I’ve thought a lot about reader-ordered interpretation. I just finished “Building Stories” by Chris Ware, primarily because it’s clear that Aja intentionally emulated Ware in his run of Hawkeye. But something else came from it.
See, “Building Stories” isn’t really a book. It’s a box with 14 different elements inside it, like a poster, a broadsheet, a newspaper, a couple of hardbound volumes, and so on. Even a board as if from a board game. The title is a play on words, as the reader is building the stories from the disparate parts, but also each story revolves around various buildings, in many ways.
Which brings be back to Hawkeye, and comics. Because comic issues can (and, increasingly often, are) be shuffled around to present a different story. The official Hawkeye Omnibus, which I’m reading now, shuffles the order quite substantially from the monthly run. What once was a reference in issue #17 becomes foreshadowing when it’s read after issue #6. Even inside the issues Fraction plays with time that evokes Ware.
Comic books/graphic novels aren’t the only form of this, however. It’s almost a rite of passage as a fan of “The Prisoner” to develop a preferred viewing order. Many Star Wars fans found some redemption of the prequels by watching them in “Machete Order.” There’s even a card game called “Joking Hazard” which is based around literally shuffling comic panels and making a sensible strip out of the results. And video games like “Guardians of the Galaxy – The Telltale Series” get some value out of playing scenes over again to give new context to them.
I find it fascinating — the ultimate result of democratizing art. Over time art has moved out of the hands of an elite few (or the elite patrons of those artists), to the point where an artist can find an audience just about anywhere. And now, more art is coming out where the audience has control over the experience. It’s easy to talk about interactivity when it comes to games, but even “static” art like graphic novels and television shows can be interactive, in the right circumstances.