Comic Non-Sans: That Scary Korean Comic

So a link to a Korean webcomic has been making the rounds over the last few days, and it made its way to me through various social media routes.  It’s usually accompanied by key phrases like “Wanna see something scary?” and “You have been warned!”

The stand-alone comic, titled 2011 Mystery Sketch Bongcheon-Dong Ghost, claims to be “based on true personal accounts.”  It tells the story of the narrator walking past an apartment complex and being confronted by a creepy-looking woman in pink pyjamas, demanding to know where her child is.  At the end of the story, it’s revealed that a local woman just outside the complex committed suicide by throwing herself off the roof after losing custody of her daughter.

Okay, fair enough.  Honestly, I heard scarier stories in college about the window I sat in front of during my Thomas Hardy seminar.  But it’s not the story itself that makes the comic utterly terrifying.  It’s not even the art (although that’s pretty graphic and actually quite well done).

It’s … well, for those of you who dig the adrenaline rush, I won’t wreck it for you — go look at it, then come back and finish this.  You need to scroll down to read, and the art doesn’t start for a bit, so just start scrolling ’til you get there.  You don’t actually need to know Korean to get the gist, I promise.

Those of you who really don’t want to be surprised, avoid clicking on the link just yet and continue reading after the jump.

2011 Mystery Sketch Bongcheon-Dong Ghost

Basically, what happens is right when you’ve gotten into the groove of scrolling down as you read, your scrollbar gets hijacked and the next several panels flicker past, causing an animated effect as the ghost turns around, accompanied by a loud clicking sound just to drive the freak factor home.  This happens a second time (with similar sound effects) as the pink pyjama lady charges at you towards the end.

Psychologically, it’s an interesting effect.  Not only does it offer an option other than an animated .gif — which is not always reliable by way of loading time anyway — it takes the browsing experience out of your hands.  Scrolling down the page as you read is a pretty mindless motion nowadays, and stealing that from you just enhances the creepy visuals.  Loss of control, coupled with the good ol’ notion of electronics being “possessed,” means heightened fear.

Now, I don’t consider causing fear via shock to be particularly clever or innovative.  To paraphrase Jhonen Vasquez, it’s not necessarily a clever artistic choice if the effect can be recreated by popping a potato chip bag next to your audience’s ear.  Really properly well-done scares, genuinely artistic fear-making, comes from provoking human fear rather than animal fear.

And on a secondary level, Mystery Sketch does indeed do that.  It takes something mundane and commonplace — a website or a scroll wheel — and gives it a mind of its own.  Like the narrator, we’re stripped of our ability to react for a moment.  And yes, a hideously-deformed suicide case leaping at you practically out of your computer screen is scary enough on its own, but the true scare comes from the fact that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You can stop a YouTube video.  Not this.

“Possessed” scrollbars aren’t any newer than windows that hijack your browser or flee your mouse pointer.  We’ve been pranked with those in some form since the days of Geocities.  It takes someone coming along and playing with it artistically to change things up — in the case of browser windows, see for example the OK Go video All Is Not Lost for the evolution of a coding tease into a stylistic tool.

Mystery Sketch, at least to me, is a step along that route.  As with any new clever idea, it goes through a flashy stage before people get comfortable with it and begin to bend and shape it to their own ideas.  Is there a use for this in webcomics other than freaking the holy expletives out of your readership?  Perhaps an old-fashioned flickering film reel — visually relevant, and a way of not so much yanking the rug out from under someone as tugging it away by stages.

To be fair, a second read isn’t as scary, and gives you a chance to appreciate the actual art.  And if you go that route and would like the translation, blogger princess-sungjong has posted one on her Tumblr.  It’ll be very interesting indeed to see who plays with this next.

Hell, maybe I will.

Posted on August 30, 2011 at 01:00 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, Webcomics · Tagged with: , , , ,