12 June 2013

What’s New in DC’s New Digital Formats?

Wired reports on two digital storytelling techniques that DC Comics is touting this month. First up:
“DC2, which will feature “dynamic artwork” that unfolds as the reader taps on the screen. . . . Rather than flipping through pages, readers will “tap on the screen to bring the next element of the story to life, whether it’s a whole panel, or a word balloon or a sound effect,” DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Jim Lee told Wired. “What’s cool is that you really get to challenge the rules of traditional storytelling. You aren’t beholden to a strict left to right western culture narrative. You can have elements that leap back and forth.”
“Dynamic artwork” is making its debut in a comics adaptation of the 1960s Batman TV show. So I expect it will let readers make sound effects that say “POW!” and “BAM!” pop up over the art, amplifying the campiness those comics are probably seeking to replicate. But that wouldn’t really “challenge the rules of traditional storytelling.” Will it do anything else?

Already Mark Waid, John Rogers, and colleagues at Thrillbent.com have been exploring how to employ the technique of changes within a panel in a digital comic. Their storytelling remains sequential, but tapping to bring up new elements can move the story forward at a deliberate pace or draw our attention to particular details. It’s not a gimmick like the the picture-book apps where the young reader can poke around for an element on each page that moves or makes sounds.

DC’s other proclaimed innovation is “DC2 Multiverse, a choose-your-own-path format that will allow users to make decisions at key points that will unlock different storylines.” That seems like an actual challenge to traditional storytelling since it might affect character choices and endings—an author’s basic prerogatives. It’s no surprise that the tryout title for that format is a videogame tie-in, an entertainment medium that’s all about branching storylines.

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