21 November 2011

Daredevil and the Family Circus

A day after analyzing some big panels in which a single character appears multiple times, I read Tucker Stone’s Comixology interview with scripter Mark Waid highlighting this double-page spread designed by Marcos Martin for a recent issue of Daredevil.

Waid explained:
I said "look, I need the two of them in a street scene in the glory of all of New York". I used that Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali book as an example for him, that famous two-page spread that Neal Adams drew of the city. . . . It's an amazing drawing. And we needed something of that sensibility. And then I said I was sorry and that I would pay him back for it in the years to come. And you saw what he did. He turned an establishing shot into the Family Circus. And I mean that in a good way!
Stone notes that Martin did similar things in recent issues of Captain America and Spider-Man. I recall another example in Logicomix, by Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitriou, and Alecos Papadatos.

Waid refers to the well-known “dotted line” Sunday strips of Bil and Jeff Keane’s Family Circus. Those are different, however, usually showing the moving character only at the end while preserving his path across a landscape with a dotted line.

In many ways this multiple-figure image works like those I discussed yesterday (and not just because, technically speaking, it appears in a Daredevil comic). The action moves left to right, background to foreground, helping us English readers to arrange the moments in chronological order. Having a horizontal space to work with probably makes that easier. In addition, both approaches involve maintaining the same basic mood throughout the scene.

Notably, the individual vignettes on this spread are visually separated by areas without balloons or major characters. We can thus insert mental gutters between the moments. In contrast, the multiple figures in yesterday’s panels often overlapped each other, signaling how we should consider them as all part of a single quick series of movements.

(The panel above displays another way of “showing the invisible” for Daredevil, who’s blind but has enhanced senses and radar due to one of those convenient early-1960s accidents with radioactivity. The square boxes popping up around the scene communicate what he’s hearing, smelling, and otherwise sensing.)

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