Grinding It Out

And Then One Day #9: Page 8 (Elephant Eater): Panel 1-3: This top tier of panels shows good artistic variation of the body language in what is essentially a talking heads sequence. The straightforward pencils allow us to focus on the actual ideological dynamic being discussed, and it’s a fairly significant one. For years, and certainly during the course of this book already, Ryan has been making the point that autobiography lies on a continuum of truth and fiction, with various factors pushing any given work toward one of the opposing poles on the spectrum. Here, via his conversation with Dr. Polkinhorn, we also learn that even the external critical view isn’t entirely objective. The critic himself brings in their own biases, consciously or otherwise, when they begin to appraise a given work. This is a fascinating area of conversation, because I think that grounded consumers must take this into account when they read critical reviews of pop culture. What is the relationship of the reviewer to the piece of work, to the artist, what personality traits do their demographic, general lifestyle, individual tastes, and range of experiences bring to the critical discourse? But, I digress.

Panel 4: Here we are again with this small scale figure work, where Ryan pulls the camera back. It’s an approach that has quickly become my new favorite scale that he works at in recent memory. The line weight of the two primary figures draws your eye right to them amid the other scattered figures in the panel. The intricate lines of the tree, the grass, and the walkway are all reminders of the amazing transformation taking place. If you look at Ryan’s work from, say, 3 or 4 years ago, it was good, but it just didn’t have this level of detail and fully rendered environments inhabiting the panels. It’s really exciting to see the continual evolution of the artist. There’s a rise in the level of technical ability and confidence taking place that you don’t often see so clearly in more mainstream offerings.

Panel 5: The camera pans around and zooms in a little tighter here, which really punches up the point that Polkinhorn is making, about external factors influencing the objectivity of the information being relayed in any medium. One of my favorite dialogue bits is how Ryan has transcribed the conversations with Polkinhorn exactly as they occurred, so that natural pauses and stammers remain in the final text. Things like a stray “um” or “uh,” or here the way Polkinhorn catches himself and calls into question “the fact,” play like the work of popular comics scribes Bendis or Brubaker, who were influenced by screenwriters like Aaron Sorkin and David Mamet. The ultimate effect is that the dialogue sounds absolutely realistic to our ear.


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