Monday 31 August 2015

Deep Sequencing: Subcutaneous Storytelling

Or a look at how attention tagging is used in COPRA Round 2
by Michel Fiffe

COPRA is a remarkable comic on a lot of levels. The story is action packed fun with an emphasis on totally radical action. The artwork has a distinct style that frequently veers into the territory of experimental storytelling or feats of surreal imagery. It's also a comic that very deliberately teaches its audience without using explicit coaching: it shows in very clear yet subtle rather than directly telling. Which results in a really interesting and surprising experience and some very cool storytelling.

I'd like to showcase my favourite example of this from COPRA: Round 2.

There will be *SPOILERS* for COPRA Vol. 2.

First though, I just want to take a moment to emphasize how stylish and bold COPRA is. The page shown above is part of an ongoing battle between COPRA and a kind of four horseman of the apocalypse type team of villains. The two panels shown here are part of the jagged snapshots of a battle montage that sweeps between combatants in a really organic but very chaotic feeling way. What I especially love about this sequence is how the superspeedster villain is represented in COPRA: he is depicted as a pencil sketch blur made out of a number of poses in a chain with varying degrees of incomplete erasure. This instantly gives the character a sense of speed: that he is too quick to properly render, ink, and colour by the "camera" of the artists hand. Which goes to sell this character as being super fast without the audience ever being explicitly told this. Which is a really cool character design and an example of the show, don't tell mentality of COPRA.

An even better example of COPRA visually teaching the audience is the above selection. This collection of panels tell a sub narrative where the sketchiest of the COPRA agents removes a device implanted in his arm, secrets it on his target, and then tricks his boss/handler into activating the device, which is a bomb, blowing up the captured target. What's especially cool about this sequence is that none of this is explicitly explained to the audience and the events here are spread out, a panel here or there, over several chapters/issues of COPRA Round Two. In many ways, this story is just a little background element in a chaotic, action packed comic. And yet, I found my attention immediately drawn to the events. Which for me came down to the red boxes which overlay the explosive device and things related to it: COPRA visually tags this storyline in a way that is very eye catching. Which does a whole bunch of interesting things simultaneously. It instantly grabs attention and highlights that this subplot is significant in some way and provides a symbol that alerts the reader that the image they are looking at is part of this subplot. It also allows for a certain amount of ambiguity to the events: the reader is never *told* what is going on and therefore the events are somewhat mysterious which helps make the explosive finish to the subplot so satisfying. This is some higher level, brilliant comics.

COPRA is really must read comics.


Deep Sequencing: The exotic comics of COPRA
Deep Sequencing: Using the margins

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