditional / familiar theme in a new or compelling way. Additionally, the language / visual images / subjects of graphic novels may be darker, and to some, offensive.

Noted comic writer and illustrator Jennifer Abel has produced a two-part definition/explanation of graphic novels which you can download as .PDF files: Graphic Novels Part 1 HERE and Graphic Novels Part 2 HERE

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Texts

Required texts

After the Deluge front cover A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge
by Josh Neufeld

The original version of this graphic novel was published as a webcomic in Smith Magazine. The link above leads to this version. The expanded analogue version is published by Pantheon. In either case, this is one of clearest portraits of post-Katrina New Orleans yet published. Focusing on six individuals who represent a cross section of New Orleans, this nonfiction account follows their lives before and after Hurricane Katrina. From losing all their possessions, to facing the flooding, to being trapped in the Convention Center, to evacuating and not being able to return home—their stories are here, all told in graphic novel form. An excellent example of how a graphic novel can incorporate investigative reporting and social conscious to produce narratives about and by people affected by the worst life can throw at them. This graphic novel is the Campus Reading Project for 2010-2011 academic year.

Online Resources for A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge

Josh Neufeld Comix & Stories website

"Sean Kleefeld on "A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge" at the Graphic Novel Review blog


The Carrier front cover

The Carrier
by Evan Young

The first complete original graphic novel to be published exclusively on the iPhone, and also available for the iPad. The story unfolds, in real time, over the course of ten days and involves the use of text messaging, email, and geolocation to provide narrative development and facilitate the narrative development. This graphic novel is the source for what will surely be future innovations for digitally published narrative. NOTE: A .PDF version is available for those students without iPhones or iPads. See below.

Online Resources for The Carrier

Download the .PDF version of The Carrier
This is a .PDF file of the iPad version of this graphic novel, and does not include any of digital extras or time-based formatting of the iPhone version. It does, however, give you a chance to see and read this digital graphic novel even if you do not have an iPhone or iPad.

The Carrier website

The Carrier Facebook page

Recommended texts

Reinventing Comics
Scott McCloud. Paradox Press, 2000.
ISBN 6194122097

As the subtitle says, "How imagination and technology are revolutionizing an art form." More information online at Scott McCloud.com

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
Scott McCloud. HarperPerennial, 1994.
ISBN 0-06-097625-X

The subtitle reads, "The invisible art," and McCloud makes it extremely visible. Good discussion of how comics work, with many examples. The entire book is presented as a comic. More information online at Scott McCloud.com. Watch an interesting TED talk by McCloud in which he discusses the spatial context of comics, "as you move through space you move through time . . . comics can be broken . . . can we go beyond this format and design by looking at a computer as a window instead of a page?"

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Resources

  • The Adventures of Unemployed Man
    Erich Origen and Gan Golan
    During the Great Depression, the comic industry invented superheroes to battle aliens and other threats. Now, during the Great Recession those same superheroes are facing very different challenges: Rising unemployment. Expanding personal debt prisons. The highest income inequality of all time. Down but not out, these superheroes struggle to make their way in a world where the old truths still apply . . . but only for those at the very top. Against incredible odds, jobless crusader Unemployed Man and his sidekick Plan B embark on a heroic search for work-and quickly find themselves waging an epic battle against The Just Us League, a dastardly group of supervillains including The Human Resource, Toxic Debt Blob, Pink Slip and The Invisible Hand. The link above leads to the official website where you can preview several pages from this graphic novel.

  • Barefoot Gen
    Written and illustrated by Keiji Nakazawa. Last Gasp.
    The story of a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.

  • Pride of Baghdad
    Written by Brian K. Vaughan; Illustrated by Niko Henrichon. Vertigo.
    The story of a pride of lions who escaped from the Baghdad Zoo during the American bombing in 2003. Their story raises questions about the true meaning of freedom: can it be given, or is it only earned through self-determination. To view a ten-page preview of "Pride of Baghdad," visit The Official Pride of Baghdad MySpace Page and friend the Pride of Baghdad profile. Once you've been "friended," you'll receive access to the preview.

  • Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda
    Written and illustrated by Jean-Philippe Stassen. First Second.
    A difficult story about the gruesome genocide in Rwanda. A masterful narrative about one of the darkest periods in human history. A portion of the graphic novel is available to read online.

  • The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation
    Adapted by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón. Hill and Wang.
    The 9/11 Commission Report is the official report of the events leading up to the September 11, 2001 attacks. This graphic novel is an abridged graphic novel adaptation of the report. Read the first chapter online. Also check out "The Sept. 11 Commission Report as Graphic Novel" NPR interview.

  • Tuesday
    Henrik Rehr. Kim-Rehr Productions.
    Originally published as a two-issue comic, but later combined with Tribeca Sunset Part 1 and 2 to form the graphic novel Tribeca Sunset. Recounts the author's experience on 11 September 2001 living just blocks from the catastrophe. This is the first detailed, long form narrative by someone living through the events of the day. Read an excellent review, "I Can See It Now," by Time.com comics columnist Andrew D. Arnold.

  • Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-95
    Written and illustrated by Joe Sacco. Fantographic Books.
    During the war between Serbs and Bosnians in what was once Yugoslavia, Gorazade was declared a safe haven for nearly 60,000 Bosnians. Far from safe, their lives were in constant danger as Gorazade was cut off behind enemy lines, protected only by UN forces while the rest of the world turned its back. Joe Sacco was there and his particular style of graphic reporting is spot on. The link above leads to a review in The Guardian.

  • Palestine
    Written and illustrated by Joe Sacco. Fantographic Books.
    This is Sacco's breakthrough book of graphic journalism, the graphic novel where he sets the standard for navigating socially and politically sensitive subject matter using the comic medium. A collection of nine stories first published in comic form in 1993 in which Sacco portrays the history and plight of Palestianians struggling for dignity and survival in the Isreali occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. The link above leads to an interview with Joe Sacco published in Al Jazerra, the world's first news channel headquarted in the Middle East with the stated objective "to give voice to untold stories, promote debate, and challenge established perceptions." Read another interview with Joe Sacco in January Magazine.

  • Louis Real
    Written and illustrated by Chester Brown. Drawn & Quarterly.
    The biography of the nineteenth century Métis leader whose struggle to win rights for his people led to violent rebellion on the Canadian frontier. The link above leads to the Drawn & Quarterly catalog where you can download a sample of the graphic novel as a .PDF file. Time.com interview with Chester Brown.

  • King
    Written and illustrated by Ho Che Anderson. Fantographic Books.
    A biography of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., originally published in three separate volumes and now available in a collected special edition. The link above leads to the Ho Che Anderson page in the Fantographic catalog. Follow the link to "The Special Edition" and download the 18-page .PDF preview. Also check out the interesting video preview. Ho Che Anderson website.

  • Troubled Souls
    Written by Garth Ennis; Illustrated by John McCea. Fleetway.
    Two men and their lives during the seemingly endless conflict between Northern Ireland and Britain. The link above leads to the Scans_Daily website where you can view several pages from this graphic novel. Audio interviews with Garth Ennis that you can stream or download.

  • When the Wind Blows
    Written and illustrated by Raymond Briggs. Penguin.
    Using government-issued pamphlets, an elderly couple builds a shelter and prepares for nuclear war. They soon realize that the information provided by their government is worthless. A chilling and devastating book that provides as eloquent a protest against nuclear proliferation and nuclear war as anyone would want, or need. An animated film adaptation of the graphic novel was released in 1986 with a soundtrack produced and composed by Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), David Bowie, and others. More information is available at the Roger Waters website.

  • Stuck Rubber Baby
    Written and illustrated by Howard Cruse. Paradox Fiction.
    The story of a young man growing up in a rural Southern town during the 1960s. In addition to the passion and violence associated with the Viet Nam War and Civil Rights, each of which touch his life in significant ways, Toland Polk must also fight a more personal battle, to accept that he is gay. Although relatively unknown, and very much underrated, Stuck Rubber Baby is one of the most important graphic novels ever written. A web adaptation of the printed teaser promoting the book's first publication in 1995 is available HERE.

  • Shooting War
    Written by Anthony Lappe, illustrated by Dan Goldman. Smith Magazine.
    A video blogger becomes an overnight sensation when he is thrust into capturing the fighting in Baghdad, Iraq. This graphic novel presents a satirical narrative on American media and its view of foreign policy. As a result, readers may question the ethics of their country, their media, and the hidden agendas behind the conflict in Iraq. This link takes you to the original, unedited online webcomic. This material was later collected, and augmented, and then published as a traditional printed book.

  • Zombie Waffe
    Written by Malin Falch
    This graphic novel provides an interesting window on our course themes of social conscious and civic engagement by their apparent absence. The Likasi Acute Rabies Syndrome (LARS) virus has been around long enough for zombie outbreaks to become commonplace. These outbreaks have been limited to third world countries and so the United States and Europe feel a sense of safety, detachment, and apathy. But, a Class 2 outbreak in the Congo becomes apocalyptic and may force the people of other nations to consider social conscious and civic engagement as they work to keep their countries/communities alive, or ignore others and try to survive alone.

  • Zahra's Paradise
    Written and illustrated by "Amir and Khalil. First Second.
    Following protests in Iran in 2009, Mehdi, a young protestor disappears. His mother and brother, a blogger and story narrator, search the streets and morgues for any sign of Mehdi. As it progresses, the story explores many points of Iranian history, the secrecy surrounding the government, the lack of freedoms for its citizens, and the intense love of a mother for her son. A comment section is provided for each page and the author actively responds, even extends the narration to delve into events referenced in the story. New material every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

  • Supernatural Law
    Written and illustrated by Batton Lash. Exhibit A Press.
    Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre, is a law firm representing supernatural misfits. Oftentimes, however, the law is not the best solution, as when a woman murdered by her husband returns as a zombie. What at first would appear the perfect case for the prosecution—the victim can identify her murderer%#8212;runs afoul of the law which cannot be changed for this unique situation.

  • 2024
    Written and illustrated by Ted Rall. NBM Books.
    Any notion of social conscious and civic engagement are completely eradicated from the future world depicted by Ted Rall, a world where the combined nations of Canada, The United States, and Mexico are run by corporations rather than governments. No individual thought is allowed. Mass-mediated group-think, powered by a constant barrage of advertisements, slogans, and web television programming dictating what citizens (consumers) want, need, and where to get both. Much like the dystopian George Orwell novel, 1984, Rall's graphic novel focuses on the dangers associated with the absence of thought and encourages readers to take a stand, to speak out, constantly, in order to be heard.

  • Americus
    Written by M.K. Reed, illustrated by Jonathan Hill
    Published by First Second
    Neil Barton, a teenager growing up in Oklahoma City, fights to keep his favorite fantasy series, The Chronicles of Apathea Ravenchilde, in the public library. In this sense, this web-based comic speaks well to the ideas of censorship, book banning, and knee-jerk reactions by "concerned citizens."

Online graphic novels

Digital graphic novels are available in a variety of forms and formats, with which you should be familiar in order to best inform your own endeavors. The following readings are available online and represent a variety of reading formats. Special requirements are noted. Unless for subsequent issues in a series, these texts are generally available free of charge. No purchase of special reading devices is required but without the ability to read these example texts, student experience will not be as rewarding, or meaningful.

Web-based
  • Traditional panel
    • La Muse
      Adi Tantimedh and Hugo Petrus. Big Head Press.
      The story of two sisters: Susan and Libby La Muse. Susan is a sexy, fun-loving political activist for the environment, human rights and an end to poverty. She is also an alien. When her extraordinary abilities are accidentally caught on video, she suddenly finds herself the biggest celebrity in the world. Her straight-laced sister Libby is desperate to keep the world from finding out they're aliens, and becomes her agent to keep her wild hedonistic ways under control. But Susan has other ideas . . .

    • The Hook
      by Mike Baron Gabe Eltaeb. Big Head Press.
      When music is outlawed, musicians will learn to kick ass. Science fiction rocks.

    • The Probability Broach
      Written by L. Neil Smith; Illustrated by Scott Bieser. Big Head Press.
      The story of Detective Win Bear who, while investigating the murder of a physicist, is accidentally blown sideways in time—to a world where the air is clean, both poverty and government are practically non-existent, and everybody carries guns! The promise of libertarianism for a more peaceful, prosperous world. Includes talking gorillas, parallel worlds, and lots of action.

    • Breakfast of the Gods
      Written and illustrated by Brendan Douglas Jones
      A three-part webcomic epic by Brendon Douglas Jones featuring some very familiar faces from your breakfast table.

    • Heroes: Graphic Novel
      One chapter for each episode of the NBC television series, now approaching 200. Read online in an interactive format, or download a printable version in .PDF format.

  • Slide show / viewer
    • NYC2123 Dayender
      Written by Chad Allen; Illustrated by Paco Allen
      In 2054 a massive tsunami devastates Manhattan. The island's bridges and tunnels are destroyed. Two years of riots follow. Outlaw barge cities from in the waters around Manhattan, trafficking in illegal cybernetic body modifications and open source drugs. In 2065 the construction of a 20-meter-high barrier, known simply as "The Wall," encircling what is left of Manhattan is completed and martial law is declared. A sense of normalcy returns to parts of Manhattan, but the barge cities continue to thrive and the neighborhoods above 59th Street remain lawless and squalid. Small bands of mercenary hackers and cyborg street fighters, "nano-mobs," arise out of this chaos. They operate outside the law and without protection from the city's crime bosses.
      Read online as a single panel slide show. Also available as a download for Sony Playstation Portable (PSP). Source files are available for download as well, as is the opportunity to translate, mashup, and distribute freely. Everything covered by Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

    • Seven Extraordinary Things
      written and illustrated by Doug Lefler
      This online graphic novel is updated daily to include Lefler's "general ramblings about art, life, visual narration and the film business."
      Check out the navigation on this one: direct access to all chapters, as well as sidebars on the numerous characters surrounding the main viewing window.

    • Roswell, Texas
      Written by L. Neil Smith and Rex F. May; Illustrated by Scott Bieser. Big Head Press.
      Imagine a world in which Texas never joined the United States, Nazi Germany conquered England but was held in check by a nuclear-armed Irish Republican Army, the Catholic Church has moved its headquarters to Brownsville, Texas, and Mexico is ruled by a neo-Aztec emperor in partnership with French colonial bureaucrats-in-exile. A special team of Texas Rangers races an array of spies, troops, and operatives of neighboring nations to a UFO crash site, and discover a truth even stranger than any of them could have imagined.

    • TimePeeper
      Written by L. Neil Smith and Sherard Jackson. Big Head Press.
      Three high school students from 2075 take a trip to the past to find the timepeeper, a time travel device, they lost earlier. Their time travels create a number of problems for their present, forcing them to think about the future implications of their present (or past) actions.

  • Choose your own adventure
    • Meanwhile
      Written and illustrated by Shiga
      Instead of one linear story, Meanwhile splits off into many different adventures. At times you will have a choice of which branch you would like to follow. Your choice may lead to success . . . or disaster.
      Read online as an interactive graphic novel.

    • "Choose Your Own Misadventure"
      An example from the Pup comic strip (see below, under scrolling) that allows the reader to choose one of three, or all three, endings.

    • MS Paint Adventures
      Andrew
      A series of stories presented in a text-based choose your own adventure format. Readers advance through the pages by clicking links that read like commands they would type in a text prompt box. Generally the character will respond to that command on the next page. Readers can also provide suggestions for these commands through a suggestion box. Problem Sleuth is a good place to start. It is the longest adventure, and the only complete adventure to date. Homestuck is the current adventure and is interesting for its incorporation of music into the story. This music is collaboratively produced by the readers.

  • Non-linear
    • Chaos PhD
      As the cover reads, "This thrilling issue features . . . Monstrosities! Space travel! Fisticuffs! Penguins!"
      Also featured is the "Chaos Navigation Bar" which jumps you around the narrative depending on which wormhole you choose. Chaos in name and function, this one is really interesting!

  • Scrolling
    • The Spiders
      Written and illustrated by Patrick Sean Farley. Electric Sheep Comix.
      An alternative history of the US invasion of Afghanistan. Al Gore is President of the United States and ordinary citizens can view the war through web cams carried by roving robotic "spiders" dispersed into Afghanistan by the U.S. Army.
      Available in both a scrolling format for iPad, iPhone, and other handheld devices, as well as a more traditional page-by-page format powered by WordPress (includes an RSS feed).

    • Zot! Online: Hearts and Minds
      Written and illustrated by Scott McCloud
      In this 2000 update, Scott McCloud reunites the cast of his 1980s superhero series and explores the dynamics of online comics.

    • Porphyria's Lover
      Written and illustrated by Scott McCloud
      McCloud's first online comic, and the first to use panel connectors he called "trails." An adaptation of the 1834 poem by Robert Browning.

    • Pup
      A webcomic strip by Drew Weing that effectively uses horizontal and vertical scrolling. Several examples are available at this archive. See especially "Heat Death" for an incredible horizontal scrolling experience. Weing's comic is based on "Pup," a short-lived comic strip begun by Rudolph Wechsler 1921 and generally dismissed as a "Krazy-Kat" rip off.

    • The Awful Science Fair
      by Jasen Lex
      A number of experiments with one goal: "to bend the rules of sequential storytelling, illustration and computer coloring" according to Jasen Lex who utilizes collage art within some of his comics and modifies the traditional panel to allow it better to represent a more continuous movement through time. See especially "The Facts / The Truth" where Lex undertakes an introspection of his father's sudden death through the combination of newspaper clippings, drawings, and photographs. The other examples of Lex's work are equally interesting and informative.

    • E-merl.com
      by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey
      Daniel Merlin Goodbrey is a leading comic creator experimenting with both fiction and comics in the more traditional webcomic form and what he calls a "hypercomics" format. His experiments are archived at his website, and each is worth looking at and considering.

    • NAWLZ
      Stu Campbell
      Combines text, illustration, music, animation, and interactivity into a panoramic, flash-based, side-scrolling panoramic digital graphic novel. Follows Harley Chambers as he explores the futuristic City of NAWLZ, engaging in overlaying virtual realities, mind control with experimental software, hallucinogenic drugs, and surgical upgrades to his brain. The dissolution between the real and the imaginary is significant with regard to digital culture, which we are coming to think of more and more as real. This is a pretty amazing experience!

  • Flash-based
    • Apocamon
      The Book of Revelation reinterpreted as manga.

      Requires a Flash 5 player to view.

    • The Killer
      A stylized motion comic based on the graphic novel by Jacaman and Matz that offers a combination of animation, still images, selective movement, music, and sounds. The reader can interact with the story by clicking images and moving items around.

    • Outside the Box
      Brendan Cahill
      Beside the standard flash interface of clicking anywhere within one panel to advance to the next, readers can choose between several suggested soundtracks for each chapter. These soundtracks play in the background as readers advance through the narrative.

  • Image only; no text
    • The Human Element
      by David Bell
      A very interesting example of the use of scale models and clay sculptures which are then photographed and presented as individual panels. The overall effect is the feeling of viewing life-sized environments.

iPhone

There are a number of graphic novels created or adapted for the iPhone. Some are free, some are not. Many experiment with user-specified navigation features. Here are some recommendations . . .

  • The Guild (3 volumes)
  • Umbrella Academy
  • The Eternal City
    Written and drawn in monthly installments especially for iPhone and iPad
  • Robot 13
  • I, Robot #1
    I, Robot #2
    Adapted from Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now by Cory Doctrow
  • When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth
    Adapted from Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now by Cory Doctrow
  • American Terror (3 volumes)
  • Evan Young's list of top comic and graphic novel apps for the iPhone
  • The Carrier
    by Evan Young
    The first complete original graphic novel to be published exclusively on the iPhone, and also available for the iPad. The story unfolds, in real time, over the course of ten days and involves the use of text messaging, email, and geolocation to provide narrative development and facilitate the narrative development. This graphic novel is the source for what will surely be future innovations for digitally published narrative.
  • GPS Comics: Seeing thru Walls
    by Ozge Samanci
    A GPS-based comics story for iPhone and iPad that expands and explores the comic canvas and the idea of location-based comics. The reader must move through and interact with the physical world referred to in the comic. The reader must experience sensory details (smells, sounds, or objects) in the surrounding physical world in order to understand the meaning(s) of the comic frame provided on her smartphone. As a result, the reader becomes one of the characters in the story, thus increasing the opportunity for content creation.
  • Perfect Echo
    by LightComics
    A science fiction/cyberpunk digital comic developed specifically for the iPhone and iPod Touch that incorporates sounds, music, and action. The Prologue is a free download from the iPhone app store. Additional chapters are for sale. The plot: In the future, music and other activities are forbidden. A group of people bound by destiny fight to change the rules of this oppressive system. The link above leads to a YouTube trailer.

iPad

A number of iPhone graphic novels have been adapted for the iPad. Others were purpose built to take advantage of the unique features of the iPad, like its incredible resolution. In other cases, readers built for the iPad provide the interface for experiencing these digital graphic novels.

  • Operation Ajax
    Inspired by Stephen Kinzer's All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror this digital graphic novel claims to be the first one purpose built for the iPad. Based on a true story of the CIA's involvement in the Middle East and the roots of the modern American conflict with Iran. Readers can view animated graphics and find historical photos and original documents, without leaving the narrative. An interesting review is HERE
Android, iPhone, Nintendo DSi, and Kindle
  • Robot Comics
    Robot Comics is a digital comics publisher for hand-helds: Apple's iPhone, Google's Android, Nintendo DSi and Amazon's Kindle. We offer titles specifically designed to be read on e-devices. Download free comics and graphic novels from their website (above), the iTunes Store, or the Android Market.

Location-based

  • Planting Comics
    by Ozge Samanci
    A site-specific comics installation in the University of California Botanical Garden featuring twenty original comics printed on ceramic tiles. Each comic is location-based and refers to a nearby plant, view, or a detail in the physical environment. Visitors use a map to find all twenty comics and then can create their own comic plant story on the back of the map.
  • The First Ride
    by Josh Ellingson
    San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) featured three posters by Ellingson depicting explore children's imagination in the BART system. In each drawing, a young rider sees something unusual going on but the adults around aren't aware. Taken together, the three posters represent a unique and interesting form of the graphic novel. The artwork was displayed in BART stations throughout the Bay Area until the end of October 2010.
  • Banksy
    by Banksy
    A British street artist with an international reputation for his graffiti-like work, both inside and outside, shows and explains some of his best works. These individual works are, alone, more comic than graphic novel, but, through the presence and interaction of a viewer, their narratives expand to become both deeper and richer in content and connection.

Social media

  • Ordinary Things
    by Ozge Samanci
    An online journal of daily observations in comic, collage, and watercolor form. Samanci has recorded her daily observations in this manner since 24 January 2006.

Animation

  • Angel of Music
    by Federico Moreno
    A theatrical trailer for an upcoming graphic novel by McFly Studio. Moving images in a graphic novel! Very cool and very thought provoking!

Digital performance

  • Embodied Comics
    by Ozge Samanci
    As the comics medium is transported from print to pixel, there are opportunities to merge its conventions with those of film, animation, and performance. This project focuses on full bodied interaction to promote performance and embodiment as a form of digital narrative. There is also a high degree of DIY here.

Remediated from games and other formats

Digital graphic novels may be remediated from digital games, or purpose-created to support these games by acting as transitions between or in lieu of different versions. The question is intriguing: "What/where is the boundary between digital graphic novels and other forms of digital storytelling like games, movies, videos, etc.?" Some interesting examples include . . .

  • Dead Space: Ignition
    by Visceral Games and Sumo Digital and published by Electronic Arts for PlayStation and Xbox
    Combines an arcade game featuring three computer hacking games in an interacive comic-style game. The survival horror action puzzle format is designed to connect with other games in the Dead Space game franchise, and specifically acts as a prequel to Dead Space 2. Although participants do not control a character, they must participate in various real-time computer hacking scenarios in order to advance the narrative. Each success provides goodies that can be used in Dead Space 2. Each scenario utilizes animation and voice over audio. The link above leads to information and images at the joystiq website.

  • Sinkha: The Graphic Novels
    by Marco Patrito
    The website calls Shikha "a multimedia graphic novel [realized entirely] in 3D computer graphics." The graphic novel is distributed via CD, although a special analogue edition was published in Heavy Metal magazine.

  • Mass Effect 2: Genesis
    by Dark Horse Comics
    Although lacking text and word balloons, this video animation is a solid example of how we might remediate digital games into digital graphic novels. The idea here is to provide enough background regarding Mass Effect, the original game for PlayStation, so that players can take up Mass Effect 2 without feeling lost. This comic utilizes sequential art, animated to make it appear as a video to update players, and provides six decision points where they can effectively choose their own adventure. Features voice over narration. Be sure and watch the video sample provided by the link above.

Interesting use of narrative techniques

Various digital tools provide a number of different and very interesting ways to incorporate narrative into digital graphic novels. Some interesting examples include . . .

  • The Concuspidor & The Grand Wizard of Many Things
    by Beholder Graphics
    Originally serialized on the web from June-December 1995, this series is now collected and archived as an online graphic novel. Click on any character to read their narrative thoughts, all within the same panel. This approach to narrative seems to provide a much richer, and deeper, telling of the story than is possible in traditional, one dimensional narrative where we hear from one character and then another in a predetermined order. It was quite radical, in 1995, to be able to click on different parts of an image and invoke different information. Even today, we don't see this technique used so much.

  • France's Experimental Comic Book Movement
    A video interview in the Wall Street Journal with Parisian comic artist Etienne Lecroart who designs comics that can be read upside down, backwards, and inside out. He belongs to a group called OuBaPo, the Experimental Comics Workshop.

Comics: Digital

Comics: General

  • Eisner, Will. Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices of the World's Most Popular Art Form.
  • Fieffer, Jules. The Great Comic Book Heroes.
    A semi-psychological and autobiographical examination of the medium from its earliest days.
  • Jones, Gerard. Men of Tomorrow: Geek, Gansters, and the Birth of the Comic Book.
    Examines the history of creators, publishers, and more of comics
  • Kunzle, David. The Early Comic Strip. University of California Press, 1973.
    2 volumes. Historical background for early comic strips, picture stories, and narratives strips in European broadsheets. Presents the art of comics to a non-academic audience well.
  • Sabin, Roger. Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art.
  • Vanum, Robin. The Language of Comics: Word and Image.
  • Wright, Bradford. Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.
Comics: Graphic or Visual Narrative/Language
  • Brunetti, Ivan, editor. An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories. Yale University Press.
    Brilliantly edited by cartoonist Brunetti, this two volume set features everyone who is anyone in the post-underground world of comics for adults, including up-to-the minute new work. With both full color and black and white stories, the Anthology has something for every level of interest, but makes for a particularly fine introductory book to the many possibilities of the medium.
  • Cohn, Neil. What Is Visual Language?
    A website maintained by Cohn, graduate student in pyschology at Tufts University, features his research on the cognitive and linguistic processes behind comics and how sequential images can become, literally, a language, just like words in a sequence.
  • Church, Kevin, Ed Cunard, and Chris Tamarri. Graphic Language
    A blog dedicated to interviews on the subject of comics: "What we talk about when we talk about comics."
  • Eisner, Will. Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative
    Based on Eisner's course at the New York School of Visual Arts
  • Vanum, Robin. The Language of Comics: Word and Image.
  • "The Visual Language of Graphic Novels"
    New York Times Interactive Feature on Graphic Novels

Comics: Collections in WSU Library

Two sets of comics collected by English faculty member Paul Brians, now cataloged and available through the Library's Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections.

  • A comprehensive set of underground comix
  • A specialized collection of comic books about nuclear war (which relates to the collection of nuclear war fiction also found in the library)
The online finding aid is listed under "Manuscripts" HERE
Click on "Brians, Paul Comics Collection, 1950-2004"

Or, go directly to the collection HERE

Copyright / Fair Use / Creative Commons

More, shared resources here . . .

Graphic Novels: Guides / Information Resources

  • Gravett, Paul. Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know. New York: HaperCollins, 2005.
    ISBN 0-06-082425-5
    As the subtitle says: "Everything You Need to Know."
  • Preiss, Bryon and Howard Zimmerman, eds. The Year's Best Graphic Novels, Comics, and Manga. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2005.
    ISBN 0-312-34326-4
    A collection of the best this year. Good introductory reader for those just getting started.
  • Rothschile, D. Alviva. Graphic Novels: A Bibliographic Guide to Book-Length Comics. Libraries Unlimited, 1995.
    ISBN: 978-1563080869
  • Weiner, Stephen. The Rise of the Graphic Novel. New York: Nantier, Beal, Minoustchine, 2003.
    ISBN 1-5613-368-2
    The author, a librarian, selects graphic novels over a broad range of genres. Provides biographies and bibliographies.
  • Weiner, Stephen. The 101 Best Graphic Novels. New York: Nantier, Beal, Minoustchine, 2001.

Graphic Novels: Interesting Utilizations

  • Roads Forward
    A guide to New York City taxis and service for both customers and drivers.

Graphic Novels: Reviews

Graphic Novels: Making Them

Location-based Narratives / Games

Pioneering works of participatory / interactive radio drama / programming and location-based games, several designed specifically for play on mobile telephones, can very useful as we consider forms location-based graphic novels might take. More, shared resources here . . ..

Tools for Creating Digital Graphic Novels

  • ImageTexT
    A web-based journal committed to advancing the academic study of comic books, comic strips, and animated cartoons (www.english.ufl.edu/imagetext/)
  • Comic Strip Creator
    Emphasis on structured dialog rather than free form image composition; two characters per panel maximum; Encourages blocking out dialog within constraints of context.
  • Storyrobe
    An iPhone application that let's you create and share stories using photographs on your mobile telephone. Download from the iTunes Store.
  • Strip Designer
    Create comic strips using photographs on your iPhone. Add and position text balloons. Paint on your photographs, or draw from scratch. Once finished, email your comic strip, or upload it to Facebook, or Tweet it via Twitter. Also, export as a .PDF file to create comic books. Download from the iTunes Store.

Women Cartoonists

  • Robbins, Trina. The Great Women Cartoonists. Watson-Guptill Productions, 2001.
  • Robbins, Trina and Catherine Yronwode. Women and Comics. Fosterville, CA: Eclipse Books, 1985.
  • ***?***. A Century of Women Cartoonists. Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink Press, 1993.

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