Sometimes the mainstream can get it right – part one

After a couple of obliquely negative posts which reference some deficiencies in what could be called the “popular face of hypercomics”*, it may be worth pointing out where companies with more resources and clout than us poor schmucks have tried actually gotten the thing right – at least a little (we’re admittedly in a gray area of “comics” so it’s all by degrees here anyway).

In terms of comics form, the Watchmen thing is an admitted disaster. It’s a shame that Warner decided to shred apart a highwatermark of mainstream comics. It’s not anything new, though. This kind of thing has been done to comics before, and done just as poorly ( has taken down the travesty of form that was their “motion comic” for the Episode One adaptation but, Ye-Gad that was terrible). But let’s also look to Dark Horse’s repurposing of a Hellboy short for an example of a more understated technique.

We have some of the same features here: cut-up panels, clunky pseudoanimation, annoying score (well, if you can call that a score…), standard fare for this type of thing. But these elements are also used in subtler ways. Voiceovers are left out, preserving the reader’s own “inner voice.” Likewise, sound effects are left to be expressed by text. Something of a sequential panel layout is preserved – and it’s even purposed in a web-friendly format. The big difference, though, is the click-through navigation. The next panel or series of panels won’t appear until you click and tell them to appear. Unlike the Watchmen and Star Wars fiascos, this puppy is read. That’s a major distinction, in my book. That make this a hypercomic and not just bad animation.

There’s a different in intent here. The Watchmen thing is an act of pure hype. Fans have already decided whether or not they’ll watch the movie. What Mignola and Dark Horse did with Hellboy: The Varcolac is more akin to the type of web experiments that we want to attempt, I think.

It’s not a perfect, sure. I’ve got my nitpicks. Sometimes experiments fail.

But it’s nice that someone out there in the mainstream at least made an attempt.

*(my inference only here, Neal)


2 responses to “Sometimes the mainstream can get it right – part one

  1. These are all gray areas (or grey areas)
    On the links page I wrote: “We define a hypercomic as anything that shares the characteristics of comics form but include features that are not directly reproducible in a print format.” and these “enhanced” features are not “directly reproducible.”

    I’ll go further with my nitpicking too. I like the piece but that generally stems from the fact that I liked the Hellboy comics to begin with and it doesn’t really subtract much of what I enjoyed there. The enhancements make it a hypercomic by default but how much do they really add?
    I do think we should strive for more than this, but There are things we can learn from this.

  2. I’m glad you called me on my obliquely negative reviews, I was thinking that I had been a bit too snarky recently. So point well taken. I will concede that this is better than the other examples but I still have to wonder what exactly is gained from animating still images? It just feels tacked on, to cheap effect.

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