Exit Strategy: Panel Madness Day Nine (Or Is That Ten?)

Well, and so here we all are, folks! The end of Panel Madness. If you’ve got a moment you might like to click backwards one step to MarkAndrew, in order to view all the images presented thus far…

Interesting, aren’t they? Someone, somewhere along the line, called me a curator of this little movable online gallery, and I can’t say I dislike the implication…except it isn’t really 100% deserved, of course. After all I’m not the one who chose these images, or what to read in them, how to respond to them…so I can hardly take the credit for how they now seem (at least in my mind) to exhibit a certain wobbly thematic through-line. The Self and the World are always in context with one another, like it or not, one way or another…but that context can be tricky, and sometimes it turns out that you aren’t who you thought you were, or what others thought you were…or others were not who you thought they were.

Or the World itself is not.

I had intended to wrap up this little project with a special second effort of my own…a panel that positively enthralls me, that some of you may have seen before. Wanna see it again?

It’s a nifty one, I think: a panel that even a casual observer can probably tell is composed entirely of drawn elements — the sound effects and the word balloon, even the letters within are artistic composition. We talk a lot about how the words and the pictures match in comics, but always with the understanding that the words are from “outside”, not inside…

But not so, in this case. Here I better Scott McLeod: those aren’t words at all, not letters…they are DRAWINGS of words and letters. Ceci n’est pas un average everyday block of text, if you like: because since there is nothing in this picture that comes from “outside”, it’s mostly text by convenience. Cap’s orange jacket speaks volumes in the same way the sound effects do — it is the same effect. The words draw our starry-eyed teenager out of the mass of goggling faces behind her in the same way her clasped hands and delighted squinty smile do…not to mention Cap’s impatiently-folded arms. All is integral, because all is invented: like Whistler’s Mother, if you like.

Because in the end, context isn’t everything. At least, not the context that comes exclusively in from external sources to frame the work; the work creates context too, and pushes it outward into the wider world. Organisms are part of their environment too, as I am always reminding the very cleverest of my friends; and sometimes context begins at the ass-end of action, with the implications of things not yet glimpsed in whole.

Sort of the point of the whole thing, there.

And thus, with the “drawn-ness” of the panel above, I wanted to make a link to the fine art of calligraphy in Japan, an art simultaneously representational and non-representational…”or look at Pogo!” I intended to say. “Or even Cerebus!” If you want to see how lettering is not always just “lettering”…if you want to see how, indeed, all the arrangements of time, space, colour and line in our beloved panels are of a piece, and the piece’s seeming is all artful construction, and not “real”…though not not-real either. How do we see, how are we made to see…the context of our context, the context so often overlooked, because it is sourced in unfamiliar ground. And essentially that was to be my point, that this panel — this hilarious panel! — though it looks like it’s not much, is a great example of the joie de vivre of the cartoonist’s art, that plays with the arrangements meeting our eye in order to do something unanticipated to the reading process, something that at once challenges what it supports, and dares us to see it, all in the name of play.

Well, that was to be my point…

But now I find that, as much as I love that panel…there’s a better way to make that point. Looking back over the panels flung up by David, the Keeper, Derik, Sean, Tucker, Dan, Harvey, and MarkAndrew…

My Captain Marvel panel doesn’t quite fit so well anymore.

Instead, this one does:

Yanked with gratitude from an old post by Derik here, for the second time on this blog, this is something called Exit, by somebody called Nabiel Kanan, and it’s a remarkable thing, don’t you agree? Jesus, if anyone is ever wondering what to get me for my birthday…!

Time and space control — the characters don’t just move from panel to panel, because there is nothing not-panel for them to move from and to. They slide across the ledge they’re sitting on in a panel so big and drawn that it isn’t even a splash-page…it’s a freakin’ mural. And they don’t just slide, either, but they fairly bubble up. Bubble up out of nowhere, a virtual foam of these two characters that spreads exuberantly all over these two pages, eventually filling them up with a rich lather of structure that is context’s ultimate substratum. And it isn’t just them: here is a world of proliferating details, a mystery world full of signifiers, and sightlines, and figures, and actions…that produce we-know-not-what. Character, obviously; but something more as well. Drama? Temporality? “Edenic Fracture”? Is it the fabled Language Of The Birds that conceals itself in these works of “comics” art? Representational, yet non-representational…and it surpasses my little understanding for sure, to know whether that’s an aid, or a challenge, in the act of:

Reading. There’s so much to read, here, that we can’t stop. How does the eye follow through this page? I’m not sure I even know: I wander and wander through it, and never seem to get to the end. Today I spent some little while just looking at the shovel. So, this image’s diagrammatic nature seems to suggest something rather astonishing, because it is so hard to pin down, much like the emergent, epiphenomenal thematic throughline of these Panel Madness days…something hard to abstract, but felt: a precursor, perhaps, to the thinking about it that I am now doing. Time and space control — but, to what remarkable ends is that control being applied, deep down in its soul?

I don’t know…heck, maybe my so-called “emergent theme” is illusory. Pareidolia, my new favourite word, it seems: seeing what isn’t there. Or, it is there, but it’s only a product of the persistence of vision? Whose semantic content, along with its mysterious purpose, is probably best summed up simply…summed up with maximum immediacy, so it can’t be mistaken and can’t be overthought…

…Perhaps summed up best, and totally, just by something like THIS!

So click that link, and go visit Sean, our official Panel Madness Write-In Candidate! Because he puts it more succinctly than I ever could…

Well, and don’t they say a picture’s worth a thousand words?

But clearly that’s only a rough approximation!

Thanks to everyone for participating, this was fun. I wish I’d been able to include more people in the festivities (I had several of you in mind), but it was Christmas, and I was socked in with snow, and anyway I’m not really all that big on organization…

So we’ll just have to do it again, sometime, won’t we!

Keep keeping the comics-lovin’ faith, folks!

Afterparty’s at Strange Ink!

9 responses to “Exit Strategy: Panel Madness Day Nine (Or Is That Ten?)

  1. Also, this post is filling up with pingbacks from spamblogs…or whatever they’re called, I forget, I could look it up I guess, but you know what I mean…

    Anyway, it’s extremely annoying. COULD A REAL PERSON LINK OR COMMENT PLEASE?!


    I mean, fun’s fun, but come on.

  2. Thank you very much. How lame is it that I can comment on other people’s blogs from work, yet my own blog is blacklisted? I guess that’s what I get for mixing comics and smut. *sigh*

    That panel is really amazing. I’m drawn to the kid jumping – caught in midair in the only true moment of dynamic movement – and it’s almost dead center, and everyone else is just kinda chillin’ – it’s a really awesome panel, and you’re right: you could unpack that thing for hours, just pulling little bits of terrific out of the details.

    Thanks for the shout out. Compared to everyone else’s observations, which are far more precise and academic, I feel very humbled to make the cut.

  3. It was the Mindless Ones’ idea, Keeper!

    And Sean: not at all! You supplied the perfect capstone to the whole damn thing…couldn’ta done it without you!

    And now I go to finally, finally comment on your entry.

  4. Pingback: Destroy All Comics!!! - Here Endeth The Lesson « Strange Ink·

  5. I am too tired to read this right now, but the first part of the post reminded me of the (amazing) way subtitles are used in the Nightwatch movie (but only in the cinematic release and the super-special edition thing, everything else has really boring subs).

    The words weave in and out of the scene, dissolve like blood in underwater shots, and blast people in the face when angry young men yell them.

    It’s truly a sight to behold, and it makes the words feel much more integral to the piece, which makes me astounded that they went to the trouble of removing the integrated subs for the DVD release. What a waste of time.

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