One of our forum members, Max, found himself intrigued by an iPad comics app called DeepComix, which (this is hard to explain, bear with me) uses a series of parallax-view layers to give dimension to its pages. If that makes as little sense as I fear it does, look at how Max experimented with this same technique on his own.
Although Max’s work is rougher, something about it (no offense to DeepComix) feels more honest and authentic to me, particularly his first and second examples. As if Max has stumbled onto a gimmick and is now looking for some way to use it smartly. (Thanks, Max!)
I felt the same way when I saw DeepComix last week. I wouldn’t want to do an entire series that way, as it seems unnecessarily gimmicky, but I would love to find some way to use that parallax technique sparingly somewhere in my own work. However, I’m hampered by my own conscience, because I’m trying hard to stay away from “technique for technique’s sake.” Yeah, parallax is interesting–but think about how much more effective it would be if it served a specific and unique purpose in the story itself other than just “looking neat.” That’s the line in the sand I’m drawing for myself: serve the story first, look flashy doing it second. I’ve been at this comics thing too long to feel any need to show off just ’cause.
So I want to use parallax…but what the hell is the purpose? Is it to slowly reveal some background element that the characters aren’t aware of? If so, how do you cue the reader to ride along with you and get what you want them to get out of it? I had a similar problem with Insufferable Week 5: I’d originally envisioned the transition between Nocturnus’s upstairs and downstairs being a vertical swipe down, not our usual horizontal swipe across–one long, long page where we’d start upstairs, then scroll down, down, down through the house and through the earth until, at page bottom, we revealed the basement lair. A neat idea, AND it served the story, but (a) we hadn’t yet figured out how to do that “infinite scrolling” thing, horizontally OR vertically, in our viewer yet (we still haven’t), and (b) even if it had worked, I couldn’t figure out how to convey to the reader that, on this screen, we were breaking format–that they were supposed to scroll down, not across–not without sticking dumb, intrusive arrows into the art that said “Scroll Down Now!”
Seriously, though, this is the fun part for me–seeing these new methods, coming up with our own, testing and trying and experimenting. If you’ve seen other groundbreaking techniques around the web like the parallax thing, blurb ’em in the comments and we’ll discuss them.