Wingert: HT 2000

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The Introductory Paper

The idea of semantically motivated branching certainly is broad and flexible enough to gain a foothold also in areas outside of text, image, and film. However, it surely was surprising to hear this year’s introductory paper by an author, Scott McCloud, who is renowned for his work on and in comics. His "Understanding Comics" (1994) is available as a paperback from Amazon.com for eighteen dollars, in addition to excellent ratings and enthusiastic recommendations by readers. A book titled "Reinventing Comics" has been announced for publication in August.

He had been drawing comics for the past sixteen years, the author said, and six years ago, he had been diverted by the internet as a subject. However, "digital delivery" had to be distinguished from "digital comics." The "new economy," about which people talked so much, had not yet become a reality; reality began only if bits were truly traded (which is exactly what Stephen King, who created a stir in the media because of his electronic delivery of a novel, recently announced: Selling reading matter by chapters). [This he did, till Chap. 6 of The Plant. There is debate whether the experiment failed, as the New York Times stated, or not and the novel "is only on hiatus", as King responded. BW 20.12.00].

McCloud showed classic cartoon strips, for instance, pictures from ancient Egypt, such as "Lemma, the Scribe," Trajan’s column with a rising spiraling relief strip, or the "Codex Natali" of the Maya with tables to be folded out and read meander fashion from right to left. The speaker, of course, showed examples of comics on the web, his and those created by others; however, the truly fascinating thing about his presentation were the models he had built with great care, such as the Maya Codex, which the audience were then able to hold in their hands and browse through. "There is a joke lurking inside every media," said McCloud, and the question was obvious why he, offering clickable comics on the web, did not add sound and animation as well. That, so the speaker, would imply leaving the terrain of comics, with their glaring snapshots, for the movies.

If he were to think about a technical expansion of the means which he, as an artist, was required to know inside out, it would be "zooming-in" in such a way that branching out of the cartoon frame would become possible. "Keep an eye open," McCloud finished; nobody knew how things would go on from here. "You can’t demo the future!"

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