The Electronic Labyrinth

The Graphic Novel

With the inclusion of realistic graphics in electronic texts, and the inclusion of computers in most design and publishing shops, hyperbooks are likely to display increasing affinities with the "graphic novel." The term appears to have been coined to describe the lavishly printed and elaborately designed works which follow the comic book format. They employ thought and speech balloons and the familiar framing devices; however, they often make conscious attempts to break free from the enclosing panels. They deserve the term novel for their length; they are often bound as books, in soft and hard cover. Vortex Comics, for example, had great success with Dean Motter's Mister X, the insomniac psychitect of Radiant City.

As McCaffery and Nichol point out in Rational Geomancy: Kids of the Book-Machine, the graphic layout of a page presents possibilities of transcending the narrative sequence:

The frame constitutes the basic syntactic unit of the comic strip. Placed in a discrete sequence these frames form a grammatical block analogous to a conventional sentence (changing the sequence of frames changes the meaning of the total strip). However, unlike words, frames can interact in more complex syntactical forms: superimposition, interlocking and transmuting frames (where speech bubbles become the frame and vice versa, or where a group of frames form a window into a complete scene). (129)

Of related interest is the (much older) pop-up book, a graphic attempt to transcend the two-dimensional page through cleverly designed paper hinges and folds. Computer parallels to the pop-up book might try to escape the computer screen by having certain nodes trigger (through the computer) other media such as slides, lights or other mechanical devices.

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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