By Renchamp 2 Comments
The coolest thing for me about being a comic collector is following a character that is decades old. My favorite character is Cable and I've got just about everything he's been in, though I've only read up through 1996. (Lame.) I recently decided to read some background and finished my collection of the Inferno story arc. An advertisement caught my eye.
A Bit of Background
I had never heard of Infocomics before so I did a little investigating. As the very fine print on the ad states, Infocomics was a collaboration between some guy named Tom Snyder and a company called Infocom, a software company based out of Massachusetts. The goal was to make comic books for the computer. The idea was to make stories that would unfold on the screen that would allow the "reader" to jump from one perspective in the story to another. (I'll explain the process in a moment.) This would make the reading experience more dynamic and complete.
Three franchises were started as the flagships to this venture. Only one garnered a sequel. The gentleman in the above advertisement is Lane Mastodon, who starred in "Lane Mastodon vs. the Blubbermen." Another comic was "Gamma Force in Pit of a Thousand Screams." The last was an extension of intellectual property owned by parent company Infocom: "ZorkQuest: Assault on Egreth Castle," which was followed by the sequel "ZorkQuest II: The Crystal of Doom." This product failed to capture much attention due to its very campy storytelling, as well as the fact that comic books were way, way, way better looking.
This was a program based on the old Dos system. (To date myself, I remember using Dos in second grade to boot up the Scarab of Ra.) Once started, the screen took on the look of a comic book and the comic gave the reader a quick prologue to the story before explaining how to navigate the program. The comic flowed on a pace dictated by the reader. The reader could fast forward or rewind, pause, and jump perspectives. This last point was the crux of Infocomics's novelty. Whenever you saw the "page" fold over you could hit a button to jump to another character's perspective of what was happening in the story to more fully understand it all.
The reader could also backtrack the story and find other jump points to explore.
Walking You Through/The Experience
I was really interested in this concept that I had never, ever heard of and so I put myself out there and let the universe guide me to copies of the first three releases. (I bought them after some research on this here internet.) Here is how the comic reads for "Gamma Force in Pit of a Thousand Screams":
The comic opens with the title and and a prologue in which we meet the main heroes. This is merely a teaser, though, as then we move into instructions on how to enjoy this new comic medium.
After some intro to controls we are hurled right back into the story. It mainly follows the dastardly deeds of Nast, a terrible bad guy who burns villages, electrocutes people he merely suspects to be disloyal, and who also does stuff like this:
The story eventually wraps up after just over 30 minutes with the good guys winning. (Uh, spoiler tag?) This is without taking advantage of any jump points. You could seriously spend over an hour or two going through every scenario getting all the backstory possible out of this comic. And with graphics like these, who wouldn't want to?
The sound in the comic is the standard effects from yesteryear. Anytime something bad happens you hear the "We are here to scare you" music. Both lasers and electricity sound like diarrhea in pots and pans being dropped down stairs. There are no voices. All the dialogue is found onscreen and the narration is below the action.
Above, Lane Mastodon explained that the comic moves. Kind of. The developers did what they could with the technology they had, and that is the equivalent of making new screenshots in succession that act as a flip-book cartoon. The movement is slow. One scene takes literally five seconds for Nast to shift his gaze from one person to another. (Seriously, there is a close up of his eyes moving for five seconds.) Also, shifting from one perspective to another (as in, from far to near) is awkward since the graphics don't really mesh all that well.
There you have it. For any of you who still love to read the great comics of the 80's, this is basically what Infocomics advertisements are telling you is worth $12 of your hard earned, post-1985 recession dollars. And now you know.
*Addition: I just made a concept page for Infocomics that shows the boxes for each computer program. The 80s were awesome.