Over the summer, I saw an incredibly exciting piece of visual journalism over at USA TODAY. The production involved a mash-up of sorts between one of USA TODAY’s bloggers, Twitter, some comic book artists, and a nifty bit of flash animation.

You can check out the results here.

There are a couple of things that got me excited. First, I just find it visually engaging. Next, it involves an unusual collaboration between comic book artists, a blogger, and online developers to produce something distinct. On a personal level, it warmed my heart that a “newspaper” was trying something this daring.

Some folks may shrug, or dismiss it because it involves comics. But while I’ve never been much of a comic book reader myself, I’ve seen some amazing uses of the form to produce some really interesting journalism in recent years.

One of the most dramatic versions of this is a full-length, comic book documentary called “Palestine” by Joe Sacco. I saw Sacco speak a couple of years ago at the Nieman Narrative Conference in Boston. Essentially, he spent months in Israel and the West Bank trying to see first hand what was happening there. He then told his tale in comic form. It’s powerful stuff.

More recently, there have been a couple of notable uses of comics to tell non-fiction stories. One was by The Globe and Mail in Toronto. They produced a full-page comic to explain the current fiscal crisis. I first saw this via Juan Giner’s blog:

Another comic that got a lot of attention recently was one produced by Google to explain the technology behind its Chrome browser. The comic was produced by Scott McCloud:

These projects are good reminders that innovation doesn’t just have to be about embracing the new digital tools (though they played a big role in this case). It can also involve working with new people or groups that you don’t usually collaborate with. And it can include finding new ways to tell stories that embrace older forms, such as comics.