Action Scene


From Comic Book Resources:

The action sequence is probably the type of comics-making that the greatest number of artists have engaged in (except maybe the gag), and it’s also one of the best tests of a cartoonist’s ability to do what they do convincingly.  Action demands that an artist utilize a number of skill sets all at once: an understanding of the human figure to sell the gestures, composition to produce impact, panel-to-panel transitions to move the reader through it, attention to detail so that the action’s environment never gets lost behind it.  Beside that, words on the page  become meaningless at best during action, actual impediments at worst.  Action is perhaps  the facet of comics storytelling in which it helps least to be told what you’re seeing.  The artist alone sells action.  And as we know, sequencing is what sells comics art.

Dino Buzzati’s early graphic novel Poem Strip is sequenced with an incredibly loose touch, with long prose captions spilling over into poster-style full-page panels or irregular grids.  The sequence above is really the only point at which Buzzati digs in and makes comics in a way that’s at least close to his era’s more typical Kirby/Ditko method.  It’s striking to see kinetic, moment-to-moment storytelling from an outside-comics artist like Buzzati (who only ever made one entry into sequential art) — this is obviously not the work of someone who learned to block out a fight by standing at the foot of a journeyman cartoonist’s drawing table or poring through Mort Meskin back issues.  Yet it gets so much of the grammar so right while evading the cliche musclebound drawing mannerisms, and beside that it brings an exhilarating sense of newness onto the page, a feeling that physical conflict and motion in space has never been done quite this way in comics before.  It’s beautiful, violent poetry.

The first panel gives us total stillness, an utter absence of action.  That quiet emphasizes the blast of the second panel — suddenly a giant mass of scribbled visual noise bursts in, meeting the figure in the exact same space where it stood still, and causing a rigid, demonstrative gesture.  The girl’s pose is more theatrical than fluid — the pose of a ballerina or a mime, a bit of sculpted, considered language that tells us of sudden physical conflict rather than actually showing it.  All the immediacy comes from her broadly cartooned facial expression, pain and surprise boiled down as far as they’ll go.

“Your Wednesday Sequence 11”, Dino Buzzati, Comic Book Resources (via)