Alas, this approach results in a lot of extra work for the illustrators! If I’m drawing a comic for print where a camel grazes behind the trunk of a palm tree, I only have to draw the parts of the camel not covered by the tree. (How do I draw camel ankles? Hmm, too hard...hide them behind the tree!) But in a How to Read video, the relative positions will likely shift as the camera moves, and that means I have to draw the whole camel.
Nyssa Oru, an illustrator who worked on almost every episode of the series, was challenged by these extra requirements. “I've been making comics for years,” she says, “but a comic that needs to have parallax was a totally different ball game. At the beginning of this series I had a second job as a comics colorist and layout designer. I kept catching myself prepping layers for animation without realizing it and later having to merge all my hard work together.” Still, she says, these techniques will come in handy for future projects. “I've done a lot with digital and interactive comics, and so many of the funky specifics this series taught me could be applied to other digital comics.”
Reading in All Directions
Comics panels are usually arranged in a natural reading order. In English, this means top to bottom, left to right. On a printed page, any other arrangement is disorienting to the reader and risks yanking them out of the story as they struggle to find the next panel. But in an animated video, the camera’s free flow allowed us to move in any direction, as long as it served the explanation.
For example, in the video Plot in Biblical Narrative, we wanted to show how biblical narratives follow the standard “plot arc” found in virtually all stories: an inciting incident, followed by rising action, a climax, and finally a resolution as the characters settle into a new normal. When it’s drawn as a dotted line, the rise and fall of a plot arc forms a sort of lopsided mountain. We knew we had to take advantage of this shape! First, we established our terms with a quick, original story about a woman in the Himalayas who summits a snowy peak to defeat a yeti. The panels rise higher and higher to her confrontation, but they settle back down as she returns to her village a hero. We then repeated the same arrangement, but with the story of Gideon from the book of Judges. His confrontation with the Midianites (very conveniently!) climaxes in the hills above their camp and resolves in the valley below.