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Eric: Admittedly, they don't have superfluous sound effects. Which may be why I like them so much.

(From The Discovery of Spoons. Click on the thumbnail for full sized poetic life. Flash required.)

I'm not a huge fan of Flash interfaces. Too often they're either cumbersome or they're utterly irrelevant. I have no problem with someone using Flash to create their comic strip, but if the strip would work better static rather than animated -- or if there is otherwise no good reason to have the Flash interface -- then export the relevant images to pngs and just do a standard webcomic, I say. The overhead can be annoying, the functionality can be annoying... it can just, in general, be annoying.

(If you're shooting for true animation, mind, I have no argument. Flash cartoons are just that -- cartoons. That's a whole different category. It's the Flash Webcomic, where static images are a plurality, that I'm referring to here).

Well, every so often something comes along that proves that Flash can be used to drive a webcomic well, and acknowledgment should be made when that happens. Alexander Danner and John Barber -- two webcartoonists who know their business -- have built "The Discovery of Spoons," and it serves to prove my point as well as anything I've seen this side of Apocomon.

This is a true webcomic -- it isn't 'animated,' so much as it uses fades and element propagation to produce a general feeling. Its text is poetic in structure. This makes sense, since it's about poetry and the poetic lifestyle. But more to the point, its words convey images first and foremost, which is the core of what poetry is:

I awoke suddenly,
ripples of broken glass
still spreading across the floor.
My feet were wet, but unharmed

There's a Randall Jerrell feeling to these words, and to their construction. A sense of mood conveyed by image. And woven into that, fading softly into view, are counterpoint graphics -- images that harmonize instead of overwhelm. It's like the small pictures (a glass falling towards the floor, using perfect decompression and the slow appearance of one picture, then the next, then the next, then the next suggesting movement without truly animating movement.

Danner and Barber are hitting on all cylinders with this piece. It literally couldn't be told outside of Flash or some other form of animation package, but it isn't animated. It's presented, sequentially.

You see? It can be done well.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at March 24, 2005 4:55 PM


Comment from: William_G posted at March 24, 2005 5:19 PM

Eric, do you feel the Tarquin Engine works or doesnt work as a way to present and navigate through webcomics?

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at March 24, 2005 5:36 PM

William G--

As always, it depends on how it's used and if it's used effectively. I think "Externality" worked pretty well, for example. (In fact, I think the Tarquin Engine is generally easier to work with than side/up combo scrollers for infinite canvas stuff). But again, if there's no real aesthetic reason for it, then it's just overhead without good purpose.

I think it's a worthy addition to the toolbox, in other words, but it needs to be handled right to be effective.

Comment from: Alexander Danner posted at March 24, 2005 5:39 PM

Thank you very much, Eric!

I've always found John's use of Flash to be consistently well-considered and effective. That's why I specifically wanted to work with him on Spoons--He was already doing precisely the sort of thing I wanted to see.

John also has a talent for arranging panels on the page that just blows me away. His collaboration with Steven Withrow, "The Archeologists" (http://www.johnbarbercomics.com/arch.htm) is another great example.

Comment from: Shiffer posted at March 24, 2005 6:26 PM

I like it. It reminds me of A Softer World, or maybe Hitherby on one of those days Rebecca has Carpal Tunnel and has to be minimalistic (are there really such days, or are those just in my mind?).

Comment from: lucastds posted at March 24, 2005 7:39 PM

I also like it. thank you for introducing me.

Comment from: William_G posted at March 24, 2005 11:58 PM

You know, the day we see a thread about a comic like this go the same length as a Penny Arcade thread, will be the day I know I've stepped into webcomics bizarro world.

Eric: I'm digging Tarquin Engine mostly because I see it as a pretty easy way to allow someone to navigate a webcomic without having to worry about loadtimes, or scrolling, or putting in a minumum effort. It supports the "click, click, click" habit.

Comment from: Alexander Danner posted at March 25, 2005 12:28 AM

Load times are actually a big draw for me, as Flash goes. I find Flash files load a lot faster than most image files (at least on my computer), so I tend to appreciate it when strips with large images, like More Fun, use Flash as the presentation format, even if the comic isn't utilizing dynamic techniques.

For the same reason, I much prefer Flash or scrolling (either direction) to click-for-next-page image files. Nothing disrupts the flow of the reading experience like having to wait for each page to load one at a time. With a scroller, page 2 is loading while you read page 1. With Flash, everything loads at once. Nice and easy, with no interruptions.

Comment from: Brandon E. posted at March 25, 2005 1:54 AM

I used to regularly read Kungfool, before his update schedule become... um... nonexistent. He had a neat flash interface with his comics. Single click would move to the next panel, and there was a side bar with thumbnails of each panel if you wanted to backtrack. He also regularly hid a circle you could hover over and get a summary of the story so far. Simple, easy, neat. Unfortunatly it looks like his kungfool archives are broken, so unless people remember it, I have no proof.


Comment from: Shadowydreamer posted at March 25, 2005 2:00 AM

The best flash I ever saw in/for a web comic was one Glych did for No Stereotypes V2.0. This comes a very close second. Very powerful. The media suits the messages. (The media is also the message?)

Comment from: Alexander Danner posted at March 25, 2005 5:06 AM

I was not familiar with the work of Randall Jarrell prior to your mentioning him here. But now that I've hunted down a few of his poems--I'm very flattered by the comparrison.

I made a break from poetry several years ago (both the reading and the writing of it), but have been thinking that it might be time I revisited the form. I think Jarrell might be my starting place. Thank you.

As to the text being structured poetically -- it's worth mentioning that this comic actually is adapted from a poem I wrote a couple of years prior. You can find the original poem under "Extras."

Comment from: Polychrome posted at March 25, 2005 9:14 AM

Me am not liking this comic very little!

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