Robot 6

What’s wrong with Booth?

Sometimes, when I’m reading a comic, I’ll think “This art is ugly” or “This is hard to read,” and I’ll wonder if it’s just me that thinks that.

In the case of Booth, the historical graphic novel about Lincoln’s assassin, by historian C.C. Colbert and French artist Tanitoc, it’s not just me. Writer J.L. Bell had the same reaction, and he explains one reason why: Misleading word balloons.


Take this panel, for example. The curve in the tail of the balloon at the left suggests that its words come from the balding man looking away from us. But in fact those words are those of John Wilkes Booth, in the muddy green. If I hadn’t remembered that in real life Booth claimed to have thrust himself into the John Brown affair, I would never have been able to interpret this panel.

Bell also notes that Tanitoc’s art is sometimes too blobby and hard to read visually. Despite these flaws, I would still recommend the book; the story was strong enough to carry me through the rough parts, but I do wish it had been a bit smoother.



Davey Boy Smith

August 17, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I misinterpreted the title as meaning “What’s wrong with Brett Booth’ art?”, and would have wholeheartedly agreed that it’s not very appealing. Tanitoc’s art, however, looks great.

I can agree about the lettering based on the examples given. I’m not as sure about the art. I don’t really agree with the notion that the art HAS to be “fun,” as J.L. Bell states elsewhere in the linked blog post. I can’t tell if that’s from a limited exposure to comics and graphic novels, or if it’s a belief that comics art should be fun to look at as a general rule. Either way, I disagree with that premise. But maybe I’m misinterpreting what he’s saying.

Interestingly, when I first saw the panel, I thought the man in green facing the page was speaking, then I took a closer look at the tail end of the balloon, and understood why Bell could’ve been confused. It’s a common staple for American comics to have LONG tails pointing across the screen towards whoever’s talking. Manga made this more confusing when their balloons were invisible little points, and could be taking place at opposite ends of speaking characters. (Something that Blade of the Immortal had to improvise on as so not to confuse their readers)

Part of the reason European comics might have trouble finding an audience here is that there aren’t enough people who understand their visual language enough. It’s not as fast as Manga, but its also dense with information in each panel. People not used to this kind of storytelling can be easily lost.

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