Oct 19, 2012

HOW TO: Comic Book Storytelling: Pt1 Relating Panels.

Have you ever heard a comic fan say something along the lines of, "I don't mind if the art is bad, as long as the story is good"? I've heard this claim a lot of times, and it frustrates me a bit. I think that it shows a misunderstanding of how comics actually work.

Ugh. I still hate looking at this page.
The idea that you can separate the art from the story itself is a misconception. It's understandable. As readers people are taught to accept the idea that the 'prose' part of a story is the story. But that's not strictly true. There's a big difference between the plot and the dialogue and the story as a whole.

A brilliant idea in a prose story that's badly described, is a bad story. The same is true in comics. the difference is that in comics the story is described by pictoral art and prose working together, not just by prose. A well written script can be destroyed by badly drawn art that doesn't convey what the script is trying to get across. Likewise a mediocre script can be propelled into a much higher status by really good art.

Today I thought we'd take a look an example of comic book storytelling done very poorly, and how it can affect the quality of the story as a whole -- how a badly laid out page can damage what a writer is trying to say. To be fair to other artists out there, and to give me an excuse to redraw a page I'm not happy with, how about we use a page from my own comic as an example? You might want to open that page in another window or another tab so you can refer back to the image more easily as we go through.

Oct 16, 2012

Doak and Clagger

Hey, remember when I Spider-Mannotated Nick Spencer and Emma Rios' Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger, which ends with the titular duo swapping powers?  And I exhorted the teeming masses out there to tell me when this had happened before?  Well, you guys didn't.  Nice going.  So I did a little digging myself.  And sometimes when you dig, you strike oil.  But other times, you strike a gas main and you explode and die.

This is one of those times.

"Everything You Know Is Wrong" issues - unless written by Alan Moore, AVOID.
(art by Mark Bagley and Jackson Guice)

Oct 15, 2012

Transformers, Time Travel and Non-Linear Comics.

 ...And that's why I really didn't enjoy Transformers: Robots in Disguise #10.

Cover by Casey Coller
But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I? Maybe we should start at the start.

Comics are, by their very nature, a non-linear experience. I know, this seems silly to say... don't you read them through in a completely linear fashion? Don't you start at panel A, read left to right, down to panel F, then start again on the next page? Maybe... but because comics are a physical object you interact with, the reader can turn back and forth in the comic... skip parts, move around at his leisure, and just generally read things out of order if the reader so chooses.

You've never done that? You've never read a comic for the second of third time and decided to read the good bits first then go back and fill in the other bits later? Well I certainly have. Comics and other interactive media offer that kind of reading experience (a movie shown in a cinema, a play, an opera, a concert, these sorts of things are completely unchangingly linear). So it's not surprising that a lot of writers over the years have experimented with creating comics that are meant to be read in a non-linear fashion.

Comics that take advantage of the fact that the reader can turn back and forth and move in and out of the page as he so chooses in comics.

Comics like Transformers: Robots in Disguise #10.

Oct 14, 2012

Sal's Sunday Punch #21

Today's Sunday Punch comes from the dynamite duo of Sal Buscema and J.M. DeMatteis, who teamed for a memorable run on Spectacular Spider-Man in the early '90s - but this comes from almost a decade earlier, in 1983's Marvel Team-Up #133!

Reed Richards has had a bad day.  After fighting the Everyman, a populist super villain who was also Larry Ekler, the son of one of Reed's old friends, he traced Larry back to the Fennhoff Institute.  Once he arrived there with Spider-Man, he found the Thing, the Human Torch, the Invisible Girl, and even his own son, Franklin, physically and mentally broken by the Institute's director - the sinister psychologist Doctor Faustus!  He's trying to drive Reed mad - the FF and Franklin were androids, and Spider-Man a henchman in a Halloween costume.  Of course, the doctor isn't entirely all there himself, given that he spends the entire issue being yelled at by his dead mother.  Reed's a little better at determining fantasy from reality...

The puncher lecturing the punchee seems to be a recurring theme here.

Oct 10, 2012

Spider-Man's Greatest Villains #130-121

Not to be confused with Spider-Man: The Parkour Years, which chronicles all those times he fought Screwball.
(Spider-Man: The Parker Years, art by John Romita Jr.)

Spider-Man may soon be Superior, but for now, take a look at ten more of his superior rogues gallery!  And for every villain we've covered so far, check out this handy list.

Lil Jinx: Women, Amiright?

Lil Jinx is one of those side-comics from Archie like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, That Wilkin' Boy or Superduck. It's probably the least interesting of them all, though. It's one of those comics that just exists. It's just there, you read the page, then you move onto something you actually care about. Or you skip the pages altogether.

But sometimes you crash into a Lil Jinx page that just makes you stop and cringe and... I dunno, have a genuine reaction to it. So here, take a look.


--Andrew S.

Oct 8, 2012

Phantom at the Window: Phantom and Colour.

It's been a while since we've properly visited the world of the Phantom. So how about we do it in style this time? Fairly recently I picked up this incredible volume of Phantom reprints from Hermes Press -- a break from my usual loyalty to Frew comics.

This never actually happens in this volume, sadly.

This volume reprints Phantom Sundays from the very first one in full glorious colour. It's gorgeous and something I'm not used to since the Phantom is printed nearly exclusively in black and white by Frew (nearly exclusively -- they do have colour covers.)

I won't be going into terribly much detail on the stories here, but let's talk a little bit about the Phantom's relationship with colour, and about the Sunday stories in general, shall we?

Oct 7, 2012

Jughead and Sexuality: Rhythm & Blues

Last time we took a look at Jughead's sexuality it was with a story called, "Brain Campaign". If you haven't seen that one yet, maybe you need to check it out.

That time we looked at a story that didn't have much subtext, and looked at how it pretty much threw out the possibility of Jughead having any sexuality at all. He just loves food! Well let's look at a story that's the polar opposite of Brain Campaign, one that's laden with subtext. So laden with subtext that it's nearly impossible to tell which of it is intentional and which of it isn't. Ladies and gentlemen I give you Rhythm & Blues. 

This is a story written by the amazing Frank Doyle and drawn by the titanic Samm Schwartz, so you know you're in good hands from the start. (For those not familiar with Frank Doyle or Samm Schwartz, believe me I'll have more to say about these two masters of the comic arts in the future, but for now know that they're among my top three Archie creators, with Dan DeCarlo filling out the rest of the list.)