A good friend of mine who works for the company that produces Second Life sends over this link about using the Comic Life software with Second Life screenshots. I’ve expressed my displeasure with Comic Life before, but I haven’t really thought about comic creation of video game clips before.
Something about it rubs me the wrong way… And I think its the same issue that I have with why “photo comics” don’t work, and why only some CGI comics feel comfortable.
The problem is that they don’t come from some sort of conceptual basis. They are just capturing events in the (virtual-)world and the displaying them in segmented parts. But, contrary to regular comic sequences, they aren’t produced to be sequential.
(This may be the same reason that pin-up/cover artists don’t always translate to being good “storytellers”: they are used to drawing single images, not sequences. Or: they have good visual vocab, not so good visual grammar.)
The capturing vs. generating sequences makes a huge difference, since in one you are actively setting out to express concepts visually, and the other you’re just collecting whatever actions might be given to you. In fact, I’m guessing that the CGI comics that read the best (and there are some good ones) are the ones that were first drawn in thumbnails or layouts. The actual “visual language production” occurs at the thumbnail stage. The rest is all just refinement. These “event capturing” comics bypass the stage where visual grammar is deployed.
Of course, the grammar could be deployed “online” in the processs of that CGI comic being created, but I doubt most who do this have much capacity for visual grammar in the first place. They use it thinking that it is an alternative to having graphic fluency, only their non-fluency then shows through in CGI instead of poor drawings.
In many ways this issue is similar to an Internalist vs. Externalist debate in linguistics/philosophy as to where meaning comes from. Traditional philosophy/linguistics (and I think? a commonsense view of meaning?) has held that meaning of sentences is derived from the truth value of how that sentence relates to the “real” world. The Internalist side (including my advisor) says that those meanings only connect to concepts in a person’s head, regardless of their truth value to the world.
“Capturing of events” for comics is much like the Externalist viewpoint — sequences of images are depictions of some form of events, and it doesn’t matter how they get depicted. The Internalist side would be the opposite: Sequences of images are derived from the conceptual expression of a human mind, and reflect the fluency of that mind.