Linkage with Qualifications, Comics on the Internet Edition

Last week, Matt Seneca posted a survey of recent, forward-thinking webcomics, highlighting among other works Blaise Larmee’s online serial 2001. Seneca’s post is a dense, not-for-the-uninitiated sorta thing, but it’s also the best piece of criticism so far about 2001. The comic itself is a weird, formally confounding thing that combines an understated, almost glacial cool with a Little Prince-style sense of wonder and possibility.

Probably the most exciting webcomic currently running is Blaise Larmee’s 2001, a monochromatic experiment in bracing literalism that feels a bit like Jaime Hernandez’s “Maggie and Hopey” stories reconstructed for a post-millennial audience of ADHD computer lifestylists. 2001 is a full-screen scroller webcomic: a single one of Larmee’s wide, deep-focus panels takes up the full width and twice the height of the average laptop’s browser window. Scrolling through it is disorienting, a demand for constantly realigned perceptions as the characters’ motions are tracked around inside the box of the computer screen. The between-panel motion in 2001 is almost animation, the perspective constant, the figures’ movements captured in painstaking, diagrammatic detail. They move across the screen and gesture dramatically. They recede into the black background and come so close to the viewer that their white forms fill up the window almost completely.

Reading 2001, in which two young girls travel through a boundless, vaguely defined space, one experiences, appropriately, a powerful sense of forward momentum. New 2001 segments appear every few days, but scrolling through 2001‘s panels to date feels like a real-time reading experience–more so than any print comic I can think of.

For a counter-intuitive companion piece to 2001, and to Seneca’s write-up of it, check out Frank Santoro’s latest piece on how grids (and grid proportions) function on the comics page. Santoro takes readers through the steps of page design in a way that emphasizes how the geometry of comics informs their effects on a reader. Taken together, Santoro and Larmee can teach us what an artist can do for a reader on a static page, and what an artist can do by changing the terms on which readers navigate a comic. To quote Seneca again:

The mere fact that we have to consider the directions we scroll in, the file formats of image uploads, the size of our browser windows, the function our screens serve as points of entry into exciting new comics, when we discuss these works, makes them worth discussing. Get used to those terms. They’re not going anywhere.

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