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The Mechanics of 22 pages

El escritor multimedia Warren Ellis, muy a su estilo, dedica gran parte de su contenido digital a desmenuzar al comic mainstream de los Estados Unidos y sus áreas de oportunidad. No en balde esto lo ha llevado a estar siempre en la delantera y como parte de la élite.

Esta vez, les presentamos THE MECHANICS OF 22 PAGES, un ensayo acerca del manejo de formatos en el modelo tradicional de los comics americanos.

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Assume for the purposes of this that the 22pp unit inside the 32pp format is a hard limit and I can’t do any funky formatting stuff. It’s your basic commercial format circa 2006.

A regular comics page can hold about 220 words. In theory, it can hold a little over 225, if you use the Stan Lee rule of thumb that a single panel on a nine-pic grid can contain 26-28 words of dialogue/caption without crushing out the art. You need some variation on the page — so assume 25 words tops per panel on a 9-grid and allow for cutting at least one of those per-panel counts for getting a little quiet in there.

MOOREtn An Alan Moore page (izq).

Use of silence is crucial. The unscripted pause in acting is, I seem to recall once being told, only a little over a century old. Beckett remains a central playwright not just because of his themes, but because he knew when to cut and wasn’t afraid to cut hard, in all things. Study the stage play a little bit. I always tell new comic writers to read everything, not just comics, because comics are a little bit of everything. People sometimes squint at me a bit for that — but it’s no accident that Grant Morrison is also an award- winning playwright and Alan Moore is a successful performance artist, nor that John Cassaday used to work in television.

Wow, went right off the rails there already.

Comics can be many things. Never lose sight of that.

A SIN CITY page — and I’m thinking primarily of the early ones — can hold 180 words. Any more than that clearly encroaches on the effect of his panels.

LLOYDtn“This vicious cabaret”: A David Lloyd page.

A trick I lifted off SIN CITY for HELLBLAZER is pushing the captions off the panels into negative space beside them. It’s a trick of accessibility — it makes comics easier to read. I’ve been wanting to go back to that for years.

Narrative limitations force lateral thinking. A big part of the engine behind V FOR VENDETTA was David Lloyd saying to Alan Moore, no thought balloons and no sound effects. (Thought balloons, pretty much a dead tool today, were still a part of the daily toolbox in 1982.) That limitation kept them thinking about what could be left out and still have the thing work, and kept them thinking about what could be achieved and communicated within the limitation.

MILLERtnA Frank Miller page.

SIN CITY reads fast because Miller rarely uses his 180-word limit and because there’s a reduced amount of information in each panel. Therefore, 22pp of SIN CITY (beyond the first book, when he was still transitioning out of the more European style he’d developed for ELEKTRA LIVES AGAIN, still his most beautiful book) pretty much whip by.

But these things are there to be adapted. A stronger narrative voice, utilising the 180 words in captions, and a richer, more illustrative style (placing more information about environment, tone and theme into the panels) would slow down the reading pace of the pages.

DARROWtnA Darrow page (!)

A Geof Darrow page, for instance, takes infinitely longer to fully digest than a Frank Miller page — and when Miller wrote for Darrow, Miller’s minimalist underpinnings of dialogue and plot were completely overwhelmed by Darrow’s madness.

Fugue-state comics.

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MORRISONtn

A Grant Morrison page (der.)

Siempre se ha hablado de la innovación que el autor de comics británico ha aportado a la industria del comic a partir de la década de los 80s. Una de las razones que muchos de los escritores de vanguardia ofrecen como comparativo ante sus colegas en la Unión Americana es la exposición a un ambiente más restrictivo respecto al formato impreso.

Mientras el comic estadounidense ofrece una narrativa abierta, serializada y en múltiples volúmenes, en el Reino Unido los escritores se veían en el reto de ofrecer una historia completa y compacta en UNA PÁGINA.

Ellis es proveniente también de esta escuela minimalista, en donde sus primeros trabajos fueron impresos fueron sobre una notable brevedad de dimensiones y en publicaciones no profesionales. Se suscriben a estos orígenes escritores consagrados como Alan Moore y Grant Morrison.

Desde los albores del arte secuencial como profesión en el siglo XX, el ejemplo más claro para este approach es el del “cartón humorístico” o “tira cómica”, donde en un espacio reducido había que estructurar un segmento de historia tanto atrayente como fluido, con la claridad necesaria para expresar la intención y tono del argumento en conjunto con las imágenes, con una conclusión o continuación lo suficientemente concisa.

Sin duda alguna estas recomendaciones son invaluables para quienes aspiran a perfeccionar su estilo y la manera de presentar su estructura narrativa.