Jason Shiga on Interactive Comics (with video)

Posted by on March 1st, 2011 at 12:01 AM


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It’s fair to say that Jason Shiga is experimenting with graphic narratives in ways that are truly pushing the envelope.  While his graphic novels, such as FleepBookhunter or his new work Empire State distinguish themselves with quirky, off-beat subject matter and Shiga’s always comical drawings, it’s his minicomics that really set themselves apart through interactive storytelling.

Beginning with simple “choose your own adventure”-style stories, Shiga rapidly expanded the realm of what was possible by producing paper calculators, comics with moving parts, books that could store memory like a simple computer, all of which led to his magnum opus with nearly 4,000 possible storylines: Meanwhile.  Now released as mass-market hardcover from Abrams, it saves Shiga the labor-intensive process of making each one by hand — reportedly 20 minutes per comic.

Meanwhile, with its complex system of tabs and “story tubes,” really blurs the line between comics,  mazes and pop-up books — it is a completely unique reading experience.  Yet, it much more than just a gimmick as it addresses some real fundamental concerns of sequential art: the creation of motion, the passage of time and reader response.  Following the looping, recursive storyline back-and-forth through the book allows Shiga to play with notions of time travel and déjà vu in a way that’s practically inseparable from the form.  It’s part of his genius that his stories are so innately tied to the way in which they are told — it’s impossible to imagine stories like Meanwhile or Hello World being presented in a linear format.

On his recent West Coast tour with Aaron Renier, Shiga gave a presentation on how his work has evolved over the last 10 years and gave some enlightening glimpses into his working methods.  I spoke to him afterward and had him take me through the workings of his unfinished masterpiece, Theater Eroika:


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