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Telling stories at the digital age

“Thematic” directed by Julien Falgas and Anthony Rageul

« A mostly visual narrative specie » (Groensteen, 2011), it is generally considered that telling story is the main purpose of comics. A story is supposed to be made of a beginning, a development and an ending. It’s told by a narrator, a storyteller. Regardless of their positions in the art field or in the society, regardless of their aesthetic or economic models, regardless of their ways of publication, even if they where playing with their borders (abstraction, poetry, experimentation), comics have always consisted in telling stories.

Since 25 years, just like other medias, comics are getting digital. They where already there on the first networks ancestors of the Internet, on CD-roms. During the 2000s blogs and webcomics and other online comics have broken out. New tools and new ways to publish comics have been developed (from the personal computer to the touch pad, the smartphone or the e-reader).

Like any other culture industry, the comics professional field hosts heated debates around the questions of business models and copyright. Following Magali Boudissa, we could search “the ontological limits in wich storytelling can develop itself in a digital way, without sliding to an hybrid kind of hypermedia story.” (Boudissa M., 2010). Beyond the change of publication and delivering ways and beyond comic itself, we are witnessing a global evolution of our practices of how we tell and receive stories. According to Smolderen, the birth of our modern comic language around the 1900 year was shapped by the evolution from printed book to daily papers, passing through illustrated weeklies (Smolderen, 2009). The use of new solutions in order to publish and deliver stories gave birth to comics as we know them today. That’s why, rather than asking about the future of comics, we are  asking about the meaning of telling stories at the digital age.

Such a question leads to several lines of work considering that the subject is mostly unexplored. Here are some proposals that are not exhaustive.

  • Let’s start with the digital comics history, which isn’t written yet for all the three geographical centers (USA, Asia, french speaking regions). Digital comics are waiting to be listed, analysed and criticised. As a form of Art, digital comics could be studied for the way they find place in Art History. Are they showing or not the main issues of contemporary Art? Do they echo the other digital art forms?

  • Considered as a media, what are the strength and disadvantages of the comic legacy in order to go beyond paper ? What are the specifics of storytelling through connected screens? Is there a sematic gain and, moreover, how does it express? Are technologies reconfiguring the “graphic novel system” (Groensteen T., 1999), how are they doing it ? Digital, multimedia, interactivity, online are the synonymous ? Finally, as Jean Clément saids : « During the last centuries, each new narrative support has led big changes in the art of telling stories. (...) We entered in the Digital Age very recently. It’s not a surprise that digital artiworks appearing today are still searching their own writing form. »  (Clément, J., 2000) If comics are playing an important role in the emergence of a digital writing form, it seems good to observe the solutions of the heirs of other storytelling traditions. For example we can examine the narrative forms such as transmedia storytelling or look to the already well-developed theories dedicated to digital art and digital literature.

  • The new forms of storytelling are asking the question of the place of sotrytelling in our contemporary ssocieties. What are the uses shown by authors and readers? Why stories should they be told or red with digital screens? Telling stories for and through this tools, is it a work for an engineer or for an author ? Is it a one man only or a team work? Where can we fond the traditionnal know-hows (author, editor, artist, producer...)? Are they new jobs waiting to be invented? What kind of collaboration should be considered?

  • Finally, we could question the emerging market in terms of business model or editorial practices, but also by asking if these changes are or not genuine innovations. What are the limits of new media? Does the "digital reading" need the digital book? Beyond the adaptation from paper to digital, what does change the nature or scheme of the story?

200-250 words abstract can be sent to the following adresses :

Julien Falgas and Anthony Rageul, responsible of the ”thematic”

Benoît Berthou, chief editor


BOUDISSA, M., La Bande dessinée, entre la page et l'écran : Étude critique des enjeux théoriques liés au renouvellement du langage bédéique sous influence numérique. Paris : thèse en esthétique, sciences et technologie des arts, Université Paris VIII, 2010.

CLEMENT, J., Hypertextes et mondes fictionnels ou l'avenir de la narration dans le cyberespace [en ligne], 2010. URL <>

GROENSTEEN, T. Système de la bande dessinée. Paris : PUF, 1999.

GROENSTEEN, T. Bande dessinée et narration. Système de la bande dessinée 2. Paris : PUF, 2011, p.89.

SMOLDEREN, T. Naissances de la bande dessinée : de William Hogarth à Winsor McCay. Bruxelles : Les Impressions nouvelles, 2009, 144 p.

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