2.08.2011

Grinding It Out


And Then One Day #9: Page 6 (Elephant Eater): Panel 1: This panel is extremely balanced and has quite a few specific touches that I appreciate. Let’s talk about the balance. Ryan frames this shot around the clock tower on campus that’s in the background. The tails of both word balloons curve their way around it, and the larger of the two balloons sits up top, so it corrals your focus in the center of the page. Because the clock tower is in the background, once your eye is focused there, it also pulls you deep into the panel. You can almost feel it pulling you in if you stop and linger on it. I feel like you sort of lunge forward, in and down, toward the two figures walking and talking. That’s the first impression, a lot of control, mastery of guiding the reader’s eye around the page. One of the touches that I first noticed was the line weight of the lamp post in the immediate foreground. In recent conversations with Ryan, I’ve heard him mention variable line weight as one of those go-to tools to achieve depth. It’s a great technique to master, yet you’d be surprised how often it’s lacking in a lot of “professional” comic art. It’s extremely thick on the lamp post and it seems Kirby-esque to my eye, like it makes the image pop out from the panel’s 2D plane. The underbellies of the clouds have texture, the stone walkway is beautifully imperfect, and for some reason I just really like that drinking cup with the straw sticking out of it. This panel is all about depth, texture, and an impressive sense of environment.

Panel 2: In this tighter shot, I find myself focusing more on the dialogue than the construction of the panel. I like that as Ryan and Professor Polkinhorn discuss a “pulled-back” camera shot in the first panel, that’s what the reader experiences, and as they continue their conversation to discuss the illusion of the objectivity that creates, it goes away and is the exact opposite in this panel. I think one of the key words they’re talking around here is “context.” With the pulled back camera shot, there’s more environment readily apparent, which adds context to the proceedings, which in turn may add greater objectivity to the information being presented. When the shot is extremely close up, you lose context, and can even lose any semblance of meaning for that panel if it’s too tight of a zoom. Anyway. This is going to be nitpicky as hell, but let’s talk about the informal colloquial substitution for the word “yes” that’s being used. In most of Ryan’s work he uses the “yah” variant, which is completely acceptable and correct grammatically. You can argue word derivation back and forth from upper-class British, to Egyptian, to Hebrew syllables for Yahweh, and inherent subtleties in meaning, but me? I always prefer “yeah” as my go-to substitution. To my ear, “yah” sounds more like “yaw,” so I shy away from it because when I see it, it pushes me out. I want to reiterate that this is totally personal preference and either is grammatically correct, it’s just my weird sensibility. Let’s move on, shall we?

Panel 3: It’s a tighter zoom here that fits in tonally with the discussion, and once again we see the “controversial(!)” crystalline background pattern technique adorning the top. But, more than anything I want to discuss Polkinhorn’s point. This gets back to one of the original philosophical underpinnings of the conversation – that the way information is presented is on a continuum. The fact that the shot, any shot, appears in a comic book, means that it is an illusion. It may be a relatively accurate illusion or an intentionally misleading illusion, but it’s an illusion all the same. It ties back to one of Ryan’s own Graduate Thesis investigations about the nature of autobiography, in that it is probably some mixture of truth and fiction, presented by the narrator with certain inherent characteristics that may be more or less truthful depending on a wide variety of factors that affect its presentation. Bottom line, another great page from another great book.

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