In fairness, his novels make him sound like a frustrated novelist too.
It was a text-heavy time; you can also see that in Frank Miller’s DKR. Moore’s Swamp Thing, from the same period, was also very text heavy.
He also moved away from that after works like Miraclemen or Swamp Thing; neither Top Ten nor LoEG is as text-heavy (although the latter especially makes good on that by using seperate text pieces).
It was an experiment back then, and as is often the case with these things, some of it has been incorporated into many others’ writings and some of it was scuttled. But one thing has to be said: all those people complaining about “decompression” should maybe just read more of that stuff.
I’m strongly against the very prescriptive ‘always show and never tell’ idea.
I think it has a huge amount of truth to it and if you look to silver and bronze age comics they did very often just repeat in either dialogue, captions or thought balloons what you could already see in the page. However if you look at Moore and Miller in their 80s work when they moved more to captions they almost never did that. The text, especially in Watchmen, is almost all juxtaposition of the words and pictures. Someone else entirely is speaking to a different situation to what the images display.
Brubaker and Azarello make a lot of use of that technique today. It’s a technique that only really works in comics and should be exploited there when it suits the material.
It’s like when we were asked in the MW Annual competition whether silent stories were banned, I couldn’t say no, the silent story could be exceptional so to rule it out would be silly, it’s just that with 4-5 pages to play with it makes your task so difficult.
I’m against any prescriptive idea in writing. I used to hang around writers’ forums, and amateur writers have a lot of really weird ideas that they are convinced are the One True Gospel and should never be deviated from.
Things like, “always show, never tell”. Well, ok, it’s one way to work, but if it’s the only way then you’ve dismissed 50% of the English language’s great literature as being badly written. And “no head hopping” is another popular one. Meaning, tell it from one person’s point of view and stick to it (which is the prose equivalent of using thought captions instead of letting everybody in the panel have their own thought bubble I expect ). Again, perfectly fine technique, but not one you have to be a slave to. And don’t even get me started on active vs. passive voice (most amateur writers don’t actually seem to understand what that means anyway, they just “know” that they have to stick to whatever they mistakenly think “active voice” is, come hell or high water).
I always suspected they heard a pro mention some technique in passing as part of a talk once and took it as being the One True Gospel because “George R.R. Gaiman does it therefore we have to do it”. Either that, or there are a lot of crappy creative writing courses around.
The only One True Gospel in writing is “Do anything you want, but do it well.”
That’s funny. The thing I ran into more in judging the scripts I did for the annual were people trying to hard to break “rules” they hadn’t used enough to understand. Therefore, they didn’t know how to break them in a way that worked and didn’t just make things messy.
The “rules” aren’t there to limit anyone. They’re there to give a guideline especially for people just beginning in a field. The reason we so value works that broke those rules is because it takes an incredible grasp of the craft to know how to break them and still make things work.
The “show don’t tell” rule isn’t meant as an absolute. It’s meant to keep a visual artist from relying on the crutch of verbal language to do what they should be doing visually.
Moore knew the rules he was breaking and did it intentionally. I will acknowledge that he did it properly but it just wasn’t to my taste.
70’s comics mostly did it in the absolute wrong way unless their goal was as a reading primer where the words duplicate the actions to help a young reader learn to read. Otherwise, it’s just incredibly annoying.
What rules are we really talking about though? All we set were about timings within the continuity.
Mark gave some examples from his own work but then pointed to Chronocops as the perfect short story which broke about 4 of them.
After that there is what we admitted all along, that there’s an element of personal taste.
I agree I saw people try and fail to be too flamboyant or ambitious, silent stories that didn’t have enough story for 5 pages, one tried an incredible JH Williams style complex double paged spread. Hard to pull off but there were also a lot of very safe ‘by the numbers’ entries too. I think the winners hit the sweet spot in the middle.
Any sign of publication? Last year’s was around now wasn’t it?
It’s already solicited.
Although I would clarify, just so people aren’t misled, that once we as mods here have done the shortlisting it’s all out of out hands completely so know nothing other than the official press releases. It’s over to Mark and Rachael and Image.
As an aside, I was reading way ahead of my school’s expectations in the 70s, and I genuinely think it may have been because I read comics. Stan Lee taught me loads of big words. So, maybe that was at least part of their goal. Excelsior!
Back to thought bubbles: this week’s issue of Kill Or Be Killed uses an interesting combination of captions and thought bubbles, which helps to demonstrate the different effects created by both.
(In that first example, the thought bubble is coming from a different person to the caption - unlike in the second example.)
This doesn’t really belong anywhere else. It started with this tweet to Erik larsen:
A collection of all possible variations of the 9-panel grid:
Erik then replied after removing the panel combinations that don’t really work in comics:
And then colour coded by panel count:
Erik then posted this sample layout, which I still contend (despite the cues) is problematic:
I was reminded of this Twitter thread by the post in the Old Comics Thread, with John Byrne’s She-Hulk #50:
Although eventually the reading order is clear, it’s not immediately apparent and that seems to me to be a problem.
Something that’s been drilled into my comic reading is that the bottom right of the page should be the last thing you read - whichever panel is taking up that space is the last in the sequence; similarly the top left should be the first thing read.
I can see why some might find it a bit unclear but I found my eye being lead by the direction of the pavement and traffic.
The pavement helps as a makeshift arrow; I’d still tend to advise against it.
I made suggestions to improve the “flying man” layout:
I tend to think there aren’t any hard and fast rules about these things.
The ‘flying man’ example works for me as is. So does that She-Hulk page.
The three panel “flying man” ends with the images leading you back to the page you just read!
See the Promethea example.
I can concede that a page designed by Moore/Williams III is an exception. In a typical, mainstream comic though…
It depends what you’re going for. If you want a simple, straightforward and easy panel order, I agree it’s not that. But comics would be boring if they always tried to be simple, straightforward and easy.
If there’s a story-based reason to try to disorient the reader, sure - it makes sense to have panels pointing the wrong way and whatnot, but - for me - it’s bad comic art otherwise.