Of Neil Gaiman and Infinite Canvas
January 26, 2009 10:59 AM   Subscribe

The Day the Saucers Came was originally published in 2006, in the (now defunct) EZine Spider Words 1, no. 2. Neil Gaiman has read the story aloud, on occasion. In December 2008, the story was made into a poster by a Finnish artist. That poster was then transformed into a fancy Flash presentation on Microsoft's Infinite Canvas ("A Funky Side Project from Microsoft Live Labs").

Infinite canvas was originally the theory that digital comics had no limit, credited to Scott McCloud's book, Reinventing Comics. As noted in comments on the Gaiman comic, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey's Tarquin Engine (previous) predates this by four years or so. And oddly enough, back in September 2008, there was an interview with Scott McCloud about Google Chrome entitled "The Infinite Canvas," referring to Chrome as a mechanism to further the possibilities for breaking the format limitations for comics. Then again, Microsoft's Touch Wall was demo'd back in May 2008, but as a very large physical touch-screen instead of a Flash-based presentation method.
posted by filthy light thief (15 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Prior to reading up on the idea of infinite canvas, I thought it was something from the documentary Adventures Into Digital Comics (which I found from Penny Arcade).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:01 AM on January 26, 2009

It's rare for a piece of art to get more touching and effective as more layers of tech are added to the original idea but this succeeds at making kind of a sappy poem into a fun and clever fantasy. This side-project looks a heck of a lot more useful than the last one from MS.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:24 AM on January 26, 2009

I prefer it as an actual comic, TBH - Seeing it laid out actually makes the neat design that gives you the zoom cleverer.

I'm probably horribly reactionary, which seems to be the case every time I see some neat new take on comics jazzed up electronically - with the possible exception of that Spiders thing, which seems to have disapeared completely. Intoducing naimation in particular just seems like a horrible halfway house betwen doing a proper comic and a proper animation.
posted by Artw at 11:31 AM on January 26, 2009

Weirdly, my introduction to "When the Saucers Came" was by way of the lolcat version.

I agree with Neil, it's better than the original, but possibly only if you're informed by the original.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:54 AM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Artw - I think it makes up for the lack of detail available in print comics, and you don't need to draw 15 or more frames per second to make suitable animation, plus you can still have text along with graphics. Viewing scans on the computer usually results in a lot of scrolling around pages to see it all, or you see a scaled down page and lose the detail work that is present in some publications. The choose-your-own-adventure interactive comic type is something that works well in digital form, and and I these Flash galleries and comics is a more dynamic extension. With the ability to move to the next frame or area at your own speed, you can spend time looking at each section, or skim through it all quickly.

I'm not defending the form to defend my post, but to defend the format. I also like comics, and enjoy my physical collection a lot. I think they shift poorly onto the computer, except for daily/weekly panel comics. But even with some four-panel comics, you end up scrolling to see everything.

ChurchHatesTucker, thanks for the link! I was looking for the real original story post, but gave up trying to navigate through archive.org versions.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:59 AM on January 26, 2009

I see some neat new take on comics jazzed up electronically

I saw a bit of the animated Watchmen the other day... the horror. It was like Captain Pugwash, only bad.

The fairly minimal animation that was going to be done for Scarlet Traces worked well though (Think they used to be online but cant' seem to find them now)

I'd forgotten all about Spiders...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:03 PM on January 26, 2009

Yeah, now I will be forever wondering if more of it was posted before it disapeared into the digital void.
posted by Artw at 12:05 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tag-along Gaiman fun: his other poem for Spiderwords is a good bit of fun. First line: I am continually disappointed by nudity
posted by filthy light thief at 12:05 PM on January 26, 2009

Additional random Gaiman news: he won the Newbery Award for The Graveyard Book today.
posted by Caduceus at 2:13 PM on January 26, 2009

I've never seen this poster or heard the poem before. Thanks for the post. And Gaiman is right, the LOLcats version is oddly effective once you've read the original.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:15 PM on January 26, 2009

fearfulsymmetry - It seems the original was hosted on the now defunct Cool Beans World, which sadly blocked search engines. Or were you talking about Spider Words? If it is the latter, they seem to have petered out before the 3rd issue. The site lived until at least February 2008, but nothing changed for about two years.

Caduceus - interesting. I'm happy for him, but somehow wished there were better works that would have trumped his. But I digress.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:29 PM on January 26, 2009

...You didn't notice any of this because
you were sitting in your room, not doing anything
not even reading, not really...

That's an apt description of my day.

Stupid plague-flu -- what a day for to be a shut-in. I bet tomorrow there won't be any Yeti-Moonman-Valkyrie fights at all. (well, not unless that genie's as good as his word--I wish, I wish...).

Somebody text me if the genie's just a flu-figment of my imagination so that I can stop building my anti-zombie barricade and crawl back to bed.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:40 PM on January 26, 2009

I think the original final line "wondering if I was going to text back" is far better than "wondering if I was going to call". And I'm not sure why.
posted by crossoverman at 8:25 PM on January 26, 2009

crossoverman - good catch. I saw the Flash first, and assumed it was copied word for word. I agree, somehow the original text was better. There's a weird implication of a first message sent, waiting for a reply.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:48 AM on January 27, 2009

Brads Somber Mood, Scott McCloud comic on Infinite Canvas.
posted by Artw at 3:16 PM on January 31, 2009

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