Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Uniquely Comics, part two: The Page as a Whole

An unique aspect of the comics medium is its ability to portray multiple moments in time simultaneously. (Yes, Scott McCloud pointed this out before I did.) Each panel portrays an individual, frozen moment. And when the viewer reads from one panel to the next, his imagination fills in the spaces to create the story. However, before the reader focuses in on the individual panels, he first sees the page as a whole—an entire composition, in which the past, present, and future exist concurrently. (As such, the comics page shows some alignment with Albert Einstein's interpretation of time—and the way in which Dr. Manhattan experiences reality.)

I am a fan of using the entire page as a carefully-conceived, unified composition. One can do this within the standard panel grid—or go “off the grid” and create one's own unique structure and flow.

Will Eisner is a grand maestro of full-page compositions; here is one of countless examples (this one from the Femme Fatales collection from DC):

Some mind-bending page compositions occur in Saga of the Swamp Thing. Below is one from issue #34 “Rite of Spring”--sometimes referred to as "the vegetable sex story." Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Steve Bissette and John Totleben, colored by Tatjana Wood, reprinted in Saga of the Swamp Thing Book Two: Love and Death:

Gary Panter's packed full-page compositions in Jimbo's Adventures in Paradise were an influence upon me...

...when I set out to draw A Humble Joy. And I consider this guinea pig epic to have been a sort of breakthrough success for me; the art show that accompanied its release may have been my fifteen minutes of fame!

The Spirit page is copyrighted to Eisner studios; the Jimbo page is copyrighted to Gary Panter; and the Swamp-Thing pages are copyrighted to DC comics. Low-resolution reproductions are used here for archival and educational purposes only.

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