Jul 8, 2010

Comics Techniques and Tricks: Frank Miller

Welcome to another edition of Comics Techniques and Tricks, in which we showcase techniques that only comics can do! Click here for the archive!

As I've made clear before, I have major issues with Frank Miller's Batman story, The Dark Knight Returns. However, as I've also mentioned, I can't deny the technical excellence of it, or how fundamentally sound it is. The first issue, specifically, which was written full script, I think, showcases brilliant layouts.

One such example is this following scene, when Bruce Wayne is finally giving into the Batman part of his persona, and knocks over a statue in the process. In this sequence, Miller successfully uses the uniform panel as a measure of time, with a grid successfully controlling every beat of the story.

Miller turns this on its ear by having the first panel take the place of 8 panels. With the windows taking the same space as the rest of the panels below it, the windows effectively perform the same function as the panels; the time and beats are still controlled, but with only one moment taking place in this space, the slow motion effect is achieved.

To heighten the mastery of this storytelling technique, here's acclaimed comics writer Warren Ellis:
The sixteen-panel grid is a pig to work. I've stayed clear of it. It's a scary-looking bugger. As a rule, only writer-artists have made it sing, and even then there can be a loss of linear storytelling. The most famous 16-grid book of the last twenty years or so is Frank Miller, Klaus Janson & Lynn Varley's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, and it illustrates the nature of the beast perfectly.

Kinda makes you see the book in a different light, huh?


Jon Gorga said...

I like your blog, it's similar to what we're doing at The Long and Shortbox Of It.

I have never found someone else who seems to agrees so closely with me on Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight". Technically brilliant while being so emotionally and politically ugly. All the excitement comes in the last third, but all the best storytelling is in the first quarter.

I intend to read more of your stuff.

Duy Tano said...

Thanks, Gorga! And an interesting blog you guys have there too - hope you don't mind that I link to it.

I really think DKR has good storytelling with an average at best story. Miller can sure lay out a page; I just don't like the way he draws, nor do I like the stories he tells.

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