Prise de tête (Go a-head), an interactive comic by Tony

INTERACTIVE COMICS : HOW TO TELL A STORY ?
Prise de Tête (Go a-head), a suggestion between minimalism, interactivity and storytelling

Summary of the thesis

(Direct access to download : click here. French only.)

The premise of the theoretical and practical work I have been completing during these last two years is the following : Digital, interactive and online comics are referred to often, despite not yet existing. We apply those terms to creations which actually cannot be called as such, for the simple reason that they do not bring into play specific digital technologies. Therefore, comics on paper and digital comics are not that different : be it on comic blogs or on i-phones, we continue to scroll plates designed for a paper format. Is this for the comics world a way to reject digital technologies? In my opinion, this is more related to a lack of awareness : it would therefore tend to prove that paper comics and “real” digital comics are two different “media”. On that point, I wanted to define digital comics whose authors and artists had taken into account the potential offered by digital media, particularly its interactivity. I phrased the leading argument of this thesis as follows : “Interactive comics: how to tell a story?” Under this vaguely provocative question, is concealed a desire to make interactive comics an object of study. This thesis mainly relies upon my experience with Prise de tête (Go a-head), hence the subheading “Prise de tête (Go a-head) : a suggestion between minimalism, interactivity and storytelling”. The idea that lies beneath this work is simple : by reducing the scenario and the graphic style to a strict minimum, some blanks are bound to appear and can therefore be filled by an intelligent use of the interactivity available.

In my first part, I will more specifically speak of the constraints given to the forms of comics. I have mostly based myself upon the works of Scott McCloud and Thierry Groensteen so as to try to describe what comics are and what they are not since there is no actual definition. Moreover, consideration of terminology has been necessary to find terms related to digital arts. Words such as “multimedia” and “interactivity” can cause many semantic problems : I had to choose between many specific options and definitions. Once these problems were solved, I opted to talk about digital comics, (in analogy with the expression “digital arts”), so as to name all comics that come in a digital media (support). Multimedia, interactive and online comics form sub-categories that can overlap. Showing the way I expressed my leading argument came next; for this premise we must assume that interactive comics are a narrative medium. Finally, I was able to define the almost untouched “creation potential” that the authors could and should explore and make their own. This potential is what makes interactive comics such an uncommon medium. I go on to discuss my thoughts on the elaboration of Prise de tête (Go a-head). It was designed to be a project in which scenario and graphic minimalism make it possible for interactivity to spread and develop.

In my second part, I will describe how the notions of minimalism and interactivity relate to one another, and how this dialogue serves to enhance the meaning and the storytelling. I will demonstrate how, in my opinion, use of pictograms in comics aid the process of interactivity. After quickly defining the idea of a pictogram and recapping its use as a constrained creating technique, I then refer to Cizo : he came very close, ten years ago, to the notion of interactive comics but did not pursue it. I finally underline the fact that the use of pictograms is not out of place within computer or internet 'surroundings' ; icons, in spite of their name, are nothing else but pictograms too. By basing myself on Prise de tête (Go a-head) and the Chapter Gods and by validating Groensteen’s study on the subject, I have been able to show how close minimalism can be to utter austerity, or actually reach an abundance in quality or quantity when it comes to shapes or events. Besides and contrary to what I would have expected from this work, it turns out that the interactive devices also reach a certain level of minimalism. I therefore distinguish two types of these devices : those which role is strictly navigational : they will only allow an access to the story, and those which take a part into the elaboration of the meaning using the manipulations the viewer is asked to do. These ‘playful’ manipulations open to many different possibilities (viewers can explore at will) while Prise de tête (Go a-head) offers a unidirectional and linear story (which is therefore not a “story of which you’re the hero”).

In my third and last part, I dared to draft an outline of the Poetics of interactive comics. It entirely depends on the space given to the viewer. As I studied the modes of response concerning interactive comics, I first located the author and gave him a predominant place ; in my opinion, there is no co-author, even when the viewer, or even creates, their own route within Prise de tête (Go a-head). They have indeed been fully planned by the author. In that context, the viewer is a special reader-actor, (a 'lectateur') and the interactive comic becomes more “playable” than ludic. Acting within the systems allows the meaning to appear to the viewer : there will be no story (or at least a truncated one) without the full participation of the viewer. I then describe and analyse in detail and step by step various systems which come from different digital comics, starting with those closest to paper comics and continuing with those furthest to finish with the example of Prise de tête (Go a-head). This process underlines the fact authors do not consider interactivity as a big thing , as well as showing the central place it can take in the story and the meaning, thus establishing the reader-actor ('lectateur') as a linchpin in this creation of meaning (without which the story cannot exist). As for the different types of interpretation, I have been able to distinguish three levels of them. Their interweaving is peculiar to the interactive comic medium (and to no other apparently, or at least under this form).In addition to a “traditional” reading, the reader-actor ('lectateur'), is led to physically (hand on the mouse) explore plastic spaces, which depth is revealed only thanks to this hovering movement. As those explorations complicate or even break the fluidity of the narrative, the reader-actor, ('lectateur') is forced to distance themselves from the work so as to consider it as a whole; the story cannot be entirely understood in the scheme of a simple sequence of events.

In my conclusion, I remind the fact that interactive comics have to be considered in entire different ways from traditional comics. The focus is on the viewer. It is the reason why this new medium will be able to expand and take flight. For my part, I offer radical leads so as to fly along with it.

Download the thesis (French only)

(top of page)

download  Introduction

download  Partie I : Définition de la bande dessinée interactive

download  Partie II : Minimalisme et interactivité : une complémentarité au service du sens et de la narration

download  Partie III : Vers une poétique de la bande dessinée interactive

download  Conclusion, bibliographie, index

download  Annexes

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