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.
There’re two lines that I always come back to, philosophically speaking, when it comes to comics. Neither one originates with me, but between the two of them, you have a pretty accurate summation of my catholic (deliberate lower-case c, there) approach to what a comic can be and what influences you can pull in to make whatever kind of comic you want.
Line One: “Comics are just words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures.” – Harvey Pekar
Line Two: “American comics are powerful and cool. European comics seem very intellectual. And Japanese comics are very light-hearted. If you could combine the best of all three, you could create some really tremendous work. That’s my goal.” – Taiyo Matsumoto
Pekar’s line is the foundation, but Matsumoto’s goal, while dealing in broad strokes, is a thing I’ve internalized since I’ve heard it: comics can be all over the place in terms of tone and content, and filtering what you perceive to be the best of all worlds through your perspective as a creator is how you make your best work.
If you’ll pardon that heady/rambling introduction, I promise it makes sense in the context of Starpunch Girl here, a mélange of The Little Prince, Jack Kirby cosmic creationism, and Capcom brawlers by S.D. Lockhart (writing) and Patibut ‘Narm’ Preeyawongsakul (art).
P1. SPG’S cosmic adjustable wrench tightens the last bolt on the comm tower. There’s a diagnostic READOUT branching from the tower like a traffic sign.
– READOUT network status…waiting for response…
P2. SPG wipes the sweat from her brow as the little READOUT gives the all-clear.
– READOUT network status…ALL GREEN
P3. A smirking SPG tosses the Out of Order sign over her shoulder, into the void of space, while looking through her binoculars.
P4. Binocular POV: the PEOPLE are industriously building a sphinx with SPG’S face. Clockwise, there’s highlighted reticles within the panorama: “that’s my face”, “that’s a team of people dragging big stones to contribute to this monument”, “hey, a camel”, “lookit those resources being mined”, “someone’s directing this?” “hey, uh, more people dragging stones towards this endeavor”.
P5. SPG lowers her binoculars; she’s making an “urk!” face, like she’s just smelled a fart out of nowhere.
– STAR (no tail) …
So, What’d We Learn?
– On the comics-are-words-and-pictures front: this isn’t a strictly-wordless comic, but it eschews dialogue. There’s ‘technical’ readouts, janky signs, and that oh-so-comics effect of floating characters that emphasize a well-drawn facial expression. It is, of course, possible to do a wholly wordless comic, but I find this kind of thing more satisfying…like…there’s more art in figuring out where and when to break your own rules for the work.
– Watch the gutters on this page: the largest span leads into P1, the thinnest gutter to P2, the second thickest gutter cuts across the horizontal from P2 to P3. This creates a beat between the first two panels, where SPG’s waiting to see if her repairs are effective. The next storytelling beat, SPG checking on her pet planet and finding a bemusing surprise, has non-existent gutters, creating a smoother, quicker transition between set-up, reveal, and reaction.
– The square reticles in P3 are interesting, but maybe only in the context of the rest of the comic: earlier in the book, SPG very visibly intervened on the behalf of a kid being told off by a priest-like authority figure. That the two elements that get extra emphasis are her features as a point of worship, centuries later, and the little figure standing alone and pointing while all other figures toil industriously…and that her reaction in the next panel is “bemused gasface”…well, there’s probably a theme there.
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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