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John Byrne
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 8:57am | IP Logged | 1  

This morning I am finishing up (I hope) a montage commission that includes a shot of Kitty Pryde being chased by the demon from X-MEN 143. I pulled out my ESSENTIAL volume for reference, and in flipping thru that story came across this fairly typical page.

Now, I am honestly not trying to start a Dump On Claremont thread here, but look at this page. It is a "classic" example of the writer ignoring the pacing of the action and filling up the available space with words, words, WORDS!

The sequence of events happening in this scene is rapid-fire. One panel follows the last with barely a heartbreak between. Look at pnls 2 and 3, for instance. Did the monster pause briefly before crashing thru the wall?

Words take time to read. Even a fast reader is going to spend more time on the words in the captions and balloons than is actually seen in the action. This is something SO many writers forget. The panels are "snapshots," and we can assume in most cases that there is time before and time after each shot. But not in ALL cases. And this is why it is important for the writer to PAY ATTENTION to what is happening. And how FAST it is happening.

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 9:40am | IP Logged | 2  

I suppose one might edit this down as...

Panel 1 -- Cripes! That thing is after me!
Panel 2 -- What is it?!
Panel 3 -- It ripped through the reinforced wall!
Panel 4 -- (Let the art speak for itself)
Panel 5 -- I can't outrun it...
Panel 6 -- ...need to time to outthink it!


Question, JB: Chris Claremont scripts Kitty as hiding under the stairs to obscure her scent and test if the creature can still detect her -- but did you merely mean for Kitty to try to hide just for a breather?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 9:51am | IP Logged | 3  

So long ago! I don't remember.
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 12:17pm | IP Logged | 4  

I can't seem to remember how long ago 1980 really was!

Pardon a tangent, but can you please offer an example of when Chris Claremont's penchant for the verbose was an unexpected improvement on your art?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 12:28pm | IP Logged | 5  

Pardon a tangent, but can you please offer an example of when Chris Claremont's penchant for the verbose was an unexpected improvement on your art?

I think immediately of the sequence in IRON FIST, in which Danny Rand tours his former brownstone home, seeing phantom memories of times past. I drew it, I knew it, but the way Chris scripted it still made me misty.

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Joe Smith
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 12:53pm | IP Logged | 6  

I have no guilt in saying I ignore words when reading the first time thru when I feel the pictures can tell me what's going on in the moment. Most of your stuff could just have sound effects and I'd get the jist. 
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 1:55pm | IP Logged | 7  

I have to agree that most of the words in that sequence was unnecessary. The art alone gets across what is happening just fine, 
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Brian O'Neill
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 2:22pm | IP Logged | 8  

Silver and 'Bronze' Age Superman stories were also guilty of this. Sometimes, we'd get an entire page of Superman zooming off at super-speed...during the 'fraction of a second' before someone discovered Clark Kent wasn't where he should be..and coming up with some clever trick to preserve his identity, all while keeping a running commentary.
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Don Zomberg
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 2:51pm | IP Logged | 9  

There's a page from an issue of TOMB OF DRACULA where the title character bursts into  a room, surprising several people inside. He makes a typical villainous speech, consisting of three or four word balloons, and only THEN does one of the (off-panel) characters blurt out, "Dracula!"
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Lance Hill
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 3:39pm | IP Logged | 10  

This kind of thing reminds me of a gag from The Simpsons. Bart is falsely accused of stealing from the church collection plate, he runs, jumps out of the window, and makes his escape. Then a voice off screen yells "Stop him! He's heading for the window!".
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John Byrne
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 4:16pm | IP Logged | 11  

When working plot-pencils-script, writers often have a need (unconscious) to make their presence felt. Stan Lee was a master of adding nuance and layering to Kirby's plots -- to making them MORE than what Jack had given him. Unfortunately, to Stan suceeded in writing AGAINST the pictures, other writers have been not so good at it.

Remember Stan's classic caption "The wise man knoweth when to speak, and when to shuteth up"? Hard to imagine too many contemporary writers showing such restraint.

(Interesting point I noted, on the page posted: although it was meant to be a rapid-paced scene, I left room for Chris' verbiage. Perhaps that, too, was unconscious. My artistic brain did not want to see Kitty wearing speech balloons for hats!*)

------------------

* Tho she comes pretty close in that sixth panel! If Orz hadn't broken the border...!

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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 6:37pm | IP Logged | 12  

As a "generous" reader, I will usually "translate" something like this in my mind to be "people THINK really fast!"  What takes more time--running through a house or the speed of thought?

But, yes, it really slows the reader down.  More captions might have been all right to get the info across rather than all the dialogue (monologue?), but that still would have slowed the reading down.  (Manga, to the other exteme, might have done 20 dialogue-free pages for the same type of scene.)

As a person who tries to write and draw his own comics, I would have left these panels pretty empty, save for an occasional "Yow!" or "gasp gasp"!


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Flavio Sapha
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 7:23pm | IP Logged | 13  

Obviously, the storytelling is so good that it might as well have been a silent issue!

But, I will play devil's advocate here. First off, I think thought balloons are ok. In this case, Kitty's internal monologue of the chase added a sense of anxiety to the story. Also, the balloon placement here is really deft, it helps your eye run over the page nicely.

Claremont's verbose style really put the reader inside the X-Men's heads...and it was always a pleasant read... I don't think any supergroup was ever as loved by their readers as the X-Men were in the 80s!

And as much as it was because the Byrne-Austin entity made them and their world look just perfect, a lot of it was from seeing them in their Claremont moments, having picnics, holidays or going out on the town!

Edited by Flavio Sapha on 26 July 2015 at 7:24pm
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Brian Miller
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 8:02pm | IP Logged | 14  

I've always read comics as the pictures being snapshots of exact moments in the story with the dialogue being continuous. I've never thought that all the words had to happen within that split second glimpse that we see in the panel. 
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John Byrne
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Posted: 26 July 2015 at 8:16pm | IP Logged | 15  

I've always read comics as the pictures being snapshots of exact moments in the story with the dialogue being continuous. I've never thought that all the words had to happen within that split second glimpse that we see in the panel.

Most of the time, there is no need to do so. As I said, mostly we assume elapsed time before and after a panel.

But a sequence in which Clark Kent is at his desk in the first panel, heading out the door in the second, ducking into the supply closet in the third, and flying out the window as Superman in the fourth cannot -- or should not -- be dialogued the same way as a scene in which Superman darts about the Fortress of Solitude at super speed. Both scenes may fill half a page or so, but their internal time is different.

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Robert Shepherd
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Posted: 27 July 2015 at 12:29am | IP Logged | 16  

I like to read my comics as well as admire the art. I agree 100% about the differences in pacing, but when I buy a comic and read it in record breaking time, like happens often nowadays, I feel cheated as a reader. 

The caveat is, it gets old when the writer states the obvious when the pictures say all you need.

Seems to me to be a pretty tough spot to be in, for a writer.


Edited by Robert Shepherd on 27 July 2015 at 12:29am
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Larry Lawrence
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Posted: 27 July 2015 at 9:20am | IP Logged | 17  

Also, the balloons crowd the art. It's particularly detrimental in panels 3 and 6. 

Edited by Larry Lawrence on 27 July 2015 at 9:20am
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Mark Haslett
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Posted: 27 July 2015 at 10:22am | IP Logged | 18  

While Kitty couldn't possible say all that dialogue out loud, all those thoughts could rush through her mind. In a novel, this would be understood better, but on the comics page it seems like there might be a guideline to keep in mind-- a hunt for an ideal balance.

As a humble reader, I was captivated by this page as it is-- if that's any consolation to the artist who has to suffer so many thought balloons laid over his work.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 27 July 2015 at 10:23am | IP Logged | 19  

Also, the balloons crowd the art. It's particularly detrimental in panels 3 and 6.

A lot of writers, working plot-pencils-script, seem utterly unable to tailor their captions and dialog to the available space. The cosmic balance is struck, mind you, by the number of artists working full script who cannot shape their art to the amount of space they should be able to calculate the copy is going to take!

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Mark Haslett
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Posted: 27 July 2015 at 10:26am | IP Logged | 20  

I want to add my admiration for the lettering and colors which seem to be working hard toward the same purpose-- despite the script being so word-heavy.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 27 July 2015 at 10:38am | IP Logged | 21  

And as much as it was because the Byrne-Austin entity made them and their world look just perfect, a lot of it was from seeing them in their Claremont moments, having picnics, holidays or going out on the town!

Not to take from Chris anything that is fully his, but those moments belong as much to me! When we jumped from 17 to 22 pages, I was quick to say this meant we could do more "X-Men go to the pizza place" scenes.

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Trevor Thompson
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Posted: 27 July 2015 at 11:33am | IP Logged | 22  

I want to add my admiration for the lettering and colors which seem to be working hard toward the same purpose-- despite the script being so word-heavy.

************************************
I presume the colouring was done by Glynis Wein. I adore her work.
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Darren Taylor
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Posted: 28 July 2015 at 3:34am | IP Logged | 23  

For me, it's the last panel. 

"Now to see how smart you are."-To my mind, pretty much covers what is needed there.

It actually reads more like a list, designed to curtail any questions that might appear later in fan-letters.


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John Byrne
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Posted: 28 July 2015 at 4:08am | IP Logged | 24  

It actually reads more like a list, designed to curtail any questions that might appear later in fan-letters.

Or from Jim Shooter!

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Darren Taylor
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Posted: 28 July 2015 at 6:06am | IP Logged | 25  

---Or from Jim Shooter!

Damn it! While chortling at your comment, I just snorted my coffee. Spent the last few minutes spluttering around my office. Thanks JB.
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