Phoenix wrote:what there is in 'masquerade' that made you choose it as an example.
I think it's how I define comic. How I see them. And I think you've hit on the reason for any disagreement in this thread. When I say "comics" I'm not thinking of the Beano/Dan Dare/X-Men/Peanuts/etc. I'm thinking of something abstract and theoretical: communication and beauty.
My love of comics can be summed up simply:
Art good. Pictures good. Art + Pictures better.
But not just illustrations. I love stories where the art and words work in perfect harmony. If something can be said better with pictures, it should be. When something can be said better with words, it should be. And the very best combinations have a beautiful design to the whole thing. And stories nearly always have time passing, so it's only natural for some kind of sequential framing at some point, but I don't see it as essential. For me, comics are just the natural ideal and most perfect way to communicate visually.
So when people say that paper is expensive, I think good! That means that comics have a greater advantage! because I'm thinking of the most perfectly efficient form, possible, not existing forms that may take many frames to say something that could be said in one.
Which brings us back to Masquerade. As I see it, it's a comic. It's a story told in pictures with integral words as part of the art. Like my ideal compressed comic it can be read several times and you spot new details each time. He didn't feel any need to fit the whole thing on one page, so he has very large characters, but the principle is there: no wasted space, and the more you look, the more you see.
For me, Masquerade is like a cross between Steranko's Nick Fury and Frank McDiarmid's Cheeky: beautiful art that you read once then go back over to enjoy the pictures (Steranko) and all kinds of hidden asides and words wrapped around the images (McDiarmid). I loves those comics with writing between the frames, it was a sign that the artist really cared about squeezing in as much goodness as he could.
Now granted, Masquerade doesn't have speech bubbles, but it easily could if the story warranted it. A lot of medieval art has speech bubbles and that's clearly an influence.
I bring up Steranko because he would sometimes pack maybe ten or twenty frames onto an American style page, but do it in a way that the whole thing had a shape and beauty and didn't look cluttered. There's a saying in art that a picture is finished when there's nothing left to take away, and I think that's the key to compressed art. A story like Masquerade could be told in one tabloid style sheet, using Steranko style layouts so it doesn't look cluttered or confusing. We'd follow the main story, the hare chasing the moon, then we go back and see all the words that curl around the pictures, then we'd go back again and see that all the background art told its own story.
I love stories like that, where a second story takes place at the same time. Like those Ladybird story books, or the Perishers, where little animals are having their own parallel story. A single page like that would be a modern version of a medieval illuminated manuscript, or an alchemical text, full of layers of meaning. If done well you could frame it, it would be a work of art. Comic fans would recognize it as a comic, because of the sequential story telling and (if needed) word balloons, but most people would just see it for what it was: a beautiful ay to tell a story.
If I had more time (and it wasn't illegal) I'd scan a copy of Masquerade, and cut and paste it Steranko style to show what I mean. Other such stories would not have to be in color of course. I bet you could a really moody detective story in one page, using only black and white.
The first few times a page like that would take a very long time, but I think it could be streamlined: first rough out the story so the overall layout worked. Probably design it around a single large image to give it a strong shape: a snake, a building with rooms, caves, a tree, or whatever. Then work out the detailed design so that only the necessary images were shown, and only at the necessary size. Then go over using any secondary characters and objects to tell a parallel story, something the user won't notice fist time round. Then go over one final time to add in relevant asides: jokes, clues, thoughts, depending on the genre. It would take some practice, but I suspect that a single page like that could be produced in the same time as four or five normal pages, but would have a much wider market and would never go out of fashion. A well told period mystery for example could be reprinted for fifty years and still not look tired. And since the paper requirement is so low, why not?
Something I've noticed when making my games is that even a long and complex story an be simplified hugely: what matters is to retain the mood, and the feeling of depth. For example, I'm now working on a Tale of Two Cities and there are only about twenty decision points - twenty dramatic moments in the whole book. I'm not saying a full novel should take one page - adding a week between episodes would give it more drama. But something like a Sherlock Holmes story could be done in a foolscap page. The trick would be to train the reader to notice the detail and dwell on it, just as they dwell on other kinds of puzzle.
Sorry for rambling!