Monday, July 28, 2014

Day 5: Another Aspect

So far, we've been using comics to presenting narratives, to tell stories: what happened to the Fat Cat Mat Lady, the meeting between the object and the character and what happened there. As we get closer to making our own comics stories to go into the anthology, I'd like to look at another approach.  Let's expand our comics toolbox by looking at, and making, comics that tell space rather than story. That create an atmosphere. In this comics page, by Australian comics maker Anthony Woodward, he's showing us aspects of Comics Camp.

Gene Yuen Yang, from his great book 'American Born Chinese'.

Japanese manga artists are masters of these sort of panel layouts.

This one is (I think) from a manga called 'Cross Game' by Mitsuru Adachi.

The North American comics theorist Scott McCloud famously identified these sort of page layouts as 'aspect to aspect transitions' in his great 1993 book, 'Understanding Comics'. Here's his example:

So, something's happening here, this woman is cooking dinner, but this group of panels could be arranged in any order. The action isn't important.  The scene-setting is.

 So let's have a go at that.

Day 5, Thumbnails to finals

As this guy says in his 7 minute youtube tutorial, thumbnails for the comic book maker are like storyboards for the filmmaker - a rough representation of what you are aiming for, a guide to producing your final, 'good copy' of the page. You might go through multiple thumbnails (another way of thinking about them would be 'drafts') before you begin pencilling the actual page, keeping in mind that those pencils are also a working document, and can be modified and erased before inking.

Here's thumbnails of pages 2 and 3 of a 5 page story called 'The Letter' by New York comics artist Jess Ruliffson,

And this one's by Isaac Cates - I'm particularly interested in that bottom tier, where he's drawn that bottom image bigger to indicate what goes in that second last, empty panel.  Also the notes all around, indicating dialogue. Nice stuff.

Day 4: Sounds like Teen Comics

On Day 4, Travis took us through Onomatopoeia (Q: How do you spell onomatopoeia?  A: Just the way it sounds) He discussed 'QLUNQ!' in the strip above, and also 'PAAAF!' from Asterix, which, as Damien pointed out, sounds less like a tree hitting a Roman legionary in the head, and more like 'a balloon filled with flour hitting your face'. Good point.

He talked about Roy Lichetenstein's 'WHAAM!' (1963) - for a great article about that painting, and the 1962 Irv Novick comic book art that inspired it, have a look at comics theorist Paul Gravett's piece, here.

After telling us the story of JRR Tolkien's favourite phrase*, Travis got us to convert sound effects into onomatopoeias. We then went on to produce 3 panel comic strips in which the sound effects were the main focus - very satisfying.

(Bernard couldn't help himself--he had to have a go)

After the break, Bernard took the stage and showed us how comics moved from strip to page.

Superman made the transition from strip to become the very first Superhero comic book.

The pages, however, were little more than collections of the smaller strips, and thus fairly static.

The action is framed in a similar way in every panel, and POV is limited to midshots and longshots. Then came artists like Jack Kirby who played with framing and blew out the frame.

SO how do we get from three and four panel strips to a page??

First, take a random item and draw it.

Now play with scale. Put another character next to your object to give it some scale. While you're at it, add noise--either dialogue or some onomatopeias to give a reaction between the characters.

Finally, give a title or caption to place this scene in a location.

Now make a thumbnail sketch of 4 panels of the next scene between this object and character.

Alternatively give us 4 panels that leads us to your existing moment... or both.

The point is to ask yourself the most important question, and the hardest.

What happens next???

This is the point of comics. This is the point of narrative.

And it's hard.

Once you have worked out what happens in a sketch, make the 'good copy' 
...... but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

*'cellar door', apparently

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 4. Sound and vision

Part 1. In which sounds are heard.

Comics are visual, but so much of their meaning comes from the sound they imply. Be it direct dialogue or narration, most panels in a comic are full of implied sound. Like this example from Dick Tracy.

The most interesting panel in this is the final one. The 'QLUNQ' really makes me feel the sound of a briefcase full of cash hitting a skull. There is actually a word for these kind of words. onomatopoeia

Used in the right way, onomatopoeia can convey more than the image--even with movement lines--could ever achieve.

Each genre of comic has their own conventions of these sound-words. 

Old action comics have the classics like 'POW!' and 'THUMP!' made famous by the kitsch 'Batman' tv show, and even artists like Roy Lichtenstein  who made high art out of the comics he read as a boy.

But sometimes D.C was a little too literal. (not sure a fist exploding a face makes that sound)

Marvel was a little more creative:

But even they often went too far....

Manga has a similar style.

As did Asterix

The point is, you have to match the sound you imagine to the words you read. Of course, given this is a visual art, you also get to write the word in a style that best conveys its sound.

Visualizing words this way is great, but when it comes to character voice, it would take over the page to have every speech bubble filled with exploding bold lettering.

In this Wolverine example, you can see everything coming together. We have the onomatopoeias of 'SNIKT' and 'KRRIIIPP!' and Wolverine's dialogue in the last panel is divided between two speech bubbles, the second clearly conveying that he is yelling. 

Part 2. In which sounds are made.

Step 1. Listen to the following sounds and come up with a visual onomatopoeia  for each one.

Now, on a new page in your folio, give yourself 3 empty panels.

Your job is to make a Three panel strip of a character who is surprised by one of your onomatopoeias in the first image, reacts to it in panel 2, and then creates a sound of their own in the final image.

If your character needs to speak, play with some of these speech balloons to give them a voice.

Simple right?

Well get going......