lördag 9 juni 2012

Comics storytelling 24: Movement

Alright, this is the next Dark Knight Returns page, and as you can see, it depicts the young Bruce Wayne falling down the "rabbit hole" he fell into on the previous page.

First, look at that first panel, the one depicting the actual fall. It is a rather high panel, going from the top of the page down to the bottom of it. It is also rather narrow compared to its height, increasing the feeling of height. And as the previous panel was drawn out downwards and to the right, this one goes up a bit from the 4 x 4 panel-grip Miller uses, up to the very top of the page – thus establishing, sort of, a connection with the previous page, and emphasizing the height element.

Second, look at all the SKREEs below Bruce in that first panel. They're the sounds of the bats milling about in the cave. I suppose you could borrow a semiotic term and call them "signs" for the bats. Anyway, they're establishing a position for those bats, setting the stage for the next panel, where Bruce is below them having landed – "OOF!" – and then reacted to his landing – "Aaj!!". So you have two moments being depicted in this one panel; keep that in mind as we're later going to move into analyzing how time is depicted on this page.

Third, in panels 3 and 4, the Bats fly lower, almost colliding with Bruce. Note the bat shapes in these panels – they emphasize that the SKREEs really depict bats, and that the bats now are really "in Bruce's face". This impression is reinforced by the more intense red color in these panels, and the intensity is increased in panel 4, where the SKREEs take up more of the panel and are more chaotically intermingled with each other, leaving less free space in the panel. This increased intensity is reflected in Bruce's speech, with the boldened "bort!" ("away!") – he begins to shout because he's more stressed out.

Finally, in panel 5, we see much fewer SKREEs, indicating that there are fewer bats remaining. Those SKREEs are also decreasing in size – the two lower ones are smaller than the top one (and we know that the come after the top one because we read pages from top to bottom) – indicating that the remaining bats are also moving away from Bruce, as sounds sound weaker the further away from us they originate.

(Did I mention that Miller is a master storyteller? This is really brilliant stuff.)

One more thing: The final panel of this page, like the final one on the previous page, extends off the 4 x 4 panel grid outwards to the right and downwards. However, in this case that isn't to indicate movement; instead, it is a larger panel simply because it is a momentous moment in Bruce Wayne's life, and the increased size of the panel depicting that moment simply reflects the increased importance of that moment.

(We'll be returning to this page later on for some analysis of how time works in panels, looking at the splitting up of a picture into four panels and comparing it to pressing four pictures into one panel.)

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