Motion Comics: Not Comics, Barely Motion

Since my dismissive comment about motion comics, I’ve received tons and tons of hate mail. OK, perhaps I exaggerate. Perhaps I made that up completely. In reality, not one person living or dead made a single comment about it. So either everybody was so enraged, they couldn’t focus enough to write a response, or everybody silently agreed. Or more likely, most people have never even heard of motion comics, never mind knowing enough to form an opinion.

If you are in that last group, you’ll be able to catch up pretty quickly because motion comics are still in their infancy. Put simply, motion comics are adaptations of comic books and graphic novels that use computers to animate the original comic artwork (or recreations), and then replaces the written word with voice actors, music and sound effects. Put way simply, it’s a mini-cartoon based on a comic.

While stylistically more slick, they are basically the old Marvel Comics cartoons from the ’60s.

But they’re not without their fans. The appeal and idea of motion comics is that it brings to life your favorite comics. It’s typically very faithful in look and story because they’re pulling straight from the original comics.

The downside is that the animation is really limited because they’re trying to animate static images that were only ever meant to represent movement, not actually depict movement.

My main problem with them is that they really aren’t comics at all. The comic book industry and art form has been stuck with inaccurate terms for decades upon decades. Comic books aren’t necessarily comical; they more resemble magazines than actual books. Graphic novels aren’t necessarily graphic in content but do use graphic design and imagery; they don’t have be a long narrative like novels. So I suppose adding one more misnomer to the pile shouldn’t matter.

But it’s worth noting: motion comics are not comic books. They do not use the language of comics. They use the language of motion pictures (film, animation, etc.).

This past weekend at King Con in Brooklyn, Act-I-Vate founder and writer/artist Dean Haspiel debuted his attempt at a motion comic with Billy Dogma in “Sex Planet” [warning: adult content, so I won’t embed it here]. His goal seemed to be to include more of the language of comics while pulling back some on the animation. That’s a direction that interests me more than the above example but the finished product is mixed. The voice acting is lacking (Haspiel himself provides the voice of Billy Dogma) and there’s a weird timing issue with having finished read the text and waiting for the actors to catch up, but there are some cute visual gags that have well-timed reveals. See The Beat for more on this.

Clearly motion comics are just getting started. So, “To Be Continued…”

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