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The Shape of Story


XKCD goes parallel.

One of the byproducts of all those ancient infinite canvas debates (nestled in webcomics history right after the Clone Wars and shortly before the Norman Conquest) was the idea of the spatial nature of story structure.

So many of the terms we use for stories (rising action, turning points, parallel/intersecting plots, circular narratives, multiple layers…) have equivalents in space, it seems only natural to make them literal through comics.

It may sound academic to some, but I think the very fact that comics MAPS TIME is pretty frickin’ cool, and I’ll never get tired of seeing smart cartoonists screwing around with it.


Discussion (12)¬

  1. Matthew Marcus says:

    Awesome.
    XKCD has done a lot of cool experimentations like that.
    As far as mapping time…
    http://xkcd.com/338/

    In this comic, I was struck more by the stick figure cunnilingus.

  2. vinegartom says:

    I’ve really been thinking a lot about these sorts of things recently. I wonder how this could carry over into the physical construct of the book. Comic books as sculpture. Is it a logical progression from the spatial facets you’re talking about here or too deliberate in your opinion? Do you know of any examples you’ve seen that play with this? I’ve heard of some sculptural layering in contemporary Italian comics (obviously these would be comics done for art rather than publication), but it’s not the same as what you’re talking about here.

  3. Rantul says:

    Well what do you expect from a guy who used to work for NASA =)

  4. eudaimon says:

    One of my favorite recent examples of this sort of thing is Rebecca Dart’s Rabbithead. Very cool.

  5. Darkflame says:

    Genius and very simple strip that.
    I hope to see a lot like this sort of non-liner storypanneling when infinite canvas formats take off.

    (My attempt at infinite canvas engine is still here;
    http://www.darkflame.co.uk/panalstreamer/panelstreamer.html
    [/plug] )

  6. I recently rediscovered Space Quest 3 using dosbox. It struck me that I was playing an infinite canvas comic, with each scene being a panel. Any thoughts?

  7. Darkflame says:

    Certainly older point and click adventures could be scene as non-liner panels panels in terms of each scene is independant, yet connected ver multiple routes.
    Yet the progression between them is still liner as such, so it dosnt quite fit as well as, say, a choose-your-own adventure book does.

    That said, I only played SpaceQuest6, I assume 3 is vaguely the same but older.

  8. Nvonflue says:

    Have you read Tym Godeks “!’ yet?

    http://www.yellowlight.scratchspace.net/comics/sofar.html

    I know he’s currently working on printing the monster.

  9. [...] to the Neal Von Flue (no slouch in this department himself) for point us to “!”¬†in the comments section of the XKCD post from Friday. Tymothi’s experiment, like the much shorter XKCD strip [...]

  10. [...] I love it when Scott McCloud starts getting all comics map time with us. Maps can be twisted, stretched and misshapen to accomplish various uses. And I like the [...]