ROBOT 6’s Corey Blake wrote a great piece last month on the evolution of digital comics and the innovations that make them more than just electronic copies of print comics. Without repeating what he said, those innovations raise a couple of questions that are also worth talking about: What are we going to call this new format and does it even need a separate name?
Gabriel Hardman (Star Wars: Legacy, Kinski) recently asked on Twitter, “Is there an accepted name for the Thrillbent/Infinite style of digital comics?” Even filtering out all the joke responses (my favorite is Dennis Culver’s “Labor Intensive”), the answer seems to be no.
A couple of folks note that Scott McCloud’s Infinite Canvas (or, alternatively, Expanded Canvas) is a common term, but Hardman observes that it could be seen as pretentious, which might keep it from catching on. I like the idea of letting McCloud name it — he more or less came up with the idea — but it does remind me of how it sounded when comics fans all started referring to the medium as “sequential art.” It’s a great term for talking about comics academically, but not so good for popular use.
Kevin Mellon (Suicide Sisters) asks the question, though: Do we even need a separate term for these comics just because their pages are turned differently? What he seems to be getting at with that is, does the general public even care or are these all just comics? It’s a good question, because it helps to clarify the value of these kinds of labels. It doesn’t have to be as high-minded a goal as educating the public about the various formats of comics that are available. As Hardman explains, it can be a simple descriptor like “black-and-white” or “color.” It’s just nice to have a common term that everyone immediately recognizes and knows what it means.
So, what then for these kinds of comics? Suggestions include veer comics, digital widescreen, unbound, semi-animated digital, dashboard style, and progressive. This is obviously far from decided, so I’m interested in hearing other ideas in the comments below.