Grinding It Out

And Then One Day #9: Page 20 (Elephant Eater): Panel 1: Oh, I like this page a lot. This first panel places the audience atop Ryan’s shoulder so that we grasp his POV as he composes his email to Dr. Pokinhorn. The angle is unique and the shot has a slight fisheye effect to it (convex? concave? I’ve always confused those two…) that I think is meant to emphasize his POV and our very close proximity to the screen. I’ll age myself here, but if this were done in color, I’d expect Ryan to make his flashing cursor and the text that cruddy old Apple IIe green so that it would look like he was Doogie Howser, M.D. typing away at the end of an episode.

Panel 2: There are a couple of reasons I likes this tight zoom shot of Ryan’s mug. First, it is an extreme close-up, and for as much as I go on and on about Ryan working at a smaller figure scale, I like the fact that he’s willing to work in the opposite direction. I don’t think I’ve seen him work at this close a range before. This close-up emphasizes the focus he’s demonstrating and underscores the fact that he has been thinking hard on the subject he’s describing to Polkinhorn. Lastly, this panel is a great example of how to balance a page across the diagonal axis. The weight of this face is balance by the size and density of the furniture and household objects in panel 3.

Panel 3: In addition to the balancing nature of this panel with the previous, I also think it’s nice to see Ryan change up the lettering to mimic the font he’s typing with. I can’t tell from the fuzzy resolution on my screen at work if that lettering is actually computer generated or if he hand-lettered a font that merely mimic’s what’s in his email application. Knowing Ryan, I’d say he probably hand-lettered it to ape the automated style. This angle in Ryan’s apartment is also pretty fun, a reverse of all we’ve seen before, which reveals the archway in the background and some of his furniture. It gives the space life. I think lesser artists would probably zoom tighter on the protagonist or offer up a camera position that took a more “square” approach to the shot. Ryan skews the camera sideways and, as we’ve come to learn, isn’t one to skimp on background detail or a sense of depth.

Panel 4: It’d be easy to understand why this panel will be some people’s favorite. Ryan pokes fun at some of the feedback he must have received in the past from family, friends, and audience members. It is definitely a funny moment the way that he nails the tone, visually with his hands splayed the way they are, and also with a visual cue to the tone of his speech, with the musical notes delivering a sing-song quality to his dialogue. While all of that delights the funny bone, I actually like this panel for a more cerebral reason. It’s intellectually honest. It would have been easier not to proactively address this type of feedback, but since Ryan is more interested in giving a fair and balanced examination of autobiography and the component of ego involved, he includes it. You know what it’s called when you do the right thing, even if it’s not the easy thing? Integrity.

Panel 5: This panel works in a way that isn’t as flamboyant artistically as the couple that have preceded it. The look Ryan has on his face is more contemplative, as if he’s really considering the way that those accusations have made him recoil and as if he’s thinking through what he wants to say next and anticipating (hoping?) that Polkinhorn will have some words of wisdom to share about his query. One other stray observation I have is that when Ryan depicts the lines that he’s typing, they’re done without speech balloon borders, as free floating text that is superimposed on the pictures, almost as if it appears out of the ether or as if it’s being read aloud to us by an omniscient third party narrator, or, better yet, as if we’re listening voyeuristically inside Ryan’s mind as he speaks the words to himself while simultaneously typing them.


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