Monalesia Earle gave us a lecture on the stylistic features and mechanisms of comic books and graphic narratives. It was interesting to see how many different tools are used by comic artists in order to build up a narrative. Often we overlook comics as just a form of storytelling, and don’t look past the literary techniques that are used.
We look at how the gutter (which had previously been highlighted when we discussed Scott McCloud) offers “closure” (McCloud, 1993) as well as how different illustrative styles offer movement within a still frame. These include techniques such as Briffits, Squeens and Solrads. For the sake of this post, I will look at these in the context of my favourite narrative Watchmen.
Dave Gibbons is the illustrator for the Graphic Novel Watchmen and this heavy tome is packed full of stylistic techniques that were highlighted in the lecture. Most interestingly the manner in which Rorschach has a different speech balloon (a jagged curved one) to other characters, indicating a different manner of talking. This continues throughout the book and is used in order to indicate that it is always him talking when we see these balloons. There are also countless Briffits (clouds or lines indicating movement or speed) due to the action-nature of the comic.
Due to the size of the book, it is important for Gibbons to apply pace to the story, just as a writer would use paragraphs to speed up and intensify a story, so too must the artist. This is done through the use of the gutter, and varying sized panels, in an attempt to guide the reader through these scenes, and when needed, create a sense of urgency in fight or action scenes. Gibbons also uses countless techniques that were discussed by Monalesia, in order to set a scene. Watchmen is set in a dystopian future, and each panel attempts to address this through it’s visual language. Rain, fire, smashing glass, are all illustrated by Gibbons in order to draw in the reader, allowing Alan Moore (the writer) to be more brief with his words, as the illustration can summarise the general feel of each scene.