Comics theory column/comic at thesmallpress.com

Comics theory column/comic at thesmallpress.com

Postby Gwalla on Sun Aug 11, 2002 4:25 pm

Dan Carroll has an Understanding Comics-style column/comic at The Small Press Magazine called Art Class.
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Postby Damonk13 on Thu Aug 15, 2002 9:04 am

Yeah, I've known about them for quite a while, Gwalla, but still haven't decided really if I like them or not.

Sometimes I think he's making a decent point, but most times I find he's just restating the obvious.

Then again, what I find obvious after years and years of research and love for the craft, others may not, being new or younger or etc. His stuff does make for good "primer" material, and given the title of the column, I guess that's pretty darned appropriate.

Heh, but thanks for memntioning it here, and reminding me that maybe I should point it out to my readers or something... ^_^

And Gwalla -- you kinda disappeared during the con, man! I never got a chance to seriously sit down and have a huge chat on comics and theory! (or maybe that's why you hid from me?) ^_~
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Postby Gwalla on Sat Aug 17, 2002 1:29 am

damonk13 wrote:Yeah, I've known about them for quite a while, Gwalla, but still haven't decided really if I like them or not.

Sometimes I think he's making a decent point, but most times I find he's just restating the obvious.

Then again, what I find obvious after years and years of research and love for the craft, others may not, being new or younger or etc. His stuff does make for good "primer" material, and given the title of the column, I guess that's pretty darned appropriate.


Plus, he's only on something like his third column. But yeah, it seems that most of it so far has been restating what Scott McCloud has already explained. Understanding Comics Lite.

And Gwalla -- you kinda disappeared during the con, man! I never got a chance to seriously sit down and have a huge chat on comics and theory! (or maybe that's why you hid from me?) ^_~


Disappeared? C'mon! I was practically a fixture at the Keenspot booth, with occasional treks around the floor or to panels. And I didn't even go to that many panels.

Theory-wise, lately I've been getting a little dissatisfied with McCloud's categorization of panel transitions. And that's something I've generally considered to be the most significant observation in UC. But there's a page in Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes that I feel can't be adequately analyzed in those terms (the three wyrd sisters switching places relative to one another, while the one on the left, no matter which one she is, eats a large rodent--a good example of something that comics can do smoothly, but would be impossible or clumsy in other media). Also, there are many sections of Watchmen where I think that an analysis strictly in terms of successive panels misses the point. And finally, there's a panel transition in Hellboy: Seed of Destruction that I think falls outside of Scott's categories (you could always toss it in the "non sequitur" catch-all, but it isn't a non sequitur to my mind).
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Postby Damonk13 on Tue Aug 20, 2002 1:48 pm

Well, not having UC or RC on hand right now, and not owning any Sandman (but having read them all), I can say this: while McCloud doesn;t delve in great detail as to SPATIAL transitions, I believe he does mention them in passing.

The panels you mention from Sandman are still clear in my memory, and I feel they work more as temporal, though there is a spatial juxtaposition occuring as well. But the thing about those panels is that they are very much in accordance with a number of myths on Wyrd/Fate/the Sisters (etc.) in that the three are interchangeable and are really one in the same, while being simultaneously distinct, also. Nothing "revolutionary" is being done her panel-wise -- Gaiman just got Kieth (or whomever it was at this early juncture) to beautifully illustrate a myth element related to the Wyrd.

So what we see in those panels really is nothing more than a standard moment-by-moment temporal shift, with the sisters within the panels switching off of one another. Really, I'd argue that those panels follow the McCloud "big 6" panel measurements pretty darn accurately, despite the "Wyrd-ness" of it all. :D

In the Watchmen, I'm not certain as to which of the panels you feel wouldn't fit in his suggested divisions, unless you meant as to how Moore set it up so that the panels are certainly NOT always chronologically juxtaposed (i.e., there are some past/present/future moments happening). While it's easier, perhaps to illustrate it, this is not something that is particulrly difficult to do in other forms or genres, such as prose or film, for example. Look at "Memento" as an EXCELLENT cinematographic use of skewed chronology to convey a compelling story.


In the end, you have to remember that McCloud only offered up 6 "basic" categories -- an attempted standard of measurements, if you will. It wouldn't be hard to divide those in all sorts of other submeasurements, and to quantify things with greater scrutiny.

But it's cool to see ya thinking about it -- can you think of other instances of when the basic standards of transition measurements don;t seem to apply?
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Postby Gwalla on Tue Aug 20, 2002 8:49 pm

damonk13 wrote:Well, not having UC or RC on hand right now, and not owning any Sandman (but having read them all), I can say this: while McCloud doesn;t delve in great detail as to SPATIAL transitions, I believe he does mention them in passing.

The panels you mention from Sandman are still clear in my memory, and I feel they work more as temporal, though there is a spatial juxtaposition occuring as well. But the thing about those panels is that they are very much in accordance with a number of myths on Wyrd/Fate/the Sisters (etc.) in that the three are interchangeable and are really one in the same, while being simultaneously distinct, also. Nothing "revolutionary" is being done her panel-wise -- Gaiman just got Kieth (or whomever it was at this early juncture) to beautifully illustrate a myth element related to the Wyrd.


To my mind, that sequence is a paradox. The element involving the eating of the rodent is obviously moment-to-moment. But the switching of the sisters' positions can't be moment-to-moment. It does nicely and unambiguously demonstrate the sisters' shared identity/identities, and in a way that can't be done as smoothly in any other medium: in plain prose it would either have to state outright that they were all one, and there would be no way of making it clear what that really means; in film, it's really impossible, the best solution I can think of is a morph effect, but even that doesn't really get it across (it'd just look weird).

So what we see in those panels really is nothing more than a standard moment-by-moment temporal shift, with the sisters within the panels switching off of one another. Really, I'd argue that those panels follow the McCloud "big 6" panel measurements pretty darn accurately, despite the "Wyrd-ness" of it all. :D


Yes, but you have to make that exception (that the sisters switch places). That switching takes place outside of the sequence of a strict moment-to-moment. To me, it feels something like a simultaneous moment-to-moment and an aspect-to-aspect.

In the Watchmen, I'm not certain as to which of the panels you feel wouldn't fit in his suggested divisions, unless you meant as to how Moore set it up so that the panels are certainly NOT always chronologically juxtaposed (i.e., there are some past/present/future moments happening). While it's easier, perhaps to illustrate it, this is not something that is particulrly difficult to do in other forms or genres, such as prose or film, for example. Look at "Memento" as an EXCELLENT cinematographic use of skewed chronology to convey a compelling story.


I wasn't thinking of the skewed timeline. I was thinking more of the newsstand scenes, where panels of "reality" alternate with panels from Tales of the Black Freighter. There's closure between immediately successive panels, obviously, but I think the closure between successive panels of the same type (reality or pirate-comic) is just as important to those scenes. You're essentially folowing three comics at once at those points: the goings-on at the newsstand, the story of the stranded sailor, and the combination in which events & dialogue in either story comments on the other.

In the end, you have to remember that McCloud only offered up 6 "basic" categories -- an attempted standard of measurements, if you will. It wouldn't be hard to divide those in all sorts of other submeasurements, and to quantify things with greater scrutiny.


True. But I don't think that the Sandman example would be a subdivision per se, it's more like two transition types applying to the same transition. And the Watchmen example has more to do with transitions between panels separated by others being just as important for comprehension as those between juxtaposed panels sometimes. Only the Hellboy example (which is a panel of a frog) is really an example of what could be another category of transition.

But it's cool to see ya thinking about it -- can you think of other instances of when the basic standards of transition measurements don;t seem to apply?


Well, every time a story cuts to another place, then cuts back (paired scene-to-scene), there's a transition between the panels on either end, so the panels in between act as a sort of gutter there. Not sure if I'm explaining this well. It's sort of like the Watchmen example, but with a longer distance between related panels, and usually not so thoroughly interwoven.
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