Google Chrome's Online Comic Drawn By Scott McCloud

Since Google’s release of their open-source browser, Chrome, on September 2, 2008 little has been said about the simultaneously released, online comic book brochure. I noted a couple mentions on other comics blogs and some tech sites but no real critique. The online comic works as an instructional and informational brochure that explains the features of the browser. The Google Chrome Team wrote the comic but it was drawn by famed comic book artist/writer, Scott McCloud. This may not seem like a big deal to most but to comic nerds, it's a little more exciting. 

Despite not being able to hold my attention for more than a page, I still think it is great that Google chose to design an informational and advertisement piece in comic book form. To me, it seems like a fair nod of the trend of online comics as well as an interesting synthesis of technology and the in-print world that lives outside of it. In general, I really think this was a great idea but my main problem with it is that it assumes that the average internet user (we are talking about Google here, right?) has enough of an attention span to read through 39 pages of an internet comic about a web browser!

On a more positive note, the very first thing that I noticed about the presentation of this informative "brochure" is that it is monochromatic; it uses only black and white with a pale blue for shadowing. Secondly, the characters are real google employees. This is interesting because Google is a mystical company (at least to those not in Silicon Valley), an internet entity and using characterization of the real people who are employed by Google makes it feel as if these people are stuck in a pixelated graphic form (the real indians in the cupboard!). I think the actual comic loses my attention mostly because the they don't write the comic like a comic. The lack of dialogue transition and story-line, ultimately, makes it hard to read.

While they could use some work on dialogue flow, they have, however, successfully integrated characters with informative pictures and text in a way that is meant to not ostracize the reader from the concepts of the technology. Overall, the tone mostly draws on a feeling that was initially created by Apple commercials in my long term memory: "You are one of us, don't be intimidated" but of course, without the "and we are looking down on those other people together" part that Apple loves.


Vee (Scratch) said...

McLoud!?! Yes it is exciting and really refreshing. Here's a quick biased response.

All I can say is wha, what?!??
Ok, I'll agree that 39 pages was a bit much but there's a whole bunch of technical and non-technical information condensed and presented in a beautiful way. The comic is a look under the hood, an interpretation of key engineering decisions behind Chrome. I don't think many people care about how software applications work or how and why it works the way it works. So when you say it does not read like a comic, my question is what kind of comic?

Keep in mind the words are from the Google engineering team, a number of different people discussing components of Chrome. You're not going to get wonderful prose and dialogue. So I pretty much doubt the intended audience is the general internet surfing public. Also, the comic alienates non-technical people by page 5 as soon as they start discussing the Process Manager and memory allocation.

I think Google's decision to use Scott McCloud tells me that some one in Google read his book Understanding Comics. I only wish that some software manuals and technical books were co-written by and illustrated by McCloud. That would be exciting! When it comes to presenting information, you really can not beat the speed of words aided by illustration (or phototgraphs.)

Monique R. said...

-Yeah, I kept that it was written by the Google Team in mind. That's stated pretty clearly, no?

-If it's not for the general public, then who is it for?

-But it doesn't alienate non-technical readers that may be visual learners. --which is an interesting and great aspect about this idea

- I think I may agree with you about the choice to use McCloud was directly related to some nerdman at Google having read one of his works. But you never know, maybe McCloud has some pull. I think he needs some credit in this, nah meen?

Vee (Scratch) said...

-If it's not for the general public, then who is it for?

Developers. Not end users.

brandon said...

It was clearly intended to be a big deal and get regular people--read:beyond developers-- interested in Chrome. The comic concept to me seems symptomatic of a lot of internet hype by internet people, where they have this fun concept and then muddle it in a long-ass comic book that no regular person would enjoy.

Unknown said...

I think that it is incredibly amusing that this exists. I'm not sure WHY it does... but amusing nonetheless. Someone who I pointed towards Google chrome asked me if they had to read the comic to use the browser. I laughed. It was Peter.

Karen Peltier said...