A panel of Brandon Graham’s comic King City, taken from this interview with him by Tom Spurgeon. There’s a great exchange where they discuss this image:
SPURGEON: There’s a great mini-sequence here where you isolate an image within a previous image — the way the feet are placed to show a kind of forward intimacy. For someone that comes across to me as a pretty natural cartoonist you use a lot of what I’d call underlining, calling attention to specific moments in the narrative through repetition or labeling. Do you think that’s a fair assessment, and what do you achieve through moments like this one, above, really emphasizing that specific part of the previous picture?
GRAHAM: I like how well comics works for that sort of thing, you can just draw an arrow pointing at something and write “look!” next to it and it doesn’t really throw anything off. I don’t think of a panel like that as just a close up of another panel, as much as it looks like it. I still think of time progressing on the page. It’s a beat of time.
If you look at that page as single unit, you start in the largest panel (top left), move through the two “inset” panels stacked on top on one another, and end in the bottom, with the smoke-blowing. A sequence that takes a short amount of time, extended through panel structure to allow the images and dialogue and captions to hit in sequence, stretching it out like the giddy first moment of attraction it’s depicting.
This is one of the things comics does really well; the intersection of time and space. Within the layout of the page, the artist can make individual moments flow from one panel to another, or break down a single moment to stretch time out (see this rather famous example). Looking at a comic that does this trains you to be a better reader, to look at a comic and settle into the rhythm and the pace the creator is aiming for. It’s the antidote to the recent (awful) trend from certain creators towards layouts containing the absolute minimum of visual information and variety.
It’s good comics.
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