Saturday, February 14, 2009

Favorite Panels #2 - Bill Sienkiewicz

This is a page from The Shadow #2, artwork by the great Bill Sienkiewicz.

Having just fallen from an airplane, wrestling with a clone, the Shadow is saved at the last second by another airship, while the clone plummets to his death. The situation is typical superhero melodrama, but what makes this a favorite is the structure of the page itself.

While at first glance, this appears to be four separate panels, there are three techniques that Sienkiewicz uses which allow the page to operate as a single meta-panel, while at the same time, letting the artist retain the ability to control the timing and meter of the scene.

The first is the movement of the airship in the upper left corner. Although there are three distinct images of the ship itself, the air current which indicates the ship's flight path flows seamlessly across the three panels, giving the sense of one distinct motion.

Second is the falling figure of the clone, which, again, is shown in all three panels (though, in the third panel, the character is only implied), yet it is the consistent trail of the word balloons accompanying his fall which give the movement a consistent flow across the page. Also notice how, as the falling man gets closer to the ground, his screams grow louder and thus, the word balloons become larger. The "SPLURK" sound effect splattered across the third and fourth panel unites the two images, and the panel border even disappears as the scene dramatically breaches into the final panel.

At the same time, the actions of the figures along the bottom of the page are clearly broken down into four separate panels. Their dialogue puts the scene into context and provides the sense of actual time passing. The first three panels take maybe 2-3 seconds of real time, while the fourth panel appears to skip ahead just a few seconds or so.

This combination of techniques is possible because Sienkiewicz uses thin black lines rather than actual gutters to divide the panels (and maintains a fixed camera angle throughout).

Fascinating stuff! I've never seen anything quite like it, though I'm sure this can't be the only example of such a technique.

No comments: