A Codak of Formats
To discuss the format, or visual storytelling elements of the webcomic Dresden Codak I choose to analyze a stand alone comic called Lantern Season.
As can be noted from the thumbnail above, this comic is very long in the strictest sense. In comics (thanks to Scott McCloud) this is know as an infinite canvas production. The basic idea is that since this comics is to be published on the web, then it can be as large (usually just physically long) as the cartoonist prefers. Since webcomics by their nature must contain a completed “chapter” on each page, this allows the artist to design a very nuanced story and have the space to tell it.
However I didn’t pick Lantern Season to just exemplify the idea of infinite canvas. Also I want to showcase some interesting choices in its visual narrative. The comic opens with a series of arbitrary images (which we later find out are memories of the protagonist) that are connected via ethereal strings to the strings of a doll. With visuals alone Aaron Diaz conveys the under lying theme of the whole piece.
Another interesting effect is that the world of the living and the world of the dead are delineated by a shift in the color pallet from orange and yellow to blue, green, and black as well as a shift in panel structure. In the day time world, panels are arranged traditionally:
And in the world of the dead and dreams the panels can be described as “all over the place”
In this way Diaz can immediately show us the change in the settings nature in a very fluid manner. Something else to note is that the comic as a whole is arranged to have largely equally spaced groups of panels, such as the two above, as a sort of visual paragraph. That is until the end of the comic:
At the point of the story where dreams start to meld into reality so too do the visual rules of the dream world meld into the rules of the waking world. The colors and panel structure shift gradually until the waking world is again in dominance.
The story of Lantern Season is a surreal one, and is largely moved along through Diaz’s understanding of visual storytelling. There are plenty of other formatting decisions I did not note, which add to the overall presentation.