Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Art of Storytelling: Should Cinema Rule?

Eddie Campbell, over at his site, has been putting up a number of "rules" of storytelling that he tries to live by, and I was caught by this one, In Thrall To The Cinematic Principle, which uses Bernie Kriegston's powerful EC tale, The Master Race, to discuss how comics are like and not like movies.

Eddie makes a number of good points about highlighting the drama and the action between the figures in the story, and brings a arguement against the modern comic page layout: i.e. one large panel with a splashy figure surrounded by a number of small panels that break time and action down in a series of step whether equal in time or unequal. (Image to be posted later)

I recall someone who was editing a version of the Marvel Universe guide discussing how hard it was to find a shot of Cyclops using his eye beams with the effect of the beams being shown in the same panel. He had to go all the way back to Kirby's layouts in X-Men 13 or so to get the shot.

Its true, we have a tendency to focus our camera on the protagonist of the panel often, and in doing so, we lose all the tension of the proximity of the figures to one another, their body language, their reaction to a word balloon in the same panel (thus compressing time into an immediate reaction shot in that panel). Twice in Pistoleras, I have scenes in the first 10 pages where the girls are stuck in smaller spaces and have to react to each other in a relatively quick series of exchanges, whether verbal or non-verbal. It seems rare to have that many "two-shots" in succession.

Krigstein, in other interviews, rails against the limitations that were laid upon him by Gaines at EC, and there is no question, given "Master Race" and what he would have liked to have done with it, that we would have far more advanced work from him had he been allowed to continue.
What is shocking is how Gaines couldn't see the forest for the trees here, while being so good as to allow Kurtzman the ability to follow his genius, and Woody his muse.

"Master Race" perfectly illustrates what Campbell is talking about, and he reproduces one of the pages at the climax of the story that makes a point to contain both characters of the story in each panel, thus never decreasing the drama as we're always aware of the proximity of each man to the other.

With all apologies to Scott McCloud, it has nothing to do with what is being said or done between the panels here. Each image is chosen to follow into the next, and makes for a powerful read-thru. It is in direct contrast to reading an episode of Love and Rockets, where so much is being set up in panel, and then we have an eighth inch of white space and we have to figure out what happened between Hopey and Maggie from the next 10 panels. Two different approaches. The latter rewards clever writing and patient readers.

I'm personally quite glad to see that Bernie left us at least this work to study, read and enjoy.

More on Eddie's rules later.

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