Friday, December 01, 2006

The things comics can do

Sure, you all know that I love 2000 AD, but I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that I'm obsessed with comics as a medium. I can't easily say why this is. I'm sure it's a mixture of nature (my father has always been a fan), nurture (exposure to comics at a suitably young age), and the fact that comics are inherently cool. There are plenty of things to say about why comics are great, but I'm not up for that today. Instead, I'm going to share a few examples of what comics can do that other media can't - or at least, can't do as elegantly. I expect they're also the sorts of things that annoy non-comics readers. You know, the ones who simply can't read the things because they 'don't know whether to read the words or look at the pictures first', despite having no difficulty with newspaper strips and political cartoons (which I also love, by the way).

Without further ado, some examples - all from the galaxy's greatest, of course

First up, the inset panel.

A staple of exposition in the comics world, it simply says - here, this is the important part of the picture. I always get a kick out of these, especially the ones with a neatly drawn border.

Rarer, but equally satisfying, the montage.

Films do montage as well, but they've become beyond cliche at this point. It's always fun to see the passage of time in a single panel. Ezquerra is very good at these; I imagine many other artists aren't.

Sound effects.
Again, film is much better at this, what with having actual sound. But a well-drawn sound enhances a panel no end. This example also features a well-lettered speech balloon. It allows you to read in dramatic pauses without looking stilted, since we're not being directed on how to read it by use of punctuation.

Aural jokes.
Obviously a book could do this, too. To my mind, it would require a little more explanation to work, and have less impact. I feel that quotation marks in prose don't have the same impact as a speech balloon for driving home the idea that people in books hear speech rather than reading them.

The floating heads panel. Now, the Iliad is a great saga, but Book 2 is boring as anything because it's simply a long list of all the people involved. If it was done as a comic (a long held ambition of mine), that necessary piece of exposition could be knocked off quickly a little like this:

And here's a bit of atmosphere that doesn;t need any spelling out. I grant you, every comic since the days of digital colouring has plenty of atmosphere to it, but some artists try harder than others to produce a more potent effect. Frazer Irving is very much one of those.

And that's that for now.


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