Austen Wigglesworth: Science Fiction and the Future of Comics

virtual reality goggles

As my summer research has progressed, my interest has shifted from trying to understand how comics have interacted with the languages around the world towards how comics as a medium will exist in the future in an increasingly global culture especially as technology continues to develop.

Originally, the second half of my research plans were to conduct interviews with people from many cultures of origin about specific comics in order to observe the ability of sequential image narratives to transcend language barriers. Due to a change in living arrangements, I was unable to make as much progress with the in-person work as I had hoped; however, the focus of my research had already begun to change about halfway through the summer as I began to become more immersed in the medium of comics.

From the beginning of comics as a pop-culture phenomenon, parallels have been able to be drawn between the stories contained on the pages of comic books and science fiction novels. Sci-fi stories have always been portrayed by the medium of comics, and the interaction between images and words in comics often allow for authors to more accurately show readers the intended fantastic ideas contained within their stories than the form of a novel would be able to.

For example, the comic The Incal, written by Alejandro Jodorowsky and illustrated by Jean Giraud (under his famous pen-name Mœbius), who’s illustrations are considered by many to be among the greatest ever seen in the industry, beautifully and meticulously details the world created by Jodorowsky. Although the characters and scenery on the page look distinctly “comic-like”, the author-artist team breath life into the static images to truly allow for readers to be immersed in the world of The Incal, and able to envision the events taking place in real-time.

Jodorowsky and Mœbius, The Incal, Page 11. Mœbius’ detailed illustrations breath life into the fantasy world created by Jodorowsky.

Jodorowsky, a film director by career, was fascinated with the science fiction genre in general. Although it never came to fruition due to budget issues, his planned 19XX adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, Dune, would undoubtedly have been considered a masterpiece of the genre, with a team including Mœbius, Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles, Peter Gabriel, and Pink Floyd.

The visual nature of comics combined with their ability to nearly allow reader participation in the narration of the story has led me to believe that comics will become a very important medium in the development of entertainment for virtual and augmented reality, especially for the kinds of stories that are less easily able to be portrayed by real-life film, such as the science fiction and fantasy novels of the 20th century. Although the potential of comics has so far been contained within the static pages of print, the ability exists for comics to take advantage of developing technology, and my continuing research leaves me hopeful and excited for the future of the medium.

How will the medium of comics interact with the vessel of virtual reality as the technology continues to develop?