If you’re just blowing in, this is the second in a series of posts documenting the tribulations I went through in adapting to a widescreen-format comic. Co-conspirator Justin Jordan discusses the writing aspect of the challenge here.
So I’ve been dissecting some of the most recent and highly effective double-page spreads I’ve seen to try and decipher what logic the artists might’ve been operating on. Reverse-engineering, if you will. I figure if I stare at these babies long enough I may be able to extract remnants of whatever special cut of LSD the penciller was on when thumbnailing, and use then-acquired zen state on projects such as JENNY STRANGE.
Because hey… like Thomas Edison probably always said, “When in doubt, steal from the best.”
In Ultimate Spider-Man #124, Immonen uses the top half of the page to establish the environment and mood of the scene, taking full advantage of the panoramic view. The tall narrow panels of the lower half splits the events into tense, almost choking, moments.
Similarly, in Crossed #1 Jacen Burrows splits the spread into a top and bottom half. The top however is employed as an illustrative piece to essentially convey a definitive shot of the story’s backdrop, whereas the smaller panels below shows us the actual characters and pushes the story forward.
In Secret Invasion #1, Leinil Yu went with a three-tier spread to initially wow you with a shot just packed with characters. The second tier features mostly talking heads, whereas the final tier is pretty much gravy to just tense you up for whatever comes first on the next page.
So without getting too technical and shit, what strikes me the most as the widescreen format’s strength is the panoramic advantage as the splashes just look more cinematic, allowing the reader’s eye to wander more and discover things. Never doubt the power of Where’s Waldo.
Something to think about.
This series of posts concludes with me showing my JENNY STRANGE pages, which I did as I studied the above artists. So it’ll be a healthy exercise in accepting my apparent density. No doubt my girl would have a thing or two to add about that. Fun for the whole family, I guess.
Posted by johnamor | Filed under Trash
Posted by johnamor | Filed under Rants
So do I sound like a bigger douche than usual if I say that I feel like comics grew up with me right around the last yelps of my college years? No? Yeah? Kindasortamaybe. Sure I missed the really important stuff, given that I’m only twenty-five… but I think what so many call the Modern Age ended right around the time I left university, and comics became this new animal that was just rife with this manic purity and self-awareness that I got sucked back in after a withdrawal from the medium around the mid-to-late nineties.
When I think of the Golden Age (late thirties to early fifties), I think of the invention of the superhero and the birth of the icons. I think of comics catching on as portable war-time pamphlets egging troops on with stories of good winning over evil. After all, comics were the iPods of the forties… if iPods indirectly conditioned you about the dangers of radiation and the terror of atomic energy… but no yeah, you get the idea.
When I think of the Silver Age (mid-fifties to early seventies) grounding the tales in science more than magic, what with everyone obsessed with nukes, I think of space cop Hal Jordan replacing mystic Alan Scott. I think of the Fantastic Four. Heroes became more flawed, and we got Spider-man. Art became a bigger factor, and we got Kirby. DC started becoming the legacy universe, while Marvel grew into the Wild West.
The Bronze Age/Dark Age (mid-seventies to the late eighties) saw a growing appreciation for serious real-life issues being filtered through the comic lens. Schwartz took over for Weisinger to scale Superman’s ridiculously near-infinite powers. Speedy on speed. Minority heroes. The Dark Knight Returns. Watchmen. Vertigo. The picture of justice became less and less stark black-and-white, but a thick muddled gray. This was when I started.
And then came what I like to call the Image Era—the nineties. Not to point any animosity on Image the company or anything, but I feel like the term really captures that decade’s mood as well as the perceived superficiality of the medium at the time. Superman’s death. The Spider Clone Saga. Inter-company Crossovers. Amalgam? Need I go on? It felt like a very events-for-events-sake time. This was when I stopped. Sure, feel free to call me out on the occasional Gen13 and Battle Chasers splurge in the middle of it all, but hey man…. hormones.
Then when it felt to me like comics were all but tits up, someone lent me the trade for Grant Morrison’s X-Men run. And all at once, it all felt right again. Fresh again. New again. Like the first time I heard the Beatles. And it wasn’t so much that Morrison was simply introducing new ideas—no, he completely and respectfully was building on old ones, expanding the mythos, broadening the scope. And up until then, I had felt like no one had really even tried to do that in a while. Then we got Identity Crisis and things just started to happen. Brave things. Fists in your fucking face things. The Authority. The Ultimates. Planetary. All-Star. Civil War. And I wasn’t sure if it was Bendis’ DD run or Last of the Independents that made me say it out loud, but comics had grown its fucking balls back.
When the boys and I drink, I tend to bring up how exciting comics are right now… and how this is probably the most energetic time for the medium since the Golden Age. A new Golden Age, if you will. It’s always fun to watch people play when literally no one is afraid to break their toys anymore—Steve Rogers is dead! And there are real efforts to make things like that mean something now, and that to me makes this a fascinating ride. The one term mentioned more often than “superhero”? — “status quo.” There is a fearlessness about creators today that make them unafraid to really torture their characters. But at the same time, what I love most about this era is that creators, on the whole, respect the creative lineage enough to make sure that how they piece their heroes back together absolutely earns them the way in which they broke them. Here’s hoping it keeps up.
The JENNY STRANGE package is graduating to the clean-ups phase. Digitally unsmudging my pigeon poo inks and random coffee stains now. And I mean that literally. Sure, I love comics, and I love art, and I love the creation of comic art… but I honestly doubt I will ever enjoy clean-ups. Coupla buddies once offered to shoot a video of my pencil-to-ink process (like them Gnomon cats, but with zero production value), and I knew these fuckers, y’know? And I knew they liked watching highway police chases and car crashes and train wrecks unfold on TV, y’know? So…ha ha ha! Rain check, you bastards.
So JENNY’s for Zuda, and that’s DC’s webcomic… ongoing contest… thing. I honestly still have no idea what to call it without having to say it’s a slush pile, but Zalben went with that on an episode of the now-defunct The Stack on Pulp Secret. The Zuda browser fills most of your screen with a landscape-orientated comic page. This was a challenge to me because up until now I’ve only been working on standard comic page/portrait orientation. Switching gears to landscape had me rethinking my panel design, sweet spot positioning, and pretty much the entire flow of the page itself.
The standard comic layout, given how I’ve gotten used to reading, allows for a simple Z-shaped flow to the reader’s eye; and this way, no one really has to worry about the last panel (bottom-right of a typical page) attracting too much attention as you read toward it, simply because it’s in the very bottom of the page and thus it is literally the last panel your eye travels to. Put simply, it is read last because it is seen last.
Now because comic pages are typically broken down in such a way that the last panel is usually either the “period” in that page’s sequential sentence, or the ellipses leading off to the next sequence of events (the next page), the intuitive positioning of the last panel is tantamount to the effective flow of a sequential page. And of course, better flow equals better comic… and that never hurts.
Which brings me to the tough part about the Zuda pages with their landscape orientation — Suppose your script calls for you to lay out the page into two rows of panels: a top row and a bottom row. Now let’s say there are three panels up top and two in the bottom, with the second bottom panel being the big plot event happening on the page. It’s problematic because said big-event panel is right underneath the build-up shots. Yes, I’m aware I could be bitching about a moot point, seeing as how most Zuda readers are probably “professional” comic readers and I’m just a jackass, but doesn’t it annoy you when you flip a page and your eye is accidentally drawn to the big twist/event right away, and so you feel you just got cheated out of what would have been a great build up?
And of course I’m aware that the Z flow still applies to the landscape orientation since it’s still western media, but I found the intricacies and challenges of the tilt to be fun and interesting to talk about, especially since, unlike the ever-dashing Derrick Fish, I have little to no experience with the strip format.
I’ll share some JENNY STRANGE pages in a coupla days as well as take a look at how some professionals play with the landscape orientation, and maybe then get told off on how I’m just talking out of my ass. Till then… keep ‘em warm, ladies.
One of the larger rooms in the Amor residence recently became available to me and my deceptively quiet lifestyle — I say this with a smile in my heart and a curse on my tongue because I am in fact an intense young man with big, big ideas and thus need to be so housed (Hehah! I’m back, fuckers!).
It’s taken a good week to achieve what I waaaaant to call a Semblance of Order? But let’s just say it’ll do for now. No, I am not building a fort around the desk… it’s just that the art books and some comics’ll have to be happy being piled up on the carpet until I can get a new shelf made. Or stolen. I know a guy who knows a guy. Maybe.
Work station’s set up smartly underneath air conditioner, sound blasters making the most of being cornered. Made sure she was settled in first so Ray Charles could keep me company as I migrated my shit. Somehow, “Georgia on My Mind” almost made it feel fun. Almost. Room’s got more windows, which is never a bad thing, seeing as how I’m spending more and more time indoors what with the projects piling up (Douche Alert!). Also not hurting me — the fact that the room is twice the size of the old one. Studio Hunger Pain was good to me… but this… I can get used to this. I also got stuck with a retardedly large bed. It’s pretty much a kingy — which is funny coz I am a tiny, tiny, unmarried boy — so there really isn’t a need for such generous beddage, unless the girlfriend finds a way to ninjarotically scale the balcony, which (and I shit you not) opens up to a pretty shallow view of the street.
So anyway yeah, as of this posting Fort Bastard is running at 90% capacity. The other 10% totally depends on whether or not the people who supposedly provide me with an internet service decide to help me out rather than just (a) reassure me with false hope; (b) continue giving me the runaround; or (c) hit on me. Apparently being a manchild with a semi-nasal baritone is shmexy. Who knew?
The transfer’s been generally good though. And I’m finally able to get caught up. The Euro comic thing is pretty much wrapped up, with some minor cleanups to take care of — cleavage enhancements and such. What. The Will Prince gig is steadily gaining some steam, with the page layouts all done and pretty much approved. But tomorrow I’m waking up, fixing up some coffee, and finishing JENNY STRANGE, god fucking damn it. Once and for all, period, end of discussion. Completely unhappy with the lag between the action sequence and the pitch’s denouement. We’ll see how it goes, I guess. And finally, Alex and I have landed this local gig where we design RPG-type creatures and all that fun stuff. I was a Magic: The Gathering nerd, so stuff like this is always good to unwind on. Doesn’t hurt that it pays, of course. Holla!
So yes… still busy. With the new studio, what I’ve found to be the biggest challenge is getting back into the right headspace of being relentlessly productive again. And yes, I know it’s really just a geographical change; but more often than not, are we not shaped by the spaces around us, after all? Finding that groove again though. It’s funny how, in freelance, you’re constantly thankful that you’re tired. But you keep moving, y’know? You pickaxe, claw, or tooth your way up that steep slope… but you keep moving. Don’t know if it was Bruce Lee or Spike Speagle, but hey… “Never stop moving. Remain in motion. Constant. Flowing. Think like fire. Be like water.”
Someone lent me Iron Fist trades.