09 May 2009

Looking at Picture Books from a Comics Vantage Point

Folks outside the comic-book world (as I was myself when I started Oz and Ends) probably don't grasp the full implications of the name of J. Caleb Mozzocco's blog, Every Day Is Like Wednesday.

Wednesday is when new comic books go on sale, just as the music industry has seized on Tuesdays to release new albums and the movie industry counts down the days to Friday. Some industry analysts have suggested that book publishers should calls dibs on some other day of the week in order to focus attention on their projects, but that seems unlikely.

Moving on, therefore, in a couple of blog postings Mozzocco noted some picture books that use some of the basic storytelling techniques of comics. First, Noah's Ark, by Peter Spier, published in 1977 and winner of the Caldecott Medal the following year. Mozzocco writes:

Noah's Ark falls into that overlap of the comics and children's books circles on a hypothetical Venn diagram. . . . whatever Spier, Doubleday or Noah's Ark itself may think, it's a book told in sequential images, most of its pages divided into various grid shapes like a comic book page (there are no square blank ink borders around the "panels," but they're set apart from one another with gutters of white space.
That multitude of images in front of the eye at once is indeed one way comics differentiate themselves from traditional picture books.

This book doesn't contain any words, however--neither narrative text blocks nor word balloons. That means we don't know how Spier would have treated those words--as part of the art or separate from it. I also don't see sound effects, motion lines, emoticons, or other ways that comics "show the invisible." So Noah's Ark never floats into full comics mode.

Mozzocco also discusses Melanie Watt's Scaredy Squirrel, though on this picture book he spends more time on Scaredy's diagnosis than on the use of multitple images on the same page spread.

(Thanks to Tegan at Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog for the initial link.)


Anonymous said...

New books generally have a Tuesday laydown date.

J. L. Bell said...

And an official "pub date" of...whenever the Publicity Department guesses would work best.