Paradigm Flux (2000)

Paradigm Flux was my first foray into interactive comics online. Written by Steve Casares with the idea of interactivity in mind, the story was a sci-fi adventure/espionage story with branching narrative threads. In his 2001 paper “An examination of webcomics using McLuhan’s four laws of media” comic scholar Daniel merlin Goodbrey wrote:

Creators Steve Casares and Neal Von Flue take advantage of the opportunities offered by the hypercomic medium in their work-in-progress science fiction series, Paradigm Flux. Image maps are used to create hotspots within certain panels that can be clicked to open up new panels and sequences of panels in other windows. The reader can either choose to follow each page in numerical sequence, tracking the flow of panels from one page to the next, or they can opt to explore their own path through the story. If taking the latter route, any one particular page can act as a starting point from which they then progress through the narrative by a gradual process of enquiry into the images contained in each panel.

There was very little interactivity potential on webpages at the time, so the work relied heavily on hyperlinks and imagemaps to open new windows that contained other parts of the story. The webpage itself was the comic frame, as images were displayed in sequence in tables. As the reader progressed though the narrative vertically, we built in “horizontal” branches of story that would pop up in new windows.

While the storytelling and format were at the edge of digital capability, the artwork was traditional pencil work scanned in and lightly processed, a very early example of my interest in bridging the gap between traditional art and the growing digital world. This would inform the character of Frank Delbruck in The Jerk, and a couple decades worth of work after that.

Paradigm Flux ran for 16 installments. Here are a few examples of the art, upscaled from the recovered 500px wide original files.