This week we revealed an innovative new digital comics app for iPad called Scrollon. From filmmaker Doug Lefler it uses a unique sideways scrolling interface that lets readers consumer their digital comics as one long narrative based on Chinese Scrolls. It’s available to download now from the iTunes Store and is a truly unique reading experience and one we wanted to find out more about so we contacted Doug to try and get to the bottom, or should that the end, of this exciting new concept in digital comics.
You based the idea for Scrollon on a Chinese scroll, what was it about the scroll that made you think it would be such a great medium for comics? And did you have a eureka moment with it or was it one of those nagging projects you knew would work?
DL: It was an eureka moment that would nag me for thirty five years. The experience of viewing the Chinese scroll, which was one continuous landscape unbroken by borders or page breaks, was so immersive that I had to do something like it. As an artist I was never interested in landscapes, still life or portraits, only in what happened when you put two or more images together in a sequence to tell a story. On the car ride home from the museum I started to plan how to draw a story on a scroll.
There were logistical challenges. Somewhere I have a sketch for a new drawing board with rollers at each end that I thought would make the process easier. I drew a few sample stories on a big roll of paper, growing more captivated by the possibilities before giving consideration to the question of distribution. This was the late seventies, and I couldn’t think of any printing method that would allow mass production of my work. So the big roll of paper went on the shelf.
How do you think the Scrollon approach helps or hinders readers? And what do you think the optimum reading technique is for readers – to scroll or tap?
DL: Although we’re trained from childhood how to read a printed page, the act of doubling back at the end of the line of text is disruptive. People are taken by surprise the first time they view a Scrollon, and see the story continually moving in the same direction, but it only takes a few seconds to become immersed.
As for the scroll vs. tap debate, either one works. If I open the app on my iPad and hand it to someone without explanation they do one of two things. They tap the image, or slide their finger across it. Either way allows them to discover the story. I’ve noticed that whichever method someone begins with usually becomes their favorite.