Monday, September 02, 2013

Visual Storytelling from K. A. 3 (Number 1)

Some pages from John Romita's Jr's first issue in the new series of comic books that feature Hit Girl (I'm afraid to use the real title and create a NSFW post title).

 One of the things that makes John Romita's work a cut above most other comic artists is the way he incorporates visual storytelling, using the pictures to help convey the emotion he's trying to impart within the story. I'm constantly surprised how many comic artists, story artists and film makers don't seem to give that much consideration to telling their stories in a visual way. Many people are content to simply show the events of the story as it unfolds, without using the camera and point-of-view of the viewer to heighten and accentuate the emotions that the viewer is supposed to be feeling.

Here's a simple example: four pages from his recent work where several superheroes are attempting to break Hit Girl out of prison (warning: NSFW language).

I like, in particular, the way JRJR uses staging in certain panels to express the mental state of the superheroes involved in the scene, starting with a heroic upshot as they confidently undertake their mission:

Then, my favorite composition from the group: the shot that shows just how intimidating the prison walls are. A great illustration of the mental state of our heroes: they have suddenly realized how tough it's going to be to break into prison and they are staring to have second thoughts.

It's a choice some artists might shy away from because it creates a big empty space in the frame...but I love how the heroes appear small compared to the wall. It's a great choice to make it a bit of a downshot, looking down on them. Also I like how you can't see the top of the wall; it's so massive that it can't even be squeezed into the composition.

Lastly, I like the composition of this one:

Making the guard big in the foreground and the heroes tiny in the background as they run away gives you a sense of who has the power here and who is powerless. The prison wall taking up so much space in the frame adds to this feeling too; the heroes are relegated to a small, cramped area of the composition and they feel minimized and ineffective, which is exactly what is happening within the story.

Just like the last few posts showing how certain films use staging and blocking to tell the story in a visual way, comic books can be very instructive and full of good (and not-so-good) examples of how to use visuals to tell the story in a powerful and emotional way.


Anonymous said...

Awesome, insightful post Mark. Thanks

Unknown said...

I've enjoyed your blog for some time, but I do have to disagree with this post. I don't disagree with the praise of Romita, but rather with the lack of visual storytelling in comics. I would go so far as to say most comic artists worth their salt are quite good at it. In fact, most of the comic how-to books focus the bulk of their space to visual story telling. Including the perennial "Comics the Marvel Way", which has whole chapters on positioning the "camera" and characters to tell the emotion.

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