Friday, 4 April 2014

Deep Sequencing: Bowel Disruption

Or one of my all time favourite comics sequences that makes me lose my shit in Transmetropolitan
By Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, Vertigo Comics

Way before I started writing about comics and really looking at sequential art as a series of story telling choices, there were some sequences in comics that were immediately, obviously great. And this sequence in Transmetropolitan has stuck with me forever as a fantastic comics sequence. It's been my example of how smart composition enhances storytelling from before I had any need for such examples. And now that I actually need such examples of great comics, you better believe we are going to take a closer look.

There will be mild *SPOILERS* for Transmetropolitan below.

This sequence tells the story of Spider Jerusalem relaying an anecdote about his grandfather's death when he was but a boy. As part of this anecdote Spider delivers the dialogue of the conversation between him and his parent, presumably using affected voices.What I love about the sequence is just how clearly it delineates the adult dialogue from the child dialogue in the anecdote. The crux of this is the way the angle of the panels changes so that the "camera" is aimed down at "child" Spider and aimed up at "adult" Spider-parent. What this essentially does is give the reader alternately the perspective of an adult looking down at child or the gaze of a child looking up at a stern parent. It also, has the added effect of presenting Spider in two very different ways: from above he looks smaller, seems to have a larger, disporportionate amount of head, and you can clearly see his eyes, while from below he looms over the frame and his eyes are hidden behind his glasses. These alternating perspectives make this a pretty good sequence.

But the thing that, for me, that makes this sequence so completely memorable, is how the cigarettes are used throughout the composition. In the third panel, Spider reaches into his coat to grab a pack of smokes, making a very adult, commanding hand gesture, reminiscent of a hand cocked to smack a child. While in the fourth panel, and this is my favourite, Spider pulls a cigarette out of the box with his mouth in a way that looks like he is drinking from a juice box. A very childlike activity. Add, in the next page, "adult" Spider performing the very grown up activity of actually smoking and you have cigarettes used to completely enhance the adult/child split in this composition in a way that is super clever and unique to this series of panels. It's perfect.

So I Read Transmetropolitan

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