Marvel announced “Infinite Comics” at SXSW 2012, a new format for digital comics that uses tricks like dialogue box transitions, blacked-out pages, and cinematic cuts to go beyond the simple panel-to-panel experience found in on-screen comics as we know them.
Yesterday Marvel released the first Infinite Comic, Avengers vs. X-Men#1, through the Marvel Comics app/store, giving a reader experience in a way paper comics can’t imitate.
Most of the tricks in Marvel’s Infinite Comic toolbox involve delaying certain elements of the page layout with a finger swipe. Those elements can be dialogue boxes, foreground artwork, other panels on the same page, or a version of the same page drawn a touch differently. To launch the next element, users simply swipe forward on the screen.
In traditional digital comics, a books opens to a splash page or a single panel littered with drawn action and dialogue boxes. An Infinite Comic can simply launch on a single panel of a starry splash page, and then add in bits of dialogue, small touches of visual detail, more background panels, or foreground action bit by bit as readers swipe to move forward in the story.
Other Infinite Comic tricks can be used to make the reading experience much more dramatic. Just look at the big reveal where we learn who or what is chasing Nova, the star of our comic, from galaxy to galaxy. To enhance the moment, the comic shows one version of the same page followed by a slightly different version that appears after you swipe. In the first image, the background of a critical panel is completely blurred out, and in the second image, the same background is in total focus.
In standard digital comics, the blurred element wouldn’t exist. Instead, the same image would sit in sharp detail as soon as the page or panel loaded on a mobile device.
Personally I have to say that I am torn on this; on one hand I think that it is an amazing way to present comics, via a new media, to a new audience. However I do think that it is disingenuous for Marvel – or their press section at least – to claim that the things that are being done in ‘Infinite’ wouldn’t, or couldn’t, exist in the standard paper format. The example above could be, and has been, done many times throughout the years simply by having a splash page, of main focus given, to the secondary image. What you do get with Infinite – and obviously can’t on paper – is the automatic, and seamless, transition between panels.
Is that a good thing? erhaps, it is certainly a different thing. Is is somethign that will make comics, in general, better? No, not in my opinion at least. Paper comics are still going to be the standard for comics for this generation, at least. In the future, however, I can see a time when my kids, and their kids, are only ever able to read comics digitally.
Infinite Comics may just be that future.