By Josh Hechinger
Welcome to From Strip to Script, where I take a page of finished comic art and try to derive a script from it.
Some credit for this week's installment should go to Bleeding Cool's own Adi Tantimedh, whose Look! It Moves! column on Assassination Classroom convinced me to finally give that series a shot.
But also: this week I'll be giving the first of two talks to a Chester County Library program that's promoting a teen reading lounge/course centered around graphic novels. One of my college professors remembered me, and asked me to come do a talk.
Normally, this is where I'd make a self-deprecating joke, but I tend to be painfully earnest when it comes to encouraging people to read comics, and fanatically encouraging when it comes to telling them to make their own.
That said, I won't be encouraging them to all try to kill me while I'm doing my spiel, because this isn't some kinda…Assassination…Classroom…by…Yusei Matsui?
(Oh my god that segue. I am so sorry.)
Anyway! Read right to left, class.
P1. KORO-SENSEI points to various sentences on the blackboard. Use tones and flats to have the tentacles be different "colors". KAYANO
– KORO-SENSEI Okay…Kimura…
– KORO-SENSEI Which of my tentacles is pointing to the sentence with the relative clause?
P2. KIMURA hesitates, a single bead of sweat running down his face. It's "oh crap, I've just been called on" jitters more than anything. KORO-SENSEI'S face lights up with the correct answer markings.
– KIMURA …
– KIMURA The blue one?
– KORO-SENSEI Correct!!
– KORO-SENSEI The "who" in this sentence begins the relative clause.
P3. NAGISA also has a tiny bead of sweat on his head, but is otherwise just in an everyday scholarly pose: leaning his chin on his hand, pen at the ready to take notes.
– NAGISA (cap) So…how did we end up in this situation?
P4. KAYANO, sitting next to him, by the window, gets his attention.
– KAYANO Hey…
– KAYANO …Nagisa!
P5. KAYANO also has a single bead of sweat on her cheek, but she smiles slightly and points out the crescent moon visible through the window.
– KAYANO It's noon…
– KAYANO …And you can still see the crescent moon.
P6. NAGISA, expressionless, with the crescent moon reflected in his eyes. In the space near his head we see a closer shot of the moon: it's physically a crescent, like a chunk has been blown out of it.
– NAGISA (cap) Two things happened…
– NAGISA (cap) At the start of our third year.
So, What'd We Learn?
– I'm pretty tickled by the use of "color" in this B/W comic. Koro-Sensei's colored tentacles, his different facial markings (which get expanded on throughout the first volume)…black and white, or rather, greyscale, comics still have fun stuff you can do with their palettes.
– Similarly, it's the color of the tentacle that matters, not the actual text on the blackboard. Although credit to Yuisei Matsui and the translation team for actually putting up coherent text…
Anyway, the functionally-pointless calling out of an individual tentacle color in a B/W book underlines how absurd the whole situation is, right? I don't just want to point out a layer to the joke, though, so here's an actual Teachable Moment: the more absurd your circumstances and limitations are in a story, the harder you should commit to the verisimilitude of your story's world. Winking at the audience or undercutting the narrative expectations are their own kinds of humor, yeah, but playing things completely straight is the trickier tightrope to walk.
– Those ambiguous sweatdrops: every student in the class on this page has a little sweatdrop. It's not the comically-oversized sweatdrop that indicates exaggerated bemusement or embarrassment, nor is it an agitated flying flop-sweat. It's just a single, tiny drop, usually with a normal or at least mildly uncertain expression. It can read two ways, y'know: either as strain ("oh god, an unkillable alien is teaching us") or as…well, a different, altogether more horrifying kind of strain ("oh god, our class is being engaged in learning and expected to answer questions").
Or both! Having the minor drop be a recurring visual across multiple characters opens you up to multiple interpretations.
– The crescent moon is a straight-up visual gag: when we first see it, it's a drawing of a crescent moon. When we punch in closer on it in the next panel…well, it's still a drawing of a crescent moon, but it's literally a "crescent moon". Again, it's comedy through commitment: "the moon's a crescent. No, no, I'm serious, the moon is an actual crescent now."
Philly-based comic writer Josh Hechinger is a Cancer, and his blood type is A+.