Mark R. Johnson
     
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The project began with the comic book "24 Hours," issue #6 of Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN series. The principal goal was to create an electronic version of this comic book as engaging and meaningful as the original print version. To this end, it was important to preserve the artistic integrity of the original work. Neil Gaiman and artists Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III spent a great deal of effort to enrich the story through their artistry. To obstruct it would be to lose the benefits of that work.

At the same time, it was also important to consider the opportunities for enhancement that the new medium offered -- after all, the goal is to create a valuable experience, but not necessarily the same experience. The electronic medium offers a wide range of capabilities that are simply not possible in print. A soundtrack, for example, can be used to reinforce movements in the story, much as color is used to indicate mood or foreshadowing. Similarly, animation can help draw attention to key points in the story, and visual transitions can be used to further distinguish modes of text such as narration and dialogue.

A final consideration was the interaction and potential conflict of these two parts, preservation and enhancement. Multimedia elements of a project can quickly become a annoyance to the reader -- a distraction that pulls the eye away from the original art. As a designer, it can also be tempting to lose sight of the work as a whole and to become carried away with the technology, applying it with little or no regard to the actual purpose it serves. Using technology for technology's sake can result in a distorted reading. For example, a poorly chosen animation or sound effect can place undue emphasis on a given plot element within the story, thereby confusing and weakening it. Similarly, one must recognize that the original creators of the comic book were working within the constraints of the print medium. A focus too heavily bent on preserving the original work can trap one within these constraints, missing opportunities to enrich the story in ways that the original artists themselves may have wanted. It is therefore, most important that the designer strike a balance between the need to preserve and the desire to enhance.

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Last modified 6/11/97.