Monday, 2 February 2015

Worshipping The Wicked + The Divine #7

Or a look at some cool lettering effects in WicDiv #7
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, and Clayton Cowles; Image Comics

The Wicked + The Divine, along with telling a fun story filled with high concepts, cultural criticism, and sexy, sexy gods, is also a comic that demonstrates how the various components of a comic fit together to tell really dynamic stories. It's a comic that uses everything, from story to character design to acting and colour, and even production wonkery to optimize the final comic as much as possible. In a lot of ways, The Wicked + The Divine is this casual paragon of the kind of comics that can be made by a skilled collaborative team. 

WicDiv #7 is another interesting comic that I think really showcases another element of the comics craft.

There will be *SPOILERS* for The Wicked + The Divine #7

First of all, there is a setting map infographic in WicDiv #7. As the record shows, I LOVE infographics and setting maps. When a comic has this level of planning involved in the setting it adds a level of verisimilitude to comics that I really appreciate. (And it let's me try to figure out where every scene in the comic falls on the map... because I am a total nerd!)

The component of comics that I think WicDiv #7 really showcases, though, is lettering. Comics are words set to pictures, and lettering is the interface that delivers the words to readers. Which, of course, makes lettering an absolutely essential component of comics. That said, I feel like good lettering is often an overlooked part of the comic: in most circumstances the goal of lettering is to clearly convey narration or dialogue in a way that flows nicely and distracts from the artwork as little as possible. It's the art being indispensably invisible. 

But lettering can be so much more, and given the attention grabbing nature of caption boxes, can interact with the rest of the artwork and change the way we experience the story.

Like, take the above sequence. Laura is in a crowd, she is accosted by a seemingly anonymous person, who she eventually recognizes is Cassandra. The sequence makes a great use of reduced detail to showcase the isolation of being in a crowd and the surging, dehumanizing amalgam of people in a crowd. It's great. I especially love the extra panel it takes Laura to recognize Cassandra. As someone who is very bad at faces, this choice speaks to the mental stutter I experience seeing even longtime friends before my brain will interpret vague features into a familiar face. It's kind of a transcendent moment of comics for me. And I think part of what makes this work so well is the placement of the dialogue boxes: the way Cassandra's dialogue in the bottom row bridges the second, unrecognized panel to the third, recognized panel helps with the flow and helps nail that mental stutter of recognition perfectly. It's nearly invisible, but it is a great choice. 

Of course, the effects of lettering don't have to be subtle. Sometimes things like caption placement can be deliberately obvious and, in so doing, provide whole other storytelling effects. In the first panel above the way that the narration caption actually completely obscures the art perfectly captures the experience of being overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions and living in your head for the moment needed to process the torrent. All of the thoughts in this caption are literally overwhelming Laura's face and also acting a s a physical barrier between her, the reader, and the world of the rest of the comic. It's a beautiful metaphor for being very upset and very introverted. 

I also think the caption placement in the following panel, while not as exotic, is also really well done and interesting. The fact we see the "I have to go." before seeing that Laura is already turned away and leaving really emphasizes how Laura has already checked out. She might still be leaving, but with her action preceding her words, she is already gone. 

And... yeah, I had a very unpleasant human be unpleasant to me in what was not a "you can fuck right off" context, and the experience was literally these two panels. These panels just absolutely capture that experience of being infuriated, having too much to say, knowing you can't say any of it even if you wanted to, and just deciding to walk. the. fuck. away. for your own good. It's another really resonant comics moment for me. 

I think, though, the most interesting lettering moment of The Wicked + The Divine #7 is on this page. The story of the page is that Baphomet is leading Laura to a secret party deep, deep underground. The idea of the page is to sell a sense of downward travel, but also of a labyrinthine, twisting route that leaves Laura literally and thematically lost at the end of. And I think the lettering contributes to making this effect work. The art of the page shows Baphomet leading Laura on a winding route down the page, back and forth and down, down down. The route of these two characters is an unbroken stream that moves against the default reading direction and serves to give the page a very long, winding feeling. The lettering also moves back and forth across the page and down, down, down in an unbroken chain that violates page conventions and creates a similar sense of distance and windiness. The thing is, I found that the two streams, art and text, didn't quite sync up which made it hard for me to experience both in a single unbroken pass through the page. This caused me to do a lot of doubling back and switching between the two paths which made the page feel even more convoluted and maze like. For me the lettering and art play off each other to actually complicate the page and add to the emotional effect of the comic. Which is pretty dang cool stuff.

Lettering, it's an important part of comics and in The Wicked + The Divine it's yet another tool to make some innovative comics work.

Post by Michael Bround

WicDiv #1 and popart head-splosions
WicDiv #2 and the use of black-space
WicDiv #3 and character design

WicDiv #4 and body language 

WicDiv#5 and facial acting

WicDiv #6 and possessions as character

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