For the most part, webcomics are a 19th-century idea presented in a 21st-century medium.
Readers of The Yellow Kid, back in horse-and-buggy days, saw the strip as lines and areas of color on newsprint. Readers of The Perry Bible Fellowship have an almost identical experience, except the lines are on a screen and they click links rather than turning pages.
A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge is the first webcomic that I have seen that takes advantage of some of the possibilities only the internet can offer.
First of all, let me say that this is an awesome webcomic. Written and drawn by Josh Neufeld, it follows a handful of different charactersâ€”all based on real peopleâ€”as they face the storm. The art is a little old-fashionedâ€”I think of this style as Rounded Realismâ€”and the black-and-white-and-aqua color scheme of the prologue reminded me of old illustrated books. Neufeld’s opening panels use overhead views of the city and the hurricane clouds to create a sense of foreboding. In the second part of the prologue, he makes great use of sequences of panels to show the wrath of the storm. It’s well done, but technologically, still Old Media.
When the characters come in, in Chapter One, Neufeld starts adding in features. Leo, a magazine editor, is at a party; click a link to hear the background music. The next page features a link to the magazine’s website. Doc is sitting in Galatoire’s having a Sazerac; more links bring you more about those. And so on.
Capping it off is the “about” page, which features podcast interviews with the real people on whom the characters are based, as well as capsule bios, background information, and a lengthy list of links.
Admittedly, this is probably easier to do with a nonfiction comic; the people are there to be interviewed, the restaurant already has a website. But imagine the possibilities with fiction; an imaginative artist could cook up web pages for a fictitious restaurant and link to it. And I like the idea of bringing in music as well. It won’t work for everyone, and please don’t think I’m endorsing cheesy “blinking eyes” effects, but for someone willing to exploit it, the web could add a lot of depth to their comic.
AD is hardly the first hyperlinked comic out there, or the first with music, though it is the first I’ve read that had real podcast interviews with the characters. So that’s something.
If comics are stuck in the 19th century, does that mean books are trapped in the fourteenth century, or bowls in 5000 BCA?
You know, I recently read Scott McCloud’s first two books which made me feel like a complete jackass for using the web simply to house my comic strip that I couldn’t afford to put anywhere else. But this, THIS I can get behind. Though this could just as easily be done on a CD-ROM, it at least takes the interactivity seriously and is more suited for the Web because of it.
Not to mention that the art is amazing, a great mix of cartoony and naturalism with a serious subject that automatically turns the whimsical art style into something much more poignant. And if that storm in the Prologue doesn’t win best character this year, these guys got ROBBED.
Erg, I figured there are other comics that use music or links, although I can’t think of any offhandâ€”but I’m still pretty new to webcomics. But what impressed me about AD was the whole package. It was obviously conceived as a webcomic, not a strip to which the other things were added.
I couldn’t read a 14th-century book, and you wouldn’t want to eat out of a 5000 BCA bowl. Ideally, things improve over time. Even comics.