Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Unintentional Connections

I was reading a '70s issue of The Avengers and I thought about Ivan Brunetti. In his excellent book

he points out "some common pitfalls," one of which is "unintentional connections" between images in different panels:

A page in The Avengers #152 [1976] (pencils by John Buscema) seems to have this problem:

Two connections -- the leg in panel 1 'joining' the arm in 3, plus the torso in 2 'jutting' from the hip in 1 -- create some visual confusion and impede a clear reading of the fight scene.

On the first reading, the connections felt like a flaw to me, but looking at the sequence again, I'm not so sure. When you take in the page as a whole, they give the fight a sense of circular motion. Or they're a result of questionable planning. . . [The cover of the issue is by Kirby and Ayers]


Jeffrey Meyer said...

Chris Ware has made a point of doing exactly this, so while I haven't read Brunetti's book on cartooning, I have to wonder what he'd make of Ware's use of this device.

Every cartoonist I talked to as a youngster told me the same thing, but even then I could see it might have its applications under the right circumstances.

In Ware's comics it heightens the sense of order and claustrophobia, and the pages stand alone as lovely designs. In some instances (but not all) it helps control the "flow" as well.

I think this sort of thing is also an example of how comics can have a lot in common with cubism (real cubism, not the phony cubism of Mary Fleener) even if it's not intentional -- many times I've looked at a crowded page of facial closeups in an old superhero comic, for example, and it reads like a cubist portrait.

One of the countless ways the comic page is superior to the comic strip.

Anonymous said...

The "Cartooning" book illustration reproduced here is a detail; it is one of nine examples of "common pitfalls." The figure caption reads: "Some common pitfalls. Note, however, that all of these can be subverted and used to the artist's (and narrative's) advantage." (The caption goes on to describe the nine sample panels.)

Ken Parille said...

I think many artists have used these kinds of cross-panel connections to their advantage -- And, though I don't want to speak for him, to answer Jeffrey's question I would guess that Ivan would recognize that Chris Ware, always a very careful designer, makes intentional use of connections.

So, it's a pitfall when the connection is unintentional and disruptive, and it's not when intentional.

For me, the Avengers page is interesting because I can't tell if it's intentional or not. That's why I put it next to the detail from Ivan's book, which illustrates something not intended.

I think reading Ivan's book has made me more alert to things like this.

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey Meyer said...
Chris Ware has made a point of doing exactly this,

But -- if he has made a point of doing this, it is intentional, and so the opposite of what Brunetti's talking about.

Anonymous said...

That is the goofiest superhero costume, for multiple overlapping reasons, I have ever seen. The best part is thinking about Kirby meditating on it for about two seconds before he shrugs and draws the cover.

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