Nick Trujillo is probably most well-known for his appearance on Penny Arcade’s reality game show, Strip Search. In case you missed it, back in 2011, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik came up with the idea of a reality show based around the idea of creating webcomics. They gathered a group of twelve aspiring webcomic creators together, and ran them through a series of challenges over the course of 31 twenty-minute episodes, all aired online, with the winner to be awarded a nice check plus a job at Penny Arcade. Like all the contestants, Trujillo showed a lot of promise but was eliminated during one of the challenges part-way through the series.
Personally, I didn’t hear or see much of Trujillo after the show until last week when he launched his latest webcomic, Glitched. It’s still pretty early in the story, so it’s hard to tell what direction he’ll go in and how good it will be, but I highlight it here because Trujillo is doing something very different with it: he’s posting it on Twitter. He’s not just tweeting notes about how it’s been updated with a link back his home page; the strip is entirely being posted as a series of tweets.
As far as I know, this is the first time anyone’s done anything like this: using the serial nature of Twitter as the very platform to present an entire comic. I’ve certainly seen people tell stories over Twitter, 140 characters at a time, but not a sequential series of images. Certainly not over an extended period.
Twitter obviously wasn’t designed for this type of storytelling, but it will be interesting to see what challenges Trujillo runs up against and, more significantly, how he addresses them. A couple of potential issues immediately spring to my mind. First, how well will it read for anyone who doesn’t get in on the ground floor? With a dedicated website, a creator can add forward/back and first/last buttons pretty easily to navigate around, or some kind of calendar-based archive, or whatever. Twitter just has a single stream to sort through.
Related to that, how much do other interactions interrupt the story? Depending on the software a reader is using to view the comic, they might see everyone’s replies tethered to the original tweet. Furthermore, Trujillo is taking advantage of Twitter’s recent addition of polls to allow readers to help direct where the story is headed… but these also might serve as an interription to the narrative. But that could also be seen as bonus, showing later readers where branching could have occurred and why the story took the direction it did.
As I said, it’s far too early to tell if Trujillo will be successful. I’m certain he’ll find other obstacles and challenges that didn’t immediately spring to my mind. But regardless of the outcome, I think it will be a fascinating experiment to watch, as it showcase just how many directions can still be taken with the very context of webcomics in the first place!