Storytelling Through New Media – the Evolution of Sequential Art and the Graphic Novel

 

Sequential Art

Sequential Art is an artistic medium in which images (and sometimes text) are utilized in sequential order to tell a story or convey information. The most common forms of sequential art can be both print (i.e Comic books and strips) and screen based (film, animation, storyboards).

The term “Sequential Art” was first coined by Cartoonist Will Eisner (March 6 1917 -January 3 2005) in his book Comics and Sequential Art (first published 1985).  Based on his teachings during his time at the New York School of Visual Art, Eisner’s book presents the principles of graphic storytelling and how both artist and viewers can appreciate the practices of the medium.

“Comics deal with two fundamental communicating devices: words and images. Admittedly this is an arbitrary separation. But, since in the modern world of communication they are treated as independent disciplines, it seems valid. Actually, the are derivatives of a single origin and in the skillful employment of words and images lies the expressive potential of the medium.” ― Will Eisner, Comics and Sequential Art

A Brief History of the Graphic Novel and its influence

The first comics originated in the late 19th Century and were originally utilized as a means for entertainment to the general masses as well as the satire of important social, political and economic events and their effects on the world at large.

During the First half of the twentieth Century the comic strip began it’s transformation into the medium known as the comic book. During this time comic art began to take on more detailed plots and visuals many of which are now the subject of many screen works and films.

What made the medium of the graphic novel/comic art so successful as a new media art form of the twentieth century is its easy accessibility. Not only is it  monetarily accessible to a much wider audience, but its utilization of images allows the story to be told with minimal words. The images come in a wide variety of styles, ranging from the realistic, stylized and the simple. This therefore makes it accessible to a variety of age groups and cultures.

Such accessibility can be seen in the way sequential art has influenced the practices of Pop-Art .

Whaam! 1963 by Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997
Whaam! (1963) Roy Lichtenstein
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Dick Tracy (1960) Andy Warhol

As seen in the above images, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol’s artistic appropriations draw heavy inspiration from the comic book medium. With simplified lines, colours and shape the content of the images is easy for the audience to view.

Such principles in addition to good prose are the foundations for the creation of a good graphic novel.

 

MadeFire Motion Books – The Digitization of the Graphic Novel

Like most forms of media from the 20th Century, Comics and Graphic Novels have been forced to adapt to the digital age.

Though still widely available in print, comics are now making the transition to the digital platform.

Many graphic novels and comics are now downloadable through a website as images or cbr files, from which they can be downloaded/uploaded to/from a server.

Another form the graphic novel has taken has been the MadeFire Motion Books.

RAD (2015) Josh Wilkie and Evan Limberger

To make up for the Printed Graphic Novel’s physical/tactile interactivity, the Motion Book borrows a far wider range of screen based techniques such as sound and animated transitions to create a more immersive digital interactive experience.

With these techniques storytelling becomes a more cinematic experience for the viewer, and comes closer to resembling a sequential series of stills from a movie.

Though still in its fledgling stages, Motion Books such as the above mentioned RAD (2015), offer a new avenue into interactive storytelling, one that could potentially change the way we view comics and share stories around the globe

References

Wolk, D., 2007. Reading comics: How graphic novels work and what they mean. Da Capo Press.

Eisner, W., 1985. Comics & sequential art (pp. 194-209). Tamarac, FL: Poorhouse Press.

Comic Art & Graffix Gallery . 2006. your are at Comic Art & Graffix Gallery Your source for comic books, comic art, pulps, auctions and more. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.comic-art.com/history.htm. [Accessed 21 October 2016].

Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, (2016), Whaam! [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/images/work/T/T00/T00897_10.jpg [Accessed 21 October 2016].

Andy Warhol, (2016), Dick Tracy [ONLINE]. Available at: http://sequart.org/magazine/62511/andy-warhol-and-comics/a-warhol-dick-tracy/ [Accessed 21 October 2016].

Alex Thomas. (2015). Madefire’s RAD #1 motion book. [Online Video]. 19 February 2015. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0sdwGO8io4. [Accessed: 23 October 2016].

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