The answer to this post’s title is both, of course. But I’ve posted the question in order to think about the different kinds of reading (and viewing) experiences that comics generate and why we value certain storytelling modes over others.
Thanks to an article in Colorlines, I recently discovered 3bute, a transnational online comics “mashable anthology” that describes its goal as “adding visuals and crowdsourced context to African literature and journalism on the web.” Artist Bunmi Oloruntoba and editor Emmanuel Iduma collaborate with reporters and creative writers to furnish “the contexts often missing when African stories are reported.” Every two weeks, 3bute [pronounced "tribute"] publishes a three-page comic from a different African country in which readers tag the images like a wiki page with links to videos, articles, slide shows, twitter posts, music tracks, and other media.
The resulting comic is dotted with icons that appear as you touch or move your mouse over its surface. The interactive features blink and pop as you shift from panel to panel in the site’s effort to undermine “the single, one-dimensional story of poverty, sickness, conflict” that far too often disparages the continent. 3bute uses new technology to explore the contours of African modernity through “multifaceted stories,” arguably drawing upon the collaborative traditions that are reminiscent of the open-ended serial narratives from the early-twentieth century – Bud Fisher’s Mutt and Jeff or The Gumpsby Sidney Smith, for instance – newspaper strips that welcomed audience interaction with the world of the characters.