Monday, December 7, 2015

Multi-paneling in 300

Almost everyone has seen or heard of the gory, brutal (and incredibly blue screened) film 300. It is particularly famous for its slow motion sequences, gory deaths, and of course, for kicking people into massive pits. But how would the slow motion fighting that we associate 300 with be achieved in comic form? The answer lies in large amounts of small panels that occur over top of a larger spread, as seen in the image below. Columns that feature a large amounts of smaller panels makes the reader read faster and makes the events occurring in the panels seem more drawn out as more panels are spent detailing the occurrence. In the image below, the large page spread depicts the Spartans battling  from a larger perspective, while the small panels super imposed at the bottom detail the same battle but on a more personal level. There are 3 panels at the bottom that depict one of the enemy soldiers being killed, and with so many panels being used to show one small event, it makes the event seem more drawn out and is very similar to the slow motion effects seen in the 300 movies.

-James Holland


Dealings in the Dark: Color and Narrative

Color is something that is often overlooked in comics, it is something that readers don't pay particular attention too. To them, color is as natural in a comic as it is in a movie or TV show. More often then not subtle color changes can be contribute significantly to the narrative of the comic in question. The two images below are taken from Darth Vader #12 and features Vader meeting with his associate Aphra. Aphra, who is introduced in issue #4, could be considered Vader's private investigator with regards to finding information about Luke Skywalker, Vader's son. In this instance, Aphra and Vader meet in a dark cave and discuss the tense employee/employer relationship. In the 4th panel in the image on the right, we see Aphra's features darken so that she is barely recognizable, the same can be said for Vader of the opposing page (but he has such a recognizable silhouette readers wound instantly him). The reason the are meeting in the dark on a faraway planet, is that Vader does not want his superiors to know about his dealings with Aphra, and the color change contributes to this notion of secrecy. We see a return to the normal color palate in the 5th and 6th panels on the second image. This is interesting to note because this takes place immediately after Aphra and Vader strike a new deal. There is no more need for secrecy now that the deed has been done, and the cartoonist returns to the original color scheme to suggest that the need for hidden faces (or masks in Vader's case) is no longer necessary.

-James Holland

Darth Vader - November 2015
Darth Vader - November 2015

Silent Audio in Darth Vader

With the 'Force Awakens' just around the corner, I picked up Marvels 'Darth Vader' series in order to re-familiarize myself with the Star Wars universe. What was most fascinating while reading Darth Vader is how the cartoonist is able to create sound in comics. The following images are taken from issue #6 and occur immediately after Darth Vader discovers he has a son. In this first image, there is
very little speech being utilized with the exception of the two in panels 2 and 4, aside from these the entire page is completely void of anything denoting sound. However, the third panel features a single crack in the glass, and despite the lack of a sound effect, you can imagine the sound of the glass cracking. This is achieved by the cartoonist limiting the amount of 'audio' used on this page. When readers reach panel 3 and see the lack of audio effects, they still associate the image with the sound of glass breaking. If any other 'audio effects' were present in panel 3, the 'silent crack' would not be as prominent as it is because the readers would be distracted by the other sounds. By makign an entire page silent, as seen in the image on the right, readers fill in this silence by association. For example, the cracking of glass is seen again in the second image, but readers might also hear the hissing of the smoke as pipes shatter and break before the power of the force. Again, we see a lack of audio effects with the exception of the speech bubble.  There is smoke, cracks in the glass, and small bends in the metal floor, and interestingly enough there are a lack of sound effects here, yet readers can still hear the hissing of the smoke and the screams of the metal being bent by the force and most importantly, Darth Vader's ominous, robotic, breathing.

-James Holland


The Beauty Supply District-- Panel & Artist Line

In the University of Windsor’s Leddy Library I found a graphic novel called “The Beauty Supply District” by Ben Katchor. To be completely honest I chose it because the book was a very interesting shape, very rectangular and quite large. This comic was much different than the other ones I chose. The graphic novel was extremely simple, coloured in all black and white, with a very raw artist line. You could not exactly call the graphic novel creative as it followed very traditional elements of comic theory. What was especially interesting to me was the use of panels on a page. It followed through with the notion of being “simple.” Through the entire story the same pattern and organization of panels was used. There continually were about eight panels on the page organized into two lines of four panels. There is not a page that doesn’t follow this pattern. According to Duncan and Smith “readers also engage in a sort of closure among the panels on a particular page, considering them in relation to the totality of the page. Each panel is both an element of encapsulated action (perceived as time) and an element in the design of the page layout (perceived as space)” (167). By taking the page layout in as a whole and being able to experience the similarity of panels on the page and throughout the entire work it creates a sort of narrative understanding where you know what to expect. The simple design of the comic as well as simple panel structure puts the reader in a different frame of mind while reading. Another element to look at is the use of artist line. Just by looking at a single frame of Ben Katchor’s comics you can immediately tell it is his work. He has a very defined line that is hard to mistake. As McCloud touches on, the drawing style and line is a way in which the style can create mood and meaning and the way it is associated with different artists, just from the drawing. He uses a lot of shading that looks like it is a water painting and a very fine line to outline characters. This technique when used on people’s faces creates a different outlook on their personalities and the reader unconsciously perceives how they interact with other characters in the narrative.

Teaching an Old Bat New Tricks about Comics

Writer: Paul Pope
Colourist: Jose Villarrubia
Publisher: DC 

Post by Jamie Adam

When you imagine comics, what do you think of? Thierry Groensteen argues, in his book System of Comics, that most people envision panels on a page. However, there is a crucial element frequently overlooked in this conception—the gutters. The imagined panels could not exist if there were no gutters, also known as the space between panels. This crucial space often goes unnoticed, so this post will shed some light on the function of the margins and gutters of a comics page.

Working from the outside in, the margins are usually comprised of the white space surrounding the page. Groensteen argues that the dimensions of a margin affects a reader’s perception of the page, as well as enhance the contents of the page (31). 

Moreover, when panels are lined up evenly, they form a border, or a frame, so Groensteen calls this effect the hyperframe. Groensteen writes, “the hyperframe separates the useable surface of the page from its peripheral zone, or margin” (Groensteen 31). He also says that “the hyperframe is to the page what the frame is to the panel” (31), but with one crucial difference—usually the hyperframe is intermittent. Again, the hyperframe is the space around the edge of the panels; it can be thought of as the inside border of the margin. Further, there are gaps in the hyperframe where the gutters between panels lie, making the hyperframe more conceptual than physical, as it is not a solid line, nor really an intentional element. 

So now that you know what the margin is, what the hyperframe is, and what gutters are, let’s look at an atypical example from Batman Year 100 to see how these aspects work in tandem to affect the reading of a comic.

Here’s page 169:

Now, the border you see is added automatically when uploading a photo to the blog--the panels go right to the edge of the page in the book. It’s a subtle fact that you probably wouldn’t have noticed were we not discussing margins. So what effect does this have? Subconsciously, the reader takes note that there is so much action that it cannot be contained by traditional paneling, but goes right to the edge of the page on every side. Now look at the gutters—they’re not white. They’re a very light brown or beige. This lends the story a somewhat dirty, grimy feel. Think about the impact this scene would have if it had crisp, white margins and gutters. Not the same, is it? A one final point: if there are no margins, where’s the hyperframe in this example? I’ll tell you—it’s the outside edges of the page. Even if there are no margins, the hyperframe still exists.

Maybe now the gutters, margins, and hyperframe will get the recognition they deserve when thinking about and reading comics.

-Jamie Adam

Movement in The Killing Joke

The Killing Joke is an origin story for the famously known Batman villain, the Joker. The story follows the clown in a pre-Joker era, where he is a family man attempting to make ends meet. He then begins to roll with the wrong crowd in a desperate attempt for money and tries to break into the chemical plant he used to work at. A confrontation with police officers ensue, to which the man panics and runs, falling into toxic waste just inches before Batman is able to catch him.
Movement throughout The Killing Joke, according to Wolk, movement of a comic in general is strongly in one direction, panel to panel flow—but not exclusively. When this flow is interrupted, however, the effect it has on the comic as a whole is that it makes readers pause to take in the shift/change of flow. This can be done, as it is in the above two page spread, with placements of character in panel space. It is evident that Batman is interrupting the flow of comics temporarily to prevent the would-be Joker from falling into the toxic waste. The irony of this is that Batman is usually the one trying to prevent Joker from causing mayhem in Gotham, thus creating another layer of meaning in the placement of characters in this space. Furthermore, Moore and Bolland’s choice of doing this creates another added tension in the sequence, and as Hatfield would describe, comics is the art of tensions. 
- Alyssa Litynesky

Speech Bubble and Caption Boxes in The Mighty Thor #1

The Mighty Thor by Jason Aaron, Russel Dauterman, Matthew Wilson and Joe Sabino, was recently released with a new #1. Sabino, the letterer for Thor,  usese various techniques that aide the reader in making meaning. When you look at his caption boxes, they all have a particular shape and lettering. The boxes each have a curling tail, which combined with the stylized script, gives it the overall appearance of an old scroll. These elements are what Gene Krannenburg calls an meta-narrative qualities. Meta-narrative gives the reader information about the text, in this case it is a connection to the mythological aspects of the comic. There is also what Gerard Genette would call an intertextual aspect to these text boxes. Intertextuality is the connection a text makes to other texts. In this case, the lettering used in these text boxes it the same lettering that was used in the previous incarnation of Thor (Thor: God of Thunder). The lettering therefore contextualizes the comic, placing the now female version of the character in the same world as the previous male incarnation.

       Sabino used similar techniques in his speech bubbles. Most prominently, is when Jane Foster transforms into Thor. With this transformation, the lettering of Foster’s speech bubbles change from the generic comic lettering, to the more ornate lettering that is found in the caption boxes and the speech bubbles of Asgardian’s.  This change in lettering serves several functions. First, it contextualizes by allowing the reader to easily recognize her as fundamentally changed, she is now closer to an Asgardian than a mortal, with all the same powers. It also helps the reader understand that she sounds different, which, when coupled with the complete change in speech patterns, allows the reader to more easily suspend there disbelief and accept that no one recognizes her when she transforms. Finally, there is a thematic resonance in the change in lettering. In this first issue, Foster is shown to contemplate why she decides to change back. She explains that her job as Jane Foster is just as important, despite the fact that the transformations are negating the cancer treatments. However, the fact that when she transforms, the lettering changes to match the lettering of the captions, which are narration told in 1st person from Foster’s perspective, could suggest a continuing struggle between her dual-identities and the choices she will have to make in regards to it. These functions demonstrate how Sabino uses lettering to give information beyond simply what the characters are saying.

Nathanya Barnett