Comics, Part 2: Movies and Comics and Comic Book Movies

There’s a whole new genre of films called “comic book movies”. You know: they’re those movies that don’t have Wonder Woman.

Newspaper comics predate cinema by a just few years. Check out this silent movie where the comics artist Windsor McKay makes “pictures that move” while his friends drink brandy and guffaw at such an idea:

A fairly clear line can be drawn between comics “before cinema” and “after cinema”.Little Nemo in Slumberland by McKay ran from 1905-1926, with every strip following the same basic story: Little Nemo has a dream that ends with him waking up in bed.The panels are set up like a stage play, with the viewer at a fixed distance from the action:

Now let’s look at a strip from Terry and the Pirates in 1942, 16 years after Little Nemo ended and well after film became really popular. Zoom! Pow!

Comics now have a “camera” that follows the action, zooms, and pans. By trying to imitate movies, comics became more like storyboards instead of an art form of their own. Aside from motion lines and weird characters, comics started to lose what made them unique.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with one medium borrowing from another. But while movies exist in time, comics exist in both space and time. There’s a lot of fun to be had with the page itself! Take a look at these Sunday pages from the 1930‘s comic Gasoline Alley:

Gasoline Alley by Frank King,

Gasoline Alley by Frank King,

Now look at this spread from the 2014 book, Here:

Here by Richard McGuire,

The fixed viewpoint is back, with every page taking place in the exact same room, traveling through time instead of space.

Or you can play with how people think in pictures as well as words:

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli,

Or how people think in video game mechanics:

Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley,

If you want to, one of your characters can even bust out a blackboard and explain his view on religion right to the reader’s face:

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli,


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