Friday, January 05, 2007

Storytelling Decisions: The moment or the moment before

Away from the scanner, so I'm not going to pepper this with any images, but the verbal will have to suffice.

So there are more than a few thoughts on the art of storytelling that I have as I work my way through the story of Pistoleras. And I recall an article by Jim Steranko many years ago, accompanied his pre-production painting from Raiders, where he made a point that while other artists preferred the moment of the balloon exploding, he prefered the moment just before the balloon exploded, the pregnant pause.

I've thought a lot about this over the years, and nowhere is it more interesting that trying to decide how to use a panel that shows a passage of time, perhaps during a conversation. I think that usually we see a panel isolate a moment in time, where Peter Parker expresses an opinion to Mary Jane, but there are other examples where, in a two shot, the Ben Grimm will ask Reed Richards not to do something, and Reed Richards will press the button opening the negative zone anyway. Fairly straight forward, but the image will be of Reed pressing the button. So we, as a reader, are asked to ignore the right side of the panel with Reed pressing the button and we need to read left to right and only pay attention to Ben gesticulating in the right side of the panel. Kirby was the master of making sure that we could read across properly to "get" the pacing of the story. Eisner was great about that as well, obviously.

So how much do you compress the story, and how much do you expand?. Bendis is considered the king of decompression in these modern times, a storytelling method that I tend to find almost a "tick" and stylistic choice, and one that I enjoy in Powers tremendously. The compression inherent in, say, the early Justice Leagues by Sekowsky and Fox, is so tight, that it almost offends my modern sensibilities. Hey, the original Starro attack on the JLA would at least have been worth two issues of the Avengers as layed out by Kirby and drawn by Heck.

I enjoy the decompression of the Manga that I get in Genshiken (my favorite manga of all time), but it would be foreign to me in, say, Spider Man or Fantastic Four. Pistoleras is as much a story of place to me as much as it is the story of the four girls and feminine empowerment. I want people to feel the heat of the desert of Mexico, and the crash of waves. I want them to get as much as they can in black and white and grey.

There are as many approaches to this as there are stories. Given a little more time and my scanner, I'll post some different examples. Any thoughts?

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