I don’t even know if motion comics are still a thing. I know lots of people were talking about them a few years ago. I know that the bigs in comics publishing have thrown money at them. I know that my buddies Kurt and Reilly are doing a digital comic called Power Play–which is a ton of fun by the way, and is doing it in a way that tries to preserve what a comic is.
I know I generally don’t like motion comics. They’re not comics. I’ve been reading comics for a long, long time. I’ve even written a few, so as any nerd who starts to work at something they love, I’ve developed a philosophy regarding comics. The first comic I can recall reading was Swamp Thing #40 in 1985, I was big into monsters and it was a really cool werewolf story. I haven’t stopped reading them in some form since. Weeklies, graphic novels, digital comics, and motion comics included. I’m interested in the medium. I’m in love with the way comics can tell stories, which is different than films or television or animation. Different media have different strengths, which inherently means they’re really good at telling certain types of stories, and not so good at telling others.
I suppose the break-down is that I don’t understand the point of motion comics.
Here’s why I love comics: they engage my imagination on a level that’s nonexistent in other media. Like novels I get to cast actors, I get to do the voices in my head, I get to be a part of the process. But unlike novels, comics have that amazing visual element which is separate from the visual elements presented by films or animation. Each panel is a hint at the larger narrative, and I get to imagine how things are moving, and what the scene feels like. Is what’s happening in a panel taking six minutes, or is it six seconds? In traditional film or animation, each second is acted out for me. I watch as a scene unfolds, it engages my imagination in a more passive way. Comics allow me, the reader, a certain degree of control over the story, and I can spend as much time as I want staring at one panel, I can move backwards in the narrative, or forward with ease and at my own pace.
Motion comics take that control away. Motion comics, specifically the ones I linked above (but NOT including Power Play), not only take over the visual narrative, but they add voice-over and sound effects. It forces me to…watch…a comic at someone else’s pace, with someone else’s imagination dictating how long I get to spend on each scene. Yes, some motion comics are technologically impressive. The Walking Dead motion comic (linked above) is kind of cool, but it feels more like an animated series than a comic.
It’s not all a vast wasteland, though. I wouldn’t gripe about something if I didn’t also have a solution, and it’s something I’ve been talking about for a while now to anyone who would listen–but specifically to Kurt, the writer and co-creator of Power Play. There’s a way to do motion comics, to animate comics, that preserves the comic narrative. The internet has given us many wonderful things, instant communication with anyone around the world. Limitless access to music, to movies, to games. The animated gif.
Yup, the animated gif. That’s how you add that layer of animation to a comic narrative. The animated gif when done well, much like the comic panel, supersedes the boundaries of time. Look at this gif:
You can look at it forever, and like a comic panel it can represent a quick moment, or an eternity. If artists and publishers are looking for a way to tell comic stories that are unique to digital media, but are still compelling comic narratives, then check out the artists below, because they’re doing it well.
Here are some of my favorite artists that are using animation in their comics right now: