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Jason Michelitch On Whether A Comic's Quality Has An Effect On Wanting To Read It On-line Or Not
posted March 13, 2009
I've never had a problem with reading a comic online because of its quality, but I do often have trouble reading comics on a computer that were designed for a hard copy page. That is, I don't really want to scroll down to see the bottom panels on a Jaime Hernandez page, and I don't have a monitor setup such that I could look at the whole page at once. And even if I did, there's a certain tangible absence (Tangible Absence? Did I just start an 80s sad-glam band?) to there being literally nothing but air beyond the edges of the pages of an actuall book. That said, I think Chris Onstad is doing some of the best work in comics and I actually prefer to read Achewood online, generally. Someone somewhere said that one definition of a masterpiece of art is that it use its medium to the fullest extent possible -- so maybe great works for the page don't work as well online because they are great works designed for the page? And great works designed for the web browser window and the scrollover alt-text are what should ideally be read on computers? This is probably not an original thought.
I think the analogy of Big Screen to TV is less apt than, say, Record to CD (or, broader, analog to digital). Seeing a film on the big screen requires so many rareified elements (unless you own your own movie theater and have access to a library of prints) that the excitement can come as much from just having a forty foot tall canvas screen with light flickering across it than anything else (at least for a cinephile like me). Records and CDs each have a similar threshold of entry to the other's, but produce slightly different aesthetic experiences that can be preferable to different people and across different types of music. Case in point, I am much more interested in listening to Wynonie Harris, Edith Piaf, or my Smithsonian Collection of American Popular Song on vinyl. But I have no problem putting on a CD of Radiohead's Kid A, or listening to it as an mp3 on my computer. In a case where CDs overtake records or mp3s overtake CDs, it seems to me that the people who resist the change might do so simply because of inertia -- they're financially or emotionally invested in one medium and the change over will require learning something new. Many, though, (like myself) resist because there is a particular quality of the older medium (aural warmth of records, tactile sensation and definitive shape of hard-copy comics) that they don't want to lose even as they explore and occasionally enjoy the new technology.
Sorry, that was a might bit rambling.