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Looking at the Future of Comics: Will They Survive Digitization?

Breaking down the advantages to publishing comics on small, digital screens.

Each week, the mini-comic masterclass Strip Panel Naked uses creator interviews, video essays, and critical thinking to find, as host Hass Otsmane-Elhaou describes, "some of the cool stuff lurking in the pages of some of the best comics." But this week Otsmane-Elhaou shifts the focus of the episode away from "pages" of conventional comics to take a look at the growing world of digital comics designed specifically for the small screens of smart devices. By looking specifically at Ibrahim Moustafa's digital comic Jaeger, this week's episode of Strip Panel Naked delves into the world of small screens and cramped storytelling space.

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While digital comic distributors like Comixology provide a "guided view" to help convert traditional pages to phone screens, the result is usually a trade off. The artist created a page of comics to be read, visually, in its original size. So when single panels are removed and highlight for the reader, separated from the rest of the comic page (as is the case with guided view), an bit of the overall intent of the artist is lost. Some comics, like Jaeger, are created specifically for the phone, and it gives a tight, narrow focus. "Because of that focus," Otsmane-Elhaou explains in the video, "it adds gravitas to each image presented."

Panel selection from Jaeger. Created by Ibrahim Moustafa

Jaeger creator Ibrahim Moustafa doesn't have a very wide canvas to work with, but he still manages to split the frame from time to time. "The split screen effect in this comic really is just kind of great," exclaims Otsmane-Elhaou, "and is entirely a function of its form. Stories like this are helping to redefine the visual language of comics, and what can be achieved with them." Though it's hard to imagine a world without racks of paper comics, phone-based comic work may be the bridge the industry needs to make a larger splash in the digital world.

See the innovative work going on with this comic in the video below:

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