The Future of The Language Of Comics

A column article, Mission: Professional by: Steven Savage


I've been speculating on the move of comics from print to electronic for some time (a  lot of it here, quite frankly),  Something struck me lately as, yet again, I pursued the world of electronic publishing (which I do a lot).

Comics is a  world with it's own language - both as a way to express ideas about comics, and as a way to portray ideas in comics.  We know that instinctively of course, to the point where we take it for granted.  We discuss coloring, bleed, 9-panel, etc. with ease.

So we have a language.  Much of this language is based on a mix of art style and technology.  Fine, we know that.  We know our comics history.

Now that's all changing.

It's the age of the e-comic now, the web-comic, the hyper-comic.  The old words may be used now, but the languages - both about the comics and how the comics communicate information - will change in this electronic age.  They'll change because we need new terms, and because we have new ways to express stories.

The language used to discuss comics a decade from now - perhaps even five years from now - is going to contain a lot of new terminology.  The way we tell stories in comics may have a lot of "extras" as well.

It's a bit daunting. Trust me, I've worked in IT for 16 years and I watched language mutate rapidly in those years for various media.  For comics, I imagine it seems rather strange.

Think about it.  We'll be talking a different language in a decade.

It's important for us to keep up on this as well:

  • For current professionals you don't want to seem (or get) out of date.
  • For future professionals you need to speak the lingo.
  • Language is often a key to current or upcoming technology changes.
  • Language shapes thought - so knowing how it changes can keep us from thinking too much inside the box.
  • We can actually shape it if we're aware it's coming.  

Strange to think we need this conversation - but the importance of language in changing times and industries is too often ignored.

But if you pay attention, then you're on top of it when so many others aren't . . .

- Steven Savage

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