BY JEN VAUGHN My SXSW Interactive review continues. You can find previous discussions on new technology, content creation and how comics fit in all of it here.

In the oddly-timed-as-in-several-years-late Fanboys to Fanatics panel, Robert Rodriguez (co-director of Sin City) and Greg Rucka (writer of comic Whiteout) spoke about the pitfalls for comic book movie adaptations. With the visual narrative of a comic book built inside the head of the readers, how can you create a cohesive two hour movie that is still is both true to the source material and all its details?

Comic fans care about the character or than a particular story. Be true to the characters and fans (in general) will be pleased. Unlike most directors-cum-fans, when Rodriguez wanted to make a movie he did not have to run the studio gauntlet given his particular relationship with the Weinsteins. It was more a “fuck or walk” situation and we all know what happened with the Director’s Guild of America when they told Rodriguez he couldn’t have Frank Miller as a co-director (He walked away from the DGA). Rodriguez’s best advice was to write your own story in the end.

Rucka brought up the excellent point that strict adherence to the script cannot work and people often mistake comics serve as storyboards for the movie. Even as a barely seasoned cartoonist, I can guaran-damn-tee you will NOT go an entire comic convention without hearing someone on the floor spouting the phrase, “Well, I want to make a movie but couldn’t generate interest so I thought I’d make this graphic novel/comic book .” When Whiteout was optioned, Rucka made the smart move of acknowledging that the movie Whiteout was not the comic (especially since we know who ‘did it’ from the get go). Perhaps he allowed it to evolve since it was was the first story he wrote, he knew more ideas would keep coming.  Rucka illustrated his point by contrasting the scene of Kerrie’s finger amputation in the comic book and the movie. Both very different, beautiful and evocative. Tragic moments can become lurid when a creator cannot control how long people’s eyes trail over the panels. Is the lesson for professionals to let ideas evolve over time? Edward Gorey used to keep files and then file cabinets and then a ROOM of file cabinets of ideas, just in case. One day he threw them away, knowing the good ones would stay locked in his brain.

With my favorite panel buddy, Sara Reyes of Fresh Fiction by my side I attended 27 Ways to Kill Your Online Community. Patrick O’Keefe, a community whiz, covered each point effectively and humorously. Some favorites were Way #10: Shame People Who Ask Repetitive Questions like adminis who take the time to make a screen shot of the search bar or FAQs page instead of just answering a question. Pictured below, Way #13: Branding, Schmanding suggested that you make your site look different every day! Change the colors and definitely change button or login placement. Confuse the hell out of your online community! Cartoonist Billy Ireland constantly created a a new strip banner for The Passing Show and Google has fallen into step as well but their functions are like breathing to most people.  Way #20: Religious and Political Discussions are the BEST! works well for job interviews, meeting the in-laws and first dates.

In response to a question about a community website redesign, O’Keefe suggested a company ask some of the oldest, dedicated members to help with the redesign. That way part of the audience is on company side and partially responsible for the redesign. All 27 ways are available online at RIP Community so take a gander and see where you might possibly misstep in your own online community, be it for a news site or webcomic.

Speaking of being kind to your audience, personalization is important to websites to make the Internet more enjoyable and delightful or so the panel on How to Personalize Without Being Creepy set out to prove. Noah Weiss of foursquare, Vijay Ravindran of the Washington Post Company, Hugo Liu of Hunch, Mat Harris of BizGreet and Jen King, a grad student of UC Berkeley spoke on the fact that privacy is a series of expectations. King gave an example of getting furniture catalogs after moving into a house (which makes sense) but as an expectant mother she went to create a baby shower registry at a store of choice to find out she was ‘already in their system.’ Creepy? CREEPY. How do we approach the interactivity of future advertisement and websites without skidding too close to the intense personalization of the advertisements in Minority Report? Especially when people willingly provide information about where they currently are in geo-location applications for smartphones like foursquare and Gowalla.

While lawyers are not product designers, brand marketers are like ’17 year-olds trying to get laid.’ They spend a significant amount of time trying to get as intimate as fast as possible with customers. But as most of us BEYOND seventeen know (or is it 27?) is that intimacy is built on relationships. Companies should first, avoid being overly aggressive or in the case of our 17 year-old, start with a kiss. Only ask for a little information at first, you don’t need Ms. Winchester’s paternal grandfather’s hamster’s name. Yet. Second, do not hide your intent, be TRANSPARENT! Let the customer know why they are giving that information. While Minority Report worked the end of the full-on surveillance end of personalization, King insists there is a whole spectrum betwixt that and helpfulness to the customer. Third, use ads on your own site to retarget your audience. Amazon product sales have swelled thanks to ads that act like reminders “Don’t you still want that iPad?” as opposed to regular announcements. In fact, that weighty website makes 30% of its revenue from personalization (what percentage the panelists’ companies make from personalization they would not share). And finally, insist your company website have an Off button and make it easy to find. If someone wishes to opt out of personalization, make it easy for them to do so.

Cartoonists and creators are harnessing this sort of power when it comes to merchandise. Posting surveys for your audience will answer truthfully can give you a better idea of how many shirts to order of what size so you are stuck with a room full of unsellable extra-small t-shirts in retina-burning orange and teal or mousepads when everyone has already switched over to installing bionic eyeball mouse inserts. Hugo Liu defined his site Hunch AND personalization best as the coordinates of your tastespace that become sharper and more correct over time. Google searches are utilizing this as well possibly for the better so the next time you look for a drawing of a donkey punching something (just go with me on this), you can mark NO when Google brings up a varity of images of a horrifying act with the same name. And to that end, when we have built up an internet experience that is unique to the way we think, buy and sell; what do we lose? Serendipity. Chance. It is the difference between being an inexperienced 17 year-old and an older, more mature lover. We may mourn that loss of internet error but only for a moment because our next mouse click, or eye-click at that point, will have just the thing we wanted to buy for our new boyfriend or girlfriend.

Jen Vaughn already has a bionic hand and is wary to do anything else with it but flip comic book pages at the moment.


  1. Thanks so much for attending my talk, with your friend. You’re very kind! I appreciate it and am glad you enjoyed the presentation. :)

    Thanks again,