15 hours ago
Friday, September 5, 2008
The Power of the Individual Panel
Cubofuturist interpretation of Durer's "Ascent of Venus" from Damn Weird #23, 2006.
Border & lettering is by Maximum Traffic.
Before we had the terms "Sequential Art" and "Graphic Storytelling," the pretentious name for comics was the advertising term, "Continuity Illustration." It's a horrible phrase, really, because it completely ignores the role of writing in comics. It diminishes the drawing too, since illustration is always subordinate to whatever it's supposed to illustrate. That said, I think this term needs to be brought back to our attention. "Sequential Art" emphasizes the sequence of images and leads us to think about the cinematic quality of comics. "Graphic Storytelling" stresses the rhythm and timing involved in the successful telling of a story. "Continuity Illustration" reminds us that a comic is also a linked series of individual pictures.
A germ carnival from "God Bless You," 1995
Since the underground comics faded in the late 70s, there's been a trend in the comics intelligentsia, such as it is, to view comic panels as visual syntagms or ciphers. It doesn't matter how they look. It only matters how they function. This view is supported by the fact that the good drawing found in commercial comics too often serves hackneyed stories. And it 's considered good drawing mostly because it's correct, not because it's creative, much less visionary. Although brilliant visual art has always thrived among indie comics, I see it consistently marginalized in the critical conversation. Maybe that's because writers find it easier to write about writing.
Universal language wars from "Volapuk," 1990
Personally, I love it when a carefully crafted comic panel makes me want to stop and study its effects. As a seasoned comic reader, I can hold the pacing in my head and read at any tempo I please. In my own work, I've sometimes spent up to two weeks working on a single panel-- designing it, revising it, packing it with ideas. You may think I'm wasting time but I believe I'm saving paper.
Pro Wrestlers on a scaffold from "Steel Pulse" #4, 1989.
So I'm launching this here thread where I'll occasionally post comic panels I'm particularly proud of to see if they can stand alone.