Robot 6

Quote of the Day | ‘Visual info should be conveyed visually’

Because who actually needs to SEE the fight?

In a recent superhero comic, the artist introduced a character who was notable for his small stature. Nowhere in the first 20-odd-page issue did you see him clearly in scale next to normal-sized characters that demonstrated he was small. This was covered in passing in the dialogue. That’s bad comics. If you were telling this story over a campfire, one of the first things you’d say is that this guy was very short; you might make it specific, with a comparison. In comics, the art should do that for you. Something about a picture painting a thousand words. Visual info should be conveyed visually.

– Dark Horse editor Scott Allie, not referring to the specific panel above, but talking about the same thing.

Allie writes at length about the importance of visual storytelling to comics. He uses lots of examples, both positive and negative, but one of my favorites is when he points at some Alan Moore comics to prove that it doesn’t matter how talented the writer is. If the artist doesn’t convey the right information, the comic’s going to suck.

This isn’t to say that the art is more important than the writing. That’s not true, and neither is the reverse. What’s true is that art and words BOTH have to do their parts to make a good comic.

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21 Comments

anyone know what comic Allie is referring to?

Either way, I totally agree

Scott Allie is a smart guy. No wonder the comics he edits are so good. Of course, it helps that he’s working with talented people too.

Well, the panel shown here offers a benefit as well, the information of three pages of fight scenes has been reduced to one panel’s dialog.

In creating my own comic for publication online, I started by intending to pour my story into 24pages. And i found that while I could fir the plot into that few pages, I couldn’t do so if I meant to give my characters the development they needed and the subplots the depth they required. And because I want to make the best comic I can,I’m now doing it Manga style – 6=9 page chapters weekly and the story is now well over 100pages. And it’s worth it, if i do say so myself. Of course i have no editor and I’m both writer and artist.

The point is, for a 24 page comic,if you have a story to tell – there’s an art to choosing what you will show and not show so as to have the story as complete and well told as possible in 24 pages. The three pages of fight scenes reduced to a panel’s dialog may have been necessary to allow the 5 page climatic fight scene fit into those 24 pages.

But clearly there is no excuse for not showing the short guy juxtaposed with others to show the shortness.

I would say there’s a difference between bad story telling and limited opportunities due to the increasingly reduced page count of a comic. That panel above is a perfect example, sometimes a cool fight scene needs to be dropped to allow other more important elements of the story.

Only in the comic industry do you have fans, who pay really high prices per comic now, making excuses for a shoddy product

Preach it! I’m so tired of all the scenes I want to see happening off panel.

or you can foot the paper n ink bill for 42 different 33 page comics, like im doing.–with 33 pages each, surely the artist and writer both get the time to shine.

–the above statement works both ways…there are things that could be conveyed better visually, and their are things that could be Better conveyed with dialogue.–to be fair to the art teams, both background artists, and foreground artists,..the more dialogue balloons and caption boxes there are,..the less artwork is shown. –unless you re-size the pages like we are, to put said items in the spaces between panels. sometimes this means the pages/panels aren’t as big as they would have been normally, but you cant have everything.—greedy companies are learning this the hard way. hacking-off your art teams is the surest way to sink a comic book publishing ship.

writers come and go anyway when they get bored. good artists are very hard to come by. they are also usually enthusiastic about having steady work.–unlike most writers who think they are better just because they provide the story. like it or not, comics are a “visual” medium. not a dialogue driven one.

Isn’t that panel above a joke, though? I just imagine that guy saying it all very quickly. Seems silly to me in context of a serious military installation. That first dude is like “What?” and then most probably “Oh, God, not again.”

There may be a more recent example, but Allie may be referring to Earth 2 #1. I remember reading it and seeing Al Pratt (eventually The Atom) near a tank but with no clear reference to his short stature—except in the dialogue. I kept trying to figure out WHICH of the nearly identical fatigue-clad figures was supposed to be Pratt; fortunately each character had his name on his uniform. Ugh.

@cich: Unfortunately, it’s not a joke. It’s part of a longer scene, all set in that control room, where guys at computers describe an epic fight to each other so that the artist doesn’t have to draw it. It’s Fantastic Four #556, if anyone’s curious enough to look it up.

@Michael May
Ah, sad to hear that. So Millar did it, on purpose, to help Hitch with the deadlines. I understand it from their perspective. But for the reader this is boring, boring stuff.

hey michael!
i was going to respond to your earlier post about writers learning to draw… i think a lot of writers are, frankly, visually illiterate. they might be perfectly capable of writing in the conventional sense, but have no idea how the number of panels on a page, or what is shown vs told, or a host of other extremely important issues affects the experience of a visual work. it’s insulting.
a film does much the same thing, but has hundreds of crew and a much larger budget and schedule. so all comic creators (writers, artists, editors, even letterers) should be at least somewhat familiar with other facets of the creative process.
in animation, the vast majority of directors, story editors etc start out as animators or storyboard artists. they understand the visual language and micro-storytelling of individual characters and scenes years before they’re in charge of anything story-related. i’m not saying comics as an industry should follow that model, but comics creators (and companies) could do themselves a huge favor by learning to communicate visually for this visual medium.

The problem is, many comic artists today are visually illiterate, as you put it.

Go back and read some old comics from the 70′s or 80′s and you’ll see art that displays competent draftsmanship and storytelling.

This should be taken a step further I think. Comics can be so much more than an imitation of reality (as seen in the example). I’d like for writers to start thinking like artists, see if they can as little as they can with dialogue and captions. Visuals speak volumes, and too many comic book artists and writers don’t think in terms of a comic page, they’re trying to be very impressive storyboards. I know there a few independents doing this, but damn it that should just be standard practice!

@SAW

Excellent point. Frank Miller’s Sin City (and nearly everything he’s drawn since) does just what you said

- OliverClothesoff

that is also true. for years i thought comic art was getting worse. then i realized the “art” was actually getting better, it was just no longer storytelling. it was a bunch of random illustrations that happened to be printed on the same page.

Great point. Scott Allie is a great editor and knows what he’s talking about and he’s right on this point. This is one of things I was talking about in THIS thread: script writers who don’t think comics are a visual medium first and foremost or who don’t “think visually” or who don’t understand how to convey narrative, plot, theme, and characterization with images shouldn’t be writing comics. They’re in the wrong medium. There’s a disappointingly large number of comics writers who are actually novelists, playwrights or just fanboys and there’s nothing wrong with that but then their comics fail to work like comics. (For the record, the above panel is a good example of this problem but I don’t know who wrote that and I never read that comic so I can’t comment on whoever it was in particular.)

It’s interesting reading Golden Age comics, where the creators are still getting the hang of this. Read an early Batman comic — pretty much every panel has a narrative caption describing what is happening in the panel. “The Batman takes a mighty swing!”, stuff like that that violates “show, don’t tell” pretty heavily.

Course, that was 70 years ago and guys like Finger had the excuse that this was still a young medium (and many of the creators were young as well) and they were still figuring out how to make it work. There’s not really any excuse for it today. Except, I guess, the one May pointed out: “Hitch can’t make deadlines.”

This is pure nonsense and nothing more then an aesthetic choice in storytelling. The best have said no and again don’t tell, show. But the opposed is also valuable when aiming for different kinds of storytelling. What’s left to wonde and imagined is more powerfull then pure depiction of any kind of scene because it arouses our imagination turning it in a indisyncratic nature. This is a ludicrous comment and Dark Horse had someone with an eye opened this guy sjould be sacked immediately. What a crock of shit –

@erge – what the hell are you picking up a comic book for? If you want a description, exposition, and heavy dialogue, read a book. Comics should put EVEN MORE emphasis on art, because that’s the draw: the unique vision of the comic artist. Writing can take any form, and so many writers have proved that by working in the medium. They write good shit, yea. But the best shit is always done by the guys who get their particular craft, who really dig into what makes the medium tick, and the masters ask why it ticks, how it ticks, and play with how it ticks. When dealing with comics, its words and drawings, yes. but that drawing bit? That shit can blow your mind if a writer knows when the visuals go beyond words.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

@Michael May,

Did you read that particular explanation of the scene from either Millar or Hitch somewhere? Because if not, I’m going to mark it as unfounded, off-base speculation. If you actually read the issue you’ll see that the half-dozen or so pages that precede it are nothing but “epic fight scene” featuring the FF, Avengers, and about a dozen random superheroes fighting a giant doomsday robot at the North pole. The page featured above address th aftermath of the fight which didn’t need to be snow in detail to advance the plot.

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