4PANEL.ca Initiative: Carousel Magazine puts a new spin on sequential art

Designed as a digital exploration of the printed four panel comic book format, the new 4PANEL.ca comics site is an intriguing experiment in sequential art. Spinning out of the pages of the print Carousel Magazine, the online portal features four-panel strips with content updated on a weekly basis, every Monday to be exact. Currently the 4PANEL site features 18 regular contributors, with names such as Rosaire Appel, Christopher Green, Jim Johnstone and more, exploring the format from a formal and literary context.

We connected with Mark Laliberte, Managing Editor, Arts Editor & Designer of Carousel Magazine to get a greater sense of the site and its mission moving forward.

What are you hoping to accomplish with the new site?

Well the 4PANEL.ca site is an extension of the 4PANEL column that appears in Carousel Magazine. We invited a range of artists to look at the comic strip as an artform; once we had the print edition rolling (which comes out twice a year) we started online release, which are weekly at this point.

What type of artistic balance are you looking to maintain in terms of styles on this site?

The team of contributors that we work with came from the Carousel magazine community. We looked to get a range of artists and writers who were working on projects who we thought would add a diverse sense and approaches to the challenge of a four panel strip. Some of the people are from the comics community; others are poets or abstract illustrators who are taking up the challenge. We’re letting the contributors guide things for the most part. We’re hoping that they are challenging themselves and in turn the audience. We’re not necessarily against a comedic approach but we’re certainly don’t put any emphasis on that. We’re more interested in a diverse approach.

What’s the measure of success in terms of growing the community? What strategies are involved here in terms of raising awareness for the site?

Part of the idea of creating the site was to aim for a larger audience compared to what the (print) magazine would attend to. There’s a large online comics community and we hope to spread the word about the content through the contributors and also through the weekly updates.  The idea of having content every Monday is something that I think will help the site grow.

How has the feedback been like to date?

I think that people seem to really like the project. It’s modelled in a way after the funnies in the newspapers, which people have always had a connection to. This is sort of like the artsy “grown up” version.

What are your overall thoughts on sequential art in terms of where it’s headed  in 2012 and beyond?

Sequential art is an interesting subset of arts and comic culture. I think that for me, all the interesting streams are leading to merging what’s going on the page to what’s going on in the gallery. People who dabble with sequential art have a larger awareness of where the comic form can fit into the larger contemporary arts scene. This is just one example of that. It sort of adheres to the print history of sequential art and four panel funny strips. This can easily be a book at some point once it reaches critical mass. I could also see this playing with the form in a much different way, be it paintings or larger scale work. Maybe we will attempt an art show off the 4PANEL format at some point.

Are you actively seeking new contributors? And if so, how can they get on board?

We’re open to new contributors and it’s really just a matter of contacting Carousel and pitching an idea or discussing what you might want to do. One thing that’s notable on the site is that everyone is working on the exact same panel size grid so these are specific and original work for this format.

Do you see physical four panel comics as a thing of the past, or can print and digital coexist?

As a paper magazine, we’re really dedicated to the printed form, and the 4PANEL section is a very lush part of the journal. We value the importance of print and we don’t think it’s going away. Increasingly though, there has to be a reason for people to want to invest money and space in owning a physical copy of something — so the kinds of books or journals that are most important show evidence of the care that went into their making; they are labours of love. I think all the artists we’re working with are aware of this and have hands in both online and print worlds.

Visit 4PANEL.ca  today!