Grinding It Out

And Then One Day #9: Page 4 (Elephant Eater): Panel 1: It seems like this shot is zoomed in a little tighter than usual. I’m not sure if that’s just my faulty perception or perhaps an intentional move on Ryan’s part to emphasize the personal opinion he’s stating here. I do like simple little details like the fact that Ryan’s eyes are looking to his right, our left, to indicate that Polkinhorn is on that side. It shows the care and thought that Ryan uses to stage his shots.

Panel 2: I don’t have a whole lot to comment on here in this panel, it’s simply a continuation of movement and dialogue in between the first panel and the sequence of the next couple of panels. Sometimes this happens in talking heads sequences. I almost feel it’s a bit of a stall panel so that…

Panel 3: There’s something really nice happening on this page and this is the first panel I noticed it with. The page is incredibly well balanced visually, and I think this reveals Ryan’s graphic design sensibility. In Panel 3 and Panel 4, Ryan’s figure on the page is closest to the panel gutter, while the speech balloons push out to the edge of the page, creating symmetrical reflections of each other. When you pull back and look at the whole, this happens dead center on the page. The following panels in the bottom row are also balanced visually, white space to the sides, a splash of dark ink in the center. It really lends a sense of center and focus, anchoring the reader’s eye.

Panel 4: I like something here, and I’ve been noticing this more and more in Ryan’s work. He says “Like, I…” “I think you can tell…” and this is actually a pretty brave choice. It seems like nothing when you gloss over it, but usually creators who are new to the medium will try to make their verbiage very pristine. Creators who know their stuff, and I’d count Ryan in this group, will trust in the fact that real speech is chock full of imperfection. It might not look appealing on the page or sound great in a cold script, but when you read it aloud and the audience takes it in, it brings a level of warm authenticity that perfect diction and phrasing simply don’t. This is the right choice. He even punctuates it by separating the stutter/stammer/pause into a separate little balloon.

Panel 5: Now this sequence from Panel 5 to Panel 7 really is something special. Very rarely have I seen Ryan consciously change up his art style this deliberately and this drastically. The meek figure here is thin and anemic, the wavy background lines almost force your eye to squint in reaction, and the combination gives the impression that this weak little person will just fade away into his surroundings. He tells us everything we need to know about the little guy, he tells us a story visually.

Panel 6: This version is happy, go-lucky, bold, and on the move. The heavy ink framing the figure punches up the effect with a quick, simple flair. You don’t usually find Ryan applying this much ink, particularly on a background, so it always catches my eye when he does.

Panel 7: This is really the money shot. Here’s Ryan doing the jittery, sweaty, socially inept recluse. Yeah. It’s Ryan doing Robert Crumb and it’s pretty damn good. The hunched shoulders, the stubbly facial hair, the exaggerated receding hairline, the wrinkles in the shirt, the knobby elbows, the wonky lettering, the imprecision of the circular background, and even the wavy line of the speech balloon sells the tone, and sells it hard. It’s impressive, and it would certainly be homage, but I could probably read a whole comic in this tone/style.


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