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, to see what I can learn from the exercise.
I mentioned Warren Ellis last week, as his Come in Alone column was what put The Metabarons on my radar. I’m mentioning him again because this week, I’ll be tackling my absolute favorite of the comics he’s written: Nextwave, Agents of H.A.T.E., with Chris Eliopoulos (lettering), Stuart Immonen (pencils), Dave McCaig (coloring), and Wade von Grawbadger (inks).
I’m not one for “this belongs in a canon”, as a rule, but those twelve issues of Nextwave are pretty, pretty unimpeachable to me, y’know? The irreverence and barrage of mad ideas is what everyone remembers fondly, and with good reason, but for myself? I always thought the two-issue structure to each story was neat (I’m also tickled that it’s essentially the Adam West Batman model, of all things, the only thing better than a 48 page story is a trade of three of them). And too…honestly, the book had me from the moment the first two issues riffed on FLCL without being a 1:1 rip in any way, shape, or form.
To that last end, let’s look at this page from the first issue, where Tabby goes a little bit Blues Drive Monster, a little bit wuxia (Wuxia Drive Monster? No? Okay.)
PAGE TWENTY-ONE (FOUR PANELS)
P1. TABBY dives into the red pool on MONICA’S signal. AARON crosses his arms.
– MONICA I hate broccoli. Let’s kill ‘em.
– MONICA But first: the Beyond Corporation © has woken up a giant lizard and don’t seem to be controlling it too well.
– MONICA Tabby: go tame a monster.
P2. Outside the Shockwave Rider as it blasts along. TABBY flies out of the belly via the red pool, heading in the opposite direction.
– CAPTION Tabitha Smith possesses the mutant powers of blowing things up and stealing all your stuff.
P3. TABBY flies at us, pointing ahead with her index and middle finger. A little bit Superman, a little bit wuxia.
– TABBY tick tick tick
P4. TABBY picks up speed as her bubbly explosions propel her forward.
– TABBY Boom.
So, What’d We Learn?
This page…it’s a weird one? But in a good way.
P1, left to right: Tabby’s blooping through the pool while Monica talks on, but that triple stack of Monica’s balloons draws my eye to the right-hand side of P2 with the Shockwave Rider.
From the right side of the panel I have no problem following the path of Tabby heading left (thanks, Japanese comics), into her introductory caption. The weird part is that I’m tracking her right to left, and upwards to boot, which is counter to my usual reading experience, but at the same time, since there’s nothing left to process upwards past the upper left of P2, left-to-right-and-always-down reading kicks back in, and my eye is dropped into the next available word balloon.
That’s P3, on the left, while the composition of the panel weighs left-to-right (Tabby almost sweeping the left side of the panel back and making us follow her point to the right). The fact that Tabby’s flying at us makes it dynamic, but it’s still a kind of re-set of left-to-right Western comics reading.
P4, not only further emphasizes the return to left-to-right reading, but also even tilts the action downwards toward the turn of the page, inverting P2.
That is a bonkers composition, but also maybe I’m just a weirdo.
Philly-based comic writer Josh Hechinger [joshhechinger.tumblr.com] is a Cancer, and his blood type is A+. You can find him being a loquacious dope on Twitter, and read his comic collaborations on Comixology.
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