In the scale of storytelling mediums, we have moved from word of mouth, to the written word all the way to video games and today Virtual Reality. Thanks to the invention of film most of the visual storytelling that is celebrated is told in this form yet there is an alternative that sits somewhere between book and filmmaking – the comic book. For years this was seen as a lesser version of thee novel and only until recently has it been given a sample of the spotlight (though this is arguable). Comics have many unique aspects to them and when made well can deliver a story experience in a way that is both exciting and impactful. Here is what makes comics a worthy storytelling platform.
Inexpensive Visual Storytelling
Today we may be used to huge Hollywood films with their millions of dollars’ worth of visual effects applied to them. If you’ve ever sat through the credits to a summer blockbuster you will notice multiple studios were hired to make the effects in the film. With comics the visual spectacle is still there, sure it doesn’t always have the super glossy look of a 4K film, but once engaged you can’t tell. Many comics are created by duos or groups of people several of which are there to take care of the art, with the line work and colouring usually being two separate people. Here visuals pop out of the page (definitely out of the panels), action packed scenes are aplenty and everything from sexy heroines to stomach churning gore meet your eyes on a budget that would make Jerry Bruckheimer weep.
On top of being visually wonderful, comics show the story from multiple angles a lot more often. This comes from the ability to show characters more easily than in books. Here cutaways don’t seem so jarring (like they would if a film constantly changed scene every two seconds) and stories can be segmented into much smaller fragments without confusing the reader. Also, thanks to this being all on the pages at once, any confusion is abated by the ability to look back over all the scenes simultaneously, something you simply can’t do with film.
Though they may seem a little dated at times in film and TV, in comics the internal monologue is a device that allows for a much richer character experience without the need for breaking the fourth wall like shows such as Malcolm In The Middle. Here we can see what each character is thinking and feeling even though their actions may show something different entirely. The result is more complex heroes and relatable villains which the larger mediums have tried to imitate over and over again.
Everything Between the Gutters
Films are edited together in an unending sequence whereas comics have many breaks between panels, these are called gutters. Though it may seem like blank space the magic of the gutter is endless, changing from one panel to another can be a difference in milliseconds (like in an intense close-quarters fight scene), decades (In generational stories) or could move thee reader billions of light years away in an instant (space operas). The gutters make for instant time and space travel in a way that is easy to detect and intuitive to interpret.