"Memories of the future are just like any others. I've tried not to dwell on the unpleasant ones"
Thus begins David Thompson's excellent article on movie adaptations of comic books, in a recent 'Sight & Sound' (vol.12/issue 4). Thompson goes on to pull apart the similarities and differences in movies and comics, focusing on 'Watchmen'. Author Alan Moore described it as "unfilmable" when Gilliam initially sized it up, but apparently it's now being taken on by Darren Aronofsky and David Hayter.
"(Dave) Gibbons hinted at what makes Watchmen such a daunting movie project: "A comics script looks a bit like a film script and comics art looks a bit like storyboards, but there is no sound in a comic book and no movement. Also, with a comic book the reader can back-track; you can reach page twenty and say, 'Hey, that's what that was all about on page three', and then nip back and have a look. We wanted to take advantage of that difference ... We wanted to make a comic book that read as a straightforward story, but gradually you became aware that it had a symmetrical structure." Certainly the plot of Watchmen often hinges on tiny visual details: graffiti, partly obscured advertisements, a pocketful of sugar cubes becomes loaded with significance as the story unfolds."
This non-linear navigation implicit within comics books is something interactive media can do too (although the interface issues are more problematic, currently), but as I've mentioned before, good comics layer in information in a way 'our medium' struggles with (again currently, though given digital media's ability to propagate itself across different devices, we'll probably always have limitations which enforce a reduction of extraneous detail). I'm less interested in digital media's obvious facility for representing sound and movement - that's easy ;) - than in developing the equivalent of the "tiny visual details" of plot information mentioned above (I'm not talking DHTML or Flash layers here, but a more fundamental understanding of representing information overload and extreme interconnectedness.)
I can appreciate that the Web's layering occurs over time (the user's journey can be as complex and rewarding, if not more so, than that found on a page of a comic book), but as we're currently guessing at memories of near-future internet(!), and trying to envisage how generation alphageek might engage with interactive media, it strikes me that we could do with thinking more about developing tools and technqiues which increase the layering of information at any one point - imagine freezing in time a cross-sectional slice through strata of media, rather than a linear succession of contiguous 'pages'. Will alphageek users have time for such a funereal procession of information? Am I too far gone to spot obvious examples of complex layering interfaces which already exist? (first part of that last sentence was rhetorical; answers to the second part below please)