Grinding It Out
Panel 2: Sheesh, it’s hard not to love this panel. If you thought that first panel had depth, then this panel is amazing. The texture and sense of depth literally extend all the way to the vanishing point on the horizon. Ryan has carefully dotted the scene with 4 figures that recede into the background, all at different sizes and point in space. There’s his set of hands, the seated figure to the right, a third figure, and then a fourth figure in the background. Ryan also shifts the camera angle drastically to his point of view to emphasize the point he’s making about what readers might be missing when alternate perspectives are used. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him use this camera angle, so we might be witnessing a first. It’s beautiful. It’s shots like these, illustrating thoughts like these, that have always made me think Ryan is the Scott McCloud of his generation. The ability to use comics in order to explain how comics function as an artistic medium is a rare niche that is fun and important.
Panel 3: Yet again, Ryan matches up the dialogue with the visual in perfect sync. As he pulls the camera angle out to provide a wider and more distant shot, the text suggests that by doing so, it helps the artist with introspection and self-analysis. Seeing the characters, literally and figuratively, in context with the surroundings of their life assists the creator and a prospective audience in understanding more about the person. It’s an attempt at a sort of self-imposed critical objectivity. One other thing I’ve really been noticing with this issue of ATOD is the way Ryan is managing word balloons. This one also has that trick lightning bolt effect, which zig-zags across the page. In addition to just being engaging visually, it gives the sense that the characters are moving from left to right, and pulls your eye from the visual over to the text. It’s a very subtle, but very nice and very effective bit of craftsmanship. You get the sense that every single pencil stroke is rendered with thought and purpose. These are thinking man’s comics.
Panel 4: Honestly, I haven’t been a huge fan of this textured background pattern that Ryan’s been using periodically. At first it seemed pretty simple to my eye and the crystalline texture left me questioning its presence. Despite that initial reaction, I find that I can always figure out a way to “make it work” in my mind when I stop to consider it, and perhaps that’s what Ryan has intended all along. Here, I feel like it’s an empty canvas that is more subscriptive than prescriptive. What I mean is that a prescriptive approach would be Ryan drawing something more specific that told his audience how to feel about this panel. Instead, the patterned texture is subscriptive, in that it allows the reader to bring their own sense of meaning to it. For me, I use that canvas to consider my own “flaws, habits, and what have you.” I populate it with my own meaning in that relatively empty space. It induces thought and creates a more interactive experience.