6.14.2011

Grinding It Out

And Then One Day #9: Page 22 (Elephant Eater): Panel 1: I’ve always tried to guess where Ryan was going to go next while waiting for a page, but he manages to stay one step ahead of me every time. When we first see Dr. Polkinhorn on campus in this first image, it becomes clear that he’s using a very sly transition to shift us from his own POV to that of the good doctor. By using the content of his email as a constant in our mind, our eyes are free to follow the shift from Ryan’s apartment as he crafts the email, all the way to Polkinhorn’s office as he subsequently reads it. It’s very clever, very subtle, and the type of thing you’d see Frank Miller do in The Dark Knight Returns or even Alan Moore in Watchmen. There are multiple instances in these revered 1986 works where a character will begin saying something on one page, and as you flip the page, you’re no longer seeing the character, but what they’re describing or alluding to, while their constant dialogue pulls you from one scene to the next. Did I just compare Ryan to old Frank Miller or pre-loony Alan Moore? Hey, I grew up reading DC superhero comics, what can I say? It’s part of my lexicon.

Panel 2: This is another one of those panels, like we saw on the previous page, where Ryan is creating synchronicity between what we’re seeing and what we’re hearing, so that there’s a tertiary layer of meaning being conveyed to the reader. There’s what we see, what we read, and then our interpretation of the blending of the two. The text makes a point about autobiography being an exploratory and interactive experience, regardless of whether or not the creator’s slant is to present truth or fact, or to even distance themselves from the content displayed. At the same time we’re processing that, Ryan has removed himself from the proceedings and firmly shifted the POV to Polkinhorn, an act of deliberate distancing. I’ll just say that it takes a pretty confident storyteller to no longer be preoccupied with the mere composition of images or function of the dialogue, but to then begin manipulating our perceptions to make a point.

Panel 3: I don’t necessarily feel like there’s a whole lot going on in this panel, other than continuing the shift we’ve been describing. From a purely technical standpoint, I do like the way that Ryan has created texture on the wood door. It looks grainy and just right, the “busy” nature of the background makes the clean sharp hand in the foreground “pop” against the contrasting texture.

Panel 4-5: Toward the end of this page, I honestly started to look back and feel like we’ve been digesting a significant amount of text. That said, I was glad to see Ryan wrap up his email in the final panel because I think if he’d gone on for another page it would probably be too much and the text would start to feel dense as it’s taking up nearly half of the page real estate. However, I realize that there’s a possibility now that Dr. Polkinhorn will respond to his email. I think that’s a safe play though, because even if he does, it will change the speaker and really shift the POV even further away from a staunchly autobiographical perspective, so it’ll be different and interesting even if there are similarities. Clear as mud? But hey, who knows if that’s where Ryan will go as he starts to wrap up this issue. At the technical level, I do enjoy how Ryan has swung the camera around behind Polkinhorn so we can read the tail end of Ryan’s email over his shoulder.

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