Monday, August 9, 2010

Looking-Glass Layout with Steve Ditko

I've moved on to reading all of the Lee-Ditko run on Amazing Spider-Man, and I want to take a break from the Kirby analysis by looking at Dikto's layout for page 16 of ASM #23:


I'm struggling for a vocabulary that would allow me to express what I'm seeing on this page that distinguishes Ditko from Kirby.  Perhaps the best way to express the distinction is that Ditko concentrates on motion within panels instead of motion between panels as we see in Kirby.  Ditko's characters don't flow as easily from panel to panel as Kirby's do; Ditko will often (in other issues of AMS) make radical shifts in viewpoint as he makes the transition between panels.  I can't recall Kirby making use of extradiegetic arrows to guide the reader's attention as happens in panels 6-8 of this page.  So a point for Kirby?  Maybe . . . but I still really love the layout of this page and find Dikto a dynamic artist.

What impresses me most about the page is Ditko's use of mirrored panels--not in the panels' contents, but in their shape and placement on the page.  The top half of the page (panels 1-4) is repeated in the bottom half of the page (panels 5-8), but in a way that creates an "X"-pattern.  The big panels 1 and 8 form one stroke of the X, while the little panel sequences 2-4 and 5-7 form the other stroke.  Put another way, Ditko takes the second set of panels and flips them left to right to generate the "X"-shape.

The contents of the panels support this structure: panels 1 and 8 are the only two to feature both Spidey and the Green Goblin.  In both panels, Spidey is positioned toward the outer edge of the panel while the Goblin occupies the inner edge (additional instances of mirroring across the y-axis of the page).  Spidey is upside down and swinging up and to the right in panel 1; in panel 8, he's still upside down, but now swinging down and to the left.  (He's also coming toward us in panel 8 while moving away from us back in panel 1.)  The Goblin leans left in panel 1 and right in panel 8, yet more mirroring.

Panels 2-3 and 5-6 are also mirrored panels, but this time they flip left across the y-axis of the page instead of right (as in the case of panels 1 and 8).  Panel 2 shows the Goblin's hand releasing a pumpkin bomb; panel 3, Spidey's hand shooting a web to block the bomb.  The diagonal line repeated in both panels (hand/bomb in panel 2, hand/web/bomb in panel 3) is then repeated yet again in panels 5-6.  However, this time, the characters have traded places: now it's Spidey who acts first in panel 5, and the Goblin who wards off the attack second in panel 6.

Panels 4 and 7 offer similar layouts yet utterly different contents.  In panel 4, it's Spidey who acts, tossing the pumpkin bomb behind him to his left (and our right).  In panel 7, it's the Goblin's turn: he pulls Spidey's web in the opposite direction (behind him to his right and to our left).  The curves formed by the motion lines of Spidey's arm in panel 4 and the web shape in panel 7 are mirror-images of one another.

So while Ditko does feel the need to clarify the diegetic sequence of the page's action with the arrows connecting panels 6-8, he nonetheless does a brilliant job of integrating the entire page through an innovative page layout.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Kirby's Legacy Lives On

I was reading Alan Moore's wonderful revamp of Rob Liefield's Supreme last night and came across a page by artist Rick Veitch that demonstrates Kirby's influence.  Of course, it's not particularly a surprise that this page is Kirbeyesque: the issue from which it's taken (issue #6 of Supreme: The Return) is an explicit homage to Kirby's lifework.  Nevertheless, Veitch's work here is more than a pastiche of Kirby's style, but a testament to his mastery of Kirby's layout techniques.  The page below is from a sequence in the comic where Supreme encounters a cigar-chomping "imagineer" who prefer to go by the sobriquet "King":


There's so much to love about this page.  Matt Yackey and Digital Broome (the colorists) use the traditional "color spectrum" to generate an "X" layout for the page: panels 1 and 4 form one stroke of "X," giving us natural colors brown and green bounded by "cool" colors violet and blue, while panels 2 and 3 use the "warm" colors yellow and red to form the other stroke.  Veitch strengthens this second stroke with the motion lines in panel 2, diagonals replicated by the Kirby krackle cigar in panel 3.

Veitch also uses the "Z" layout we saw in the Kirby page I analyzed in my last blog entry.  Supreme (drawn by Veitch in the 1990s Image style customary to the character) navigates his way across the four panel layout.  In panel 1, he flies away from us and to our right, drawing the eyes to panel 2--where he turns toward us and flies down and left to panel 3.  In panel 3, Supreme turns again, still facing us, but this time flying down and right into panel 4.  There he ends the page pointing up and to the right, with his back turned to us: a pose basically identical to the one he assumed in panel 1.

At the same time, Veitch makes Supreme progressively larger in each panel, an increase in size that heightens the Kirbyesque sense of motion on the page--a nice contrast to the more static quadrants of the "King"'s face.  Even there, though, there is motion as each quadrant shifts in color and texture from one of the four classical elements to another (earth to air to fire to water).