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Thread: The Comics Panel Time-Master--PART 2: How We Read Comics

  1. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by drgerb View Post
    And I think that's what you run into when you try cramming too many different snapshots of time into the same panel.
    Please let me be more clear.

    I prefaced by saying we're not discussing the quality of writing.

    We're trying to understand the nature of the craft, not how to apply it.

    Our discussion could be about 2 frozen moments of time in a panel or 152 frozen moments of time in a panel.

    I'm going to quote myself from a post on page two, in answer to Steven:

    "But I will answer your question about averages now, just so nobody travels down that creatively ravaged road:

    "There are no averages.

    "My examples used five (or seven) moments, then three."

    I will repeat a couple words I used above: "Creatively ravaged."

    Anybody who decides, BEFORE THEIR STORIES ARE CONCEIVED, how many frozen moments of time they're going to have or average per panel is doing a major disservice to whatever story they're going to write...unless, as a test, they use the restriction to suit some unique editorial goals, like: "nine panels per page" in Watchmen (though I suspect that was chosen FOR Watchmen); or not allowing the camera to leave Jimmy Stewart's room in "Rear Window," until he fell out the window, at which point the camera left the room, too; or trying to shoot the film with a minimum of cuts, as in "Rope"; or one of my goals of writing a story with all thought balloons.

    Aside from these kind of creative writing assignments, anybody deciding on how many frozen moments work for pacing of a story that hasn't yet been written should seriously assess their priorities; the last time I checked, our tools were to be in service to our stories, not visa versa.

    "One or more frozen moments in a panel" is a tool in our sequential art toolbox; it has unlimited potential, but needs, like all our tools, to be used well to fit our needs.

    Again, let's keep our eye on the ball (which rolls from left to right).

    Thanks.

    --Lee



  2. LeeNordling Guest

    So, rather than assuming you all get this, let's see some people try the assignment I gave toward the end of the column, or at least a few examples.

    The ones who try this are the ones who will start learning it.

    The ones who think they get it, but would rather move onto the next column, are probably not fully getting it...which means they'll be repeating the same old mistakes, not getting better, and joining the ranks of the Lost Ones for whom I weep tears.

    Practice makes perfect...or at least makes it better.

    Please remember, I'm trying to run this like a classroom for a reason.

    Thanks.

    --Lee



  3. drgerb Guest

    The reason I skipped the lesson at first I think was one, I thought it was hypothetical, not literal (lol), and two, it's really freakin' hard to do the first time you sit down to try it. I think it'll come more naturally eventually but it seems tough.

    So I went through and was looking through the first collection of Kirkman's The Walking Dead for ideas, and for the most part I was pretty dumb founded. For one, it is a zombie one so there's a lot of silence, or simple one caption narration type deals. But I did see one, and here it is:

    A guy off in the distance in the background, on the left of the panel, waving towards the foreground. In the foreground and on the right side of the panel, a character is seen walking towards us, the reader, but his head is turned slightly and looking back at the guy in the background. The dialogue is something like, 'Hey you got a second?' 'What do you need, Jimmy?' I totally rewrote that cause I don't feel like digging out the example. It serves it's need.

    Flipping it would mean the guy in the foreground is now on the left side of the panel, wakling towards the viewer, and the guy in the background is on the right side of the panel, waving at the guy on the left. The dialogue would now be backwards. So instead, the dialogue could be change to, 'What do you need, Jimmy?' 'Oh, I wanted to tell you something.'

    Somewhat a bad example, I think, as we're only dealing with two characters, but I think it kinda gets at what Lee has been discussing. Both panels will be identical, just mirrored. And what's happening on the left is the inciting incident / first split second in each panel, and what's on the right is the reaction (however something's bugging me in my attempt at flipping it. The guy waving back to the left side of the panel isn't cool.)

    Here's a weak example I thought of:


    Descripton: In the foreground, a man from the shoulders up is seen with a gun pointed at his head, just pulled the trigger, and blood / brains are spewing out towards the right side of the panel. In the background, and on the right side are a couple of people with shocked looks on their faces.

    Flipping it, we have the people with shocked faces on the left, blood and brains, along with the guy's head, and on the farthest right is the gun. This image is wrong, but I'll try.

    First image: BLAM! then a guy in the background has a reaction of, I dunno, something like, 'Oh my god!'

    Second image: Wait, now I realize this is a bad example. Because in the second image the first moment in time would be the people in the background, who I was going to make say something that hinted at a gasp, or some kind of reaction to the guy putting a gun to his head. Then he'd pull the trigger, blood spewing, and him shooting himself is almost the incident, but the prelude would be the gasp / impending reaction coming from the people in the background. But I dunno... I'm confused here. I think this lesson is better served with multiple things going on, rather than just 2-3 elements. Either that or I'm picking the wrong elements / panels to try this out on.. Or I just don't quite fully understand it yet. Or maybe it just seems weird cause the action still feels like it's meant to start on the right side of the panel, after I flipped them. Hmph..


    My third and final attempt:

    On a beach, in the distance on the upper left side of the panel is a sun setting over the ocean. On the right, a couple lays on a towel in the sand, girl gripping the boy's hand she's holding, with a smile on her face.

    Flip the panel: On the left, in the foreground, the couple is laying, gazing off to the ocean / sun setting in the distance on the far right side. They're holding hands and the girl is smiling.

    Would, on the first example, the sun setting be the inciting incident, and the girl gripping / tightening her grip on the boy's hand and smiling be the reaction to the sun setting? And on the second example, the flip, would the inciting incident be the smile / gripping of the hands, almost in ANTICIPATION of the sunset? Even though it's happened, and it still is one snapshot of time as the image?

    I'm excited to see other people's examples and whether or not it came as hard for them. Lol. I still feel, in my examples, that the inciting incident, regardless of dialogue, should be that one focal point, the focus of the panel. The gunshot / brains spewing, the guy in the foreground turning back to see who's speaking to him, and the sunset in the final panel. Like I still feel like those are the main points, and maybe why I don't totally dig my examples, is because I still see those as being the main details of the panels.

    I still like the first of each example more than the second / flip. Okay, I guess the boy and girl on the beach, I almost enjoy the flip better. Just the knowing, and anticipation of watching the sun set with the single person you care most for in this world... That almost seems a bit better than reacting to the sunset.. But still, in both images, the sun is setting. The sun hasn't set, it isn't gone yet. It's setting. So that seems like the inciting incident of both the images, even though on the flip it's seen on the right of the panel. I dunno. I'm confusing myself with all of this. The way I look at it is:


    Artwise, the panel is one single snapshot, regardless of composition. The dialogue / narration / words once added in can jet out either way from this one inciting incident (whatever happens first, on the left side), but can only go so far until you need a new panel. Is that a fair assumption? I would elaborate more on my opinions on this, lol, but I'll wait until the discussion reaches it. You better get there next week, Lee! Lol, or atleast sooner rather than later.
    Last edited by drgerb; Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 03:30 PM. Reason: Added in third attempt



  4. drgerb Guest

    A panel could have twenty versions of Flash, fainter toward the left, becoming increasingly more solid-looking as he runs towards the right, and the last one on the right would be fully solid, the effect of this showing us that he's moving fast.

    If each one of those versions of Flash has a balloon with a word in it, each one of those would signify a separate frozen moment of time.

    Anybody not see that?
    But doesn't that suggest that each word is a single frame of time? Not just captions, but as the dialogue moves forward, so does time. And you can go in further and suggest that every syllable moves time forward. But at which point do we lose the meaning?

    The image, the still image of the Flash is one precise moment in time. It's of him reaching where he is right now. All those trails he left behind are in the past. It's like watching the pool.

    Imagine a panel of a swimming pool. Calm, illusionary, nothingness. Boring.

    Now throw in a fat boy in a cannonball position in mid air about to land into the water.

    But now make a panel of just after the splash. Water spewing upward, little droplettes moving all over, boy barely noticeable underwater, and ripples seen surrounding the point at which he hit the water.

    Those ripples don't talk. They might make the reader understand that where we are right now (in this single panel) is BECAUSE of something (the boy jumping in) and may lead to something (the girls getting wet.. Erm..)... But the ripples don't talk. So while maybe, in a panel, the Flash could be drawn in a way that'd suggest multiple times have passed... Sure, I'll grant you that.

    But I think that's far fetched, and also a bit closer to BREAKing the rules rather than TEACHing them.


    The way I still look at it is, artwise, a panel is one single snapshot in time. The dialogue added in can add more, but only so much until you reach a comfortable limit.

    And making captions lead to the Flash's shadows or motion lines just seems to me, like a cop out. An easy way out. For the record, though, I've never read, written, or drawn a Flash story.. So who knows. Maybe I'm totally off. I just don't like the idea of adding speach bubbles to somebody's motion lines / shadows / what happened BEFORE the art of the panel.. Or the current time. You can only start one place. And if you start on some dimished / faded out image / trail / shadow of a guy, then what does that say about the guy's actual narration? Like how reliable is it? Bleh. I dunno.

    But it does make you think. Gah.



  5. LeeNordling Guest

    Hey, Roberts.

    Yep, the assignment suggestion was initially hypothetical for folks to do on their own, but then I realized it'd be better to do here than what we were doing.

    First, let's tackle your suggestion that you've created a bad example on the first image, and the thought: "I think this lesson is better served with multiple things going on, rather than just 2-3 elements."

    Wrong. It's a good example, not yet executed well.

    Let's examine it, and the flip.

    Man with gun on left blows his brains out to the right, and a couple of people watch, horrified.

    A couple people on the left watch, horrified, at the brains spewing from a man's gunshot to his head.

    In example one, man killing himself is the first idea presented in the panel.

    In example two, two people horrified is the first idea presented in the panel. They become our pov as readers.

    With or without dialogue, the image flip has changed our perspective on the scene.

    Now, this IS getting ahead of ourselves, but I want to point out HOW this is valuable.

    If we're in a series of panels where an older couple are walking along a shady street at night, and we then get to choose between these two panels as what they experience, then continuity of our focus from previous suggests that the couple should be on the left.

    However, if we want to move away from them for a beat, having them react to the suicide after WE'VE seen the suicide could work.

    For example, in the flip.

    PREVIOUS PANEL DIALOGUE:

    OLD LADY: Beautiful night for a walk, isn't it, Henry?

    OUR FLIPPED IMAGE of man blowing his brains out.

    HENRY: Apparently not for that gentleman.

    This could play in the image and the flip, but it would be different, because in the flip, with Henry and the old lady on the left, Henry's responding to something that he sees, which we haven't yet.

    In the original image, Henry's reacting to something we've seen, too.

    That's different, and it's a writer's choice to decide which works best.

    We'll get into more of this later, but I hope you can see HOW the ordering of images in a panel is very important to telling your story.

    It's less about focus of the camera or writing a specific shot, and more about ordering events (from left to right) for the artist to draw.

    Next...

    On a beach, in the distance on the upper left side of the panel is a sun setting over the ocean. On the right, a couple lays on a towel in the sand, girl gripping the boy's hand she's holding, with a smile on her face.

    Flip the panel: On the left, in the foreground, the couple is laying, gazing off to the ocean / sun setting in the distance on the far right side. They're holding hands and the girl is smiling.

    Keeping examples simple like this, until you've mastered the idea, is good.

    Here, we see a sun setting, and a couple in love reacting to it.

    On the flip, we see a couple in love, gazing at the setting sun.

    It may not FEEL different to folks, but again, it depends how it will reflect on what we've done before, or will do afterward.

    On the flip, "Oh, look, the sun is setting," works better here than with the sun on the left...because, we've already seen that it's setting, so it feels redundant (not that it's great dialogue anyway...but quality isn't the discussion; context is the discussion).

    Extending the idea, pretend this is the last in a series of shots that involve the beach and the sun; in each version, the sun is lowering, and different groups of people are on the beach. The sun has become our clock; it's the thing signifying the change of time. It makes sense for it to be on the left to show us how time changed, and we see, in previous panels, family's playing, teens goofing off, the loving couple, and, in a panel that follows, just after the sun has set, and the sky is still red, we see the couple are in the same position, but have been brutally murdered.

    THIS is how we use images of frozen moments of time in panels to advance stories.

    And what takes place at the earliest moment of time on the left doesn't NEED to be overtly obvious; it can be subtle, as in these two examples.

    Each of these examples COULD be single frozen moments of time...so they are probably better examples of discussing how we READ panels.

    But they're EXCELLENT examples of showing how the flip changes the reading.

    Nice start, Roberts.

    --Lee



  6. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by drgerb View Post
    But doesn't that suggest that each word is a single frame of time? Not just captions, but as the dialogue moves forward, so does time. And you can go in further and suggest that every syllable moves time forward. But at which point do we lose the meaning?
    Yes. Each image is a frozen moment of time.

    FORGET whether you can follow what The Flash is saying; that's qualitative and not important (here) for the sake of clarity.

    As I noted, we're going to discuss the time it takes to read balloons, or the range of time it takes characters to speak the words in their balloons, later.

    Pay attention to only one point: the balloons separate and delineate the different frozen moments of time.

    And what's in those balloons can be short or long, but need to move left to right as frozen moments of time pass through the panel.

    Worry less about whether you "like" it or not, and look at what occurs.

    --Lee



  7. danialworks Guest

    Panel 1. The Frankenstein Monster has just smashed his way through an oak door. Gladys the monter hunter is diving away from the splinters, her hand outstretched for her acid-charged Edison-sword on a nearby table.

    Or...

    Panel 1. Gladys, a startled look telling us she's been caught off guard, is making a dive for her Edison-sword-- still on a table closer to our POV, and just out of her easy reach. The Frankenstein Monster is smashing his way into the room through the oak door.



  8. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by danialworks View Post
    Panel 1. The Frankenstein Monster has just smashed his way through an oak door. Gladys the monter hunter is diving away from the splinters, her hand outstretched for her acid-charged Edison-sword on a nearby table.

    Or...

    Panel 1. Gladys, a startled look telling us she's been caught off guard, is making a dive for her Edison-sword-- still on a table closer to our POV, and just out of her easy reach. The Frankenstein Monster is smashing his way into the room through the oak door.
    The flip doesn't work.

    In the first example, the sword is the last thing we see.

    Try writing this again with the sword as the FIRST thing we see.

    Practice fully reversing the images, describing the flip.

    The value here, when working on your own scripts, will be fully visualizing what's in the panel, and the artist will have a better chance of visualizing it closer to the way you see it.

    --Lee



  9. danialworks Guest

    We see the Edison-sword on the table, right before our pov. Behind the sword, but more centered, Gladys is diving-- reaching out for her weapon. Let's give give her a startled look to show she's been caught off-guard. Splinters are flying everywhere-- the Frankenstein Monter has just smashed through the oak door.


    -Trying to write Gladys is much harder this way-



  10. danialworks Guest

    And there's opne give to many.



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