Instructible Comics

By | Thursday, April 09, 2020 Leave a Comment
I was initially thinking I might try to find a good comic on how to make a surgical-style mask. Instructional guides can be very effective in comic form as the illustrations can show individual steps sometimes more clearly than either a verbal explanation or even a video. Illustrations can remove a lot of extraneous and distracting detail that can complicate understanding of photos or videos, and prose can prove complicated for those with limited understanding of the language it's written in. (Arguably, comics have their own grammar and linguistic type rules that can vary from culture to culture, but it is often easier/quicker to grasp the basics of comics 'language' over the written word.

Interestingly, I could not find any decent comic instructions for making your own mask. At most, they were prose with illustrations showing occasional outcomes and not really comics themselves. I did, however, find two comics on the proper way to wear a N95 or surgical mask...
Instructions for how to wear a surgical mask
Instructions for how to wear an N95 mask
Several interesting bits in these two.

First, you can clearly see they were created by the same person/group. Not only are they in the same basic style, but the illustrations are identical in several places. However, they're both branded differently. My guess is that these were generic graphics sent out to various health and wellness practices, where they were meant to drop their logo in the bottom and share online and on posters around their waiting areas or something. Perhaps they were made by a mask manufacturer?

Second, given that they're obviously both from the same place originally, I find it curious that the first and second steps are so radically different. Both sets of directions make sense, but the focus of each is very different. Why would hand-washing be important in one instance but not the other? Why discuss the general fit of the mask in one case, but the specific orientation in another?

Third -- and this is something you wouldn't necessarily know from just looking at these -- I found both of these in posts made last September in relation to the "ongoing haze situation in some of our South East Asian countries." These were made for a completely different situation than what we're seeing now, and for a decidedly specific geographic group. But they still function very well in today's situation for any English-speaker in any country around the world.

Will Eisner was a big proponent of the instructible type comic. He used them extensively in PS*Magazine during World War II. These types of comics are currently ubiquitous in the airline industry where every airplane has a card of safety instructions they provide every passenger before take-off. And yet, they're often not seen as comics despite serving exactly in the purpose. These types of instructions are not only useful but, as in the two cases I have shared above, can save lives.
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