5.17.2011

Grinding It Out

And Then One Day #9: Page 18 (Elephant Eater): Panel 1, 2, 3, 4: Did you ever hear film critic Roger Ebert say that “a good movie is not about what it’s about, but about *how* it’s about what it’s about?” Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking about right now. This page is a prime example of this phenomenon. If you just coldly explain to someone what this page is about, all it really amounts to is “Ryan wakes up.” But when you critically look at how he relays that information visually, how it’s compressed into so few panels, how he controls the passage of time, how the panel transitions link from one to the next, it’s a pretty impressive display of artistry that's more about the “how” that’s happening than the “what” that’s happening. In the night sequences, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ryan ink this dark before and it’s a treat to see his ability with shadows, negative space, silhouettes, and light-sourcing. It’s kind of cracking me up, but you could probably go back through the review archives and count the numerous times during this issue I’ve said “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ryan do BLANK like this before…” In addition to the smaller figure scale that I’ve been enjoying so much, I love how this panoramic widescreen shot is divided into four panels visually and then broken down a step further between day and night. The panel(s) control your eye, they control the passage of time, and guide you through a sequence that relays a lot of information without any dialogue. Sheesh. This is absolutely Grade A+ work, on par with someone like Frank Miller, and I’m talking old Daredevil and Batman Frank Miller, not that drunken buffoon I saw a couple of years ago at the Eisner Awards that’s been schlocking out movies.

Panel 5: What’s cool about this panel is not only that is appeals to the voyeur in me as we peek through Ryan’s bedroom window as he slumbers, but that the way the shot is framed allows us to know exactly where we’re at outside. The window is set in between the large palm tree to the left and another tree to the right, so we’re sure that we’ve zoomed into the right side of the building, probably to the 3rd floor. It’s just so… precise and well thought out. Nothing is left to chance, it’s an exact recreation of events, which brings us back to the core premise of this issue (the entire series really) of examining the relationship of autobiographical content to the influence of the “teller” of the information and where it lies on the truth vs. fiction continuum.

Panel 6: As astounding as the first sequence is, this is probably my favorite single panel on this page, for two very different reasons. One, it’s placed in the center of the page so that your eye really settles there first. It’s fitting because this is the “money shot” of Ryan waking up, which is the primary narrative element of the entire page. You can look at this one single panel (though why would you want to ignore everything else?) and be informed about everything you need to know to understand the story. The second reason I love it is because it’s an angle we’ve never seen before, shooting the figure laying down from an interesting angle, and we get to see Ryan’s bed-head, his visage without glasses, his squinty eyes as he wakes, and the wonderful “blink blink” bubbly-pop that perfectly captures the begrudging ennui of waking up. If you’re anything like me (read: not a morning person), then you can certainly identify with this effect.

Panel 7: Ryan swings the camera around the room and captures himself from the opposite angle, and through the process of closure, we grasp that he’s sat up and is pulling his t-shirt down over his head. There’s nothing extremely notable here; it’s drawn well and I like the way that he’s not afraid to tackle odd poses and motions. I mean, how many artists can draw someone pulling a t-shirt over their head convincingly? Not to denigrate another genre or anything, but I think this pose is much harder than drawing a muscle bound Superman posing over some banged up robots or whatever. This is real life, people, and basic anatomical figure drawing is becoming more and more of a lost art.

Panel 8, 9, 10: I like the quiet nature of this morning routine, it really nails the mood that we’ve all experienced. Ryan is dutifully going about his morning, still half asleep, hair still all jacked up, and pouring that cereal. Maybe it’s a little odd that the cereal box doesn’t have any product information on it since Ryan has been so absolutely generous with detail, but I’m totally nitpicking here. If nothing else, he missed out on a great product placement opportunity! Sell that ad space to Cheerios or Fruity Booty or “13 Min-Oats” or whatever! The last panel is a great little zoom shot as Ryan fires up his computer. I really enjoy the embedded sound effects and the fact that you can hear the “WHIRRRRR” of the disc drive really lets you know how quiet this entire scene has been.

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