O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
It’s a little something different on Your Wednesday Sequence this week, folks. For weeks now I’ve been wanting to dig into the rock-solid action storytelling of Benjamin Marra, who draws comics like Jack Kirby given a dose of Giotto DNA and filled to the bursting point with speed metal and grindhouse movies. Ben’s work on Night Business and Gangsta Rap Posse (a bracing new issue of which was just released) is about as close to flawlessly constructed as comics get: deceptively simple strings of phenomenal drawings that flow like a waterfall. Luckily enough for me, Ben was willing to answer a few of my questions on composition, layout, pacing, and a bunch of other comic book-making inside dope. And luckily enough for you, I’m posting our Q and A right here. Get ready to learn from a master, kids…
MATT SENECA: Your comics have always emphasized gridded layouts, but in your latest comic, Gangsta Rap Posse #2, you stick almost exclusively to a basic six-panel grid, with each of the frames the exact same size as all the others. What makes that layout so appealing to you?
BENJAMIN MARRA: There are several reasons. Firstly, I think it’s the most efficient system for constructing and reading comic book pages. Many masters of comic book art and storytelling have worked off of it, like Kirby, Alan Moore (to an extent), Kyle Baker and Gary Panter. If the six-panel grid was good enough for Kirby, it’s good enough for me. It’s also a matter of time. If my page layout is pre-determined I’ve spared myself from having to solve many additional problems and can spend time focusing exclusively on what the panels contain. Additionally, I think it’s a more accessible format for new readers. A lot of comics these days focus too much on doing unnecessarily crazy page layouts (I guess stemming from Neal Adams’ response to Steranko?) with panels, instead of focusing on what’s within the panels, which is what’s really crucial. Wild panel layouts just confuse readers who aren’t already versed in comics as a language.
You know, I briefly debated whether to slap the gloriously offensive cover for Gangsta Rap Posse #2, the latest installment in Benjamin Marra’s fictionalized/sensationalized homage to the likes of N.W.A. and other Tipper Gore–terrifying rap acts of the Bush-Clinton era, here on Robot 6. But then I realized: Is it really any worse than any given superhero comic image the Internet kicks around every week?
Marra’s series is a knowingly nasty-looking thought experiment, imagining what it would be like if hardcore hip-hop really were as Rambo-level violent as its practitioners sometimes made themselves out to be. This issue, which Marra unveiled on Thursday, sees the title characters square off against the LAPD, skinheads, record labels, and an ersatz George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, out for blood over uncleared samples. It’s coming straight outta Traditional Comics, Marra’s pulpy publishing imprint. Parental Advisory: Explicit Content.