Nov 30, 2010

Comics Techniques and Tricks: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

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

In THE MANY WORLDS OF TESLA STRONG, Alan Moore and a host of artists take Tom Strong's daughter Tesla on a tour around the ABC Multiverse.

On one such planet, she meets a superpowered counterpart named Tesla Terrific. The artist for this particular sequence is Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Here's a page.

Take a look at just how dynamic that page is.  And now look at how cool the technique actually is. Tesla Terrific is looking off the screen in panel one. In both panels 1 and 4, Tesla Strong is looking right at the same image of Tesla Terrific. Note how you can view panel 1 on its own, and panels 1 and 4 as an actual full-page drawing. The panel borders from panels 2-4 serve to control the rhythm of the page.

The trick is repeated with that big drawing of Tesla Strong from panel 4. Look at how Tesla Terrific waves goodbye to her from just outside panel 6 while Tesla Strong is flying off in panel 6, but if you look at the page as a whole, it kind of looks like Tesla is also waving goodbye to the Tesla Strong in panel 4.

That's dynamic!

Nov 29, 2010

Top Ten Most Influential Comics Writers of All Time: The Shortlist

Now that this list of most influential comics writers is done, I'd like to say that I spent months figuring out the list as it pertained to order and importance. Having said that, there's a shortlist of people who didn't make it, and I'd like to point them out here, in this little sidebar, for those who are wondering where these people went.

Denny O'Neil would have been number 11, mainly for GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW, which showed that you can tackle serious real-world issues in mainstream comics. At the end of the day, though, Stan Lee did beat him to it.


Neil Gaiman is certainly influential because of SANDMAN, but it wasn't enough to get him into the top 10, mainly because anyone influenced by Gaiman is, in a very real way, influenced by Alan Moore.

SANDMAN. Art by Charles Vess.

Grant Morrison is a very popular writer, but influential? He's a little too unique to really be that influential (as of the moment).

ANIMAL MAN. Art by Chas Truog.

People like Mark Waid and Kurt Busiek, who tried lifting the superhero genre out of the grim and gritty era, would have made a top 20 list.

Mark Waid's KINGDOM COME. Art by Alex Ross.

Kurt Busiek's MARVELS. Art also by Alex Ross.

I considered Marv Wolfman over Chris Claremont, since UNCANNY X-MEN and NEW TEEN TITANS were very similar, and Marv also wrote CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, so he had the "big events" thing going for him. At the end of the day, though, I think the "big events" thing was on its way, regardless of who was writing it, and I think it's sustainability was more dependent on George Perez's ability to handle large groups. And Claremont's X-MEN did come first and stay longer.


There's so much going for Len Wein (X-MEN, SWAMP THING, etc.) that I felt bad NOT putting him on the list, but there's a difference between producing great work and producing influential work. It seemed to me that as solid as Len was, and as good as his stories were, other people (namely Claremont and Moore) took his works and made them influential, as opposed to him making them influential himself.

GIANT-SIZE X-MEN. Art by Dave Cockrum.

I feel the same way for Gerry Conway and Roger Stern. Such solid writers who wrote such good stories. But I can't say that they were particularly as influential as the ones on the list.

Gerry Conway's "The Night Gwen Stacy Died." Art by Gil Kane.

Stern's AVENGERS: UNDER SIEGE. Art by John Buscema.

Mark Gruenwald almost made it in for SQUADRON SUPREME, which predates WATCHMEN with the "superheroes in the real world" theme. But WATCHMEN made the bigger splash, and Moore made a bigger impact.


I'm probably going to get some flak for this, but I did consider Herge (TINTIN) and Rene Goscinny (ASTERIX) for my list, since they influenced Europe just as much as Tezuka influenced Japan. But where it breaks for me is where Tezuka influenced outside of Japan, whereas when you go outside of Europe (even in some European countries, actually), these two comics all of a sudden become the "comics that non-comics readers read," much like ARCHIE is in the States. Also, I actually wasn't sure if either Herge or Goscinny was influential as a writer or as an artist (It's easy with Barks because he was drawing in the Disney house style), and I just thought their work was so complementary in terms of words and pictures. That is, the words depended on the pictures and the pictures depended on the words, for them to make the top 10 of either list. But if I were to make a top 10 most well-rounded creators list, I can guarantee you, at least one of them would be in there.

Rene Goscinny's ASTERIX

Herge's TINTIN

I'm not sure anyone was influenced by Bill Watterson and CALVIN AND HOBBES who wasn't indirectly influenced by Charles Schulz.

Jerry Siegel created Superman, so some will argue there's a place on the list for him. I would argue that there's such a thing as influential characters, and that's different from influential creators. Superman is special just because of his idea - the stories weren't very special in terms of execution - while Daredevil was a relatively pedestrian character until the next guy got a hold of him.

ACTION COMICS #1. Art by Joe Shuster.

Frank Miller wrote BATMAN: YEAR ONE, THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, and a very long and acclaimed run on DAREDEVIL.  I left him out though, because I felt that his storytelling was so heavily influenced by Eisner (he admits that the introduction of Elektra in DAREDEVIL is a direct lift of Eisner's SPIRIT story, "Sand Saref.") and that in the ushering in of the grim and gritty era, Alan Moore was really the man on the forefront.

BATMAN: YEAR ONE. Art by David Mazzucchelli.

Finally, there's Lee Falk, who pretty much influenced superheroes (superpowers with Mandrake the Magician and skintight costumed adventurers with the Phantom), as well as developed racially respectful portrayals (Lothar in Mandrake), but at the end of the day, I don't think people today are saying "I want to write like Lee Falk," and I think enough people have gotten that kind of reaction from professionals over the years to bump Falk off the list. If you really think he should be on the list, feel free to bump out Claremont.

Nov 26, 2010

Top Ten Most Influential Comics Writers #1: Harvey Kurtzman

Welcome to another installment of our countdown of the top 10 most influential writers of all time! Click here for the archive!

Today's influential writer is Harvey Kurtzman!

Nov 25, 2010

Top Ten Most Influential Comics Writers #2: Osamu Tezuka

Welcome to another installment of our countdown of the top 10 most influential writers of all time! Click here for the archive!

Today's influential writer is Osamu Tezuka!

Nov 24, 2010

Top Ten Most Influential Comics Writers #3: Carl Barks

Welcome to another installment of our countdown of the top 10 most influential writers of all time! Click here for the archive!

Today's influential writer is Carl Barks!

Nov 23, 2010

Top Ten Most Influential Comix Writers #4: Art Spiegelman

Welcome to another installment of our countdown of the top 10 most influential writers of all time! Click here for the archive!

Today's influential writer is Art Spiegelman!

Nov 22, 2010

Top Ten Most Influential Comics Writers #5: Stan Lee (and the Marvel Bullpen)

Welcome to another installment of our countdown of the top 10 most influential writers of all time! Click here for the archive!

Today's influential writer is Stan Lee and the Marvel Bullpen!

Nov 20, 2010

Comics Cube! Reviews: Bathala: Apokalypsis #2

My favorite local serial at the moment has got to be BATHALA: APOKALYPSIS by David Hontiveros and Ace Enriquez. This series about a Superman analogue named Bathala going up against the Apocalypse, as written in the book of Revelations, has been captivating, with enough mystery and unanswered questions that makes me eagerly look forward to the next issue.

If you're lost, you can read the first issue here, and my review of it here. Naturally, reviews for the second issue are filled with SPOILERS. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Nov 19, 2010

Top Ten Most Influential Comics Writers #6: Will Eisner

Welcome to another installment of our countdown of the top 10 most influential writers of all time! Click here for the archive!

Today's influential writer is Will Eisner!

Nov 18, 2010

Top Ten Most Influential Comics Writers #7: Charles Schulz

Welcome to the first installment of our countdown of the top 10 most influential writers of all time! Click here for the archive!

Today's influential writer is Charles "Sparky" Schulz!

Nov 17, 2010

Top Ten Most Influential Comics Writers #8: Alan Moore

Welcome to the another installment of our countdown of the top 10 most influential writers of all time! Click here for the archive!

Today's influential writer is Alan Moore!

Nov 16, 2010

Top Ten Most Influential Comics Writers #9: Otto Binder

Welcome to another installment of our countdown of the top 10 most influential writers of all time! Click here for the archive!

Today's influential writer is Otto Binder!

Nov 15, 2010

Top Ten Most Influential Comics Writers #10: Chris Claremont

Welcome to the first installment of our countdown of the top 10 most influential writers of all time! Click here for the archive!

Today's influential writer is Chris Claremont!

Nov 14, 2010

Links of Note

  • If you read and enjoyed BATHALA: APOKALYPSIS #1, you'll be glad to know the second issue is out. I've actually got some exciting news waiting to be told about this series, and I'm just waiting for the right timing. In the meantime, you can read the second issue online here. Read it. The story's very engrossing.

  • If you like serious technical discussion about comics layouts, Frank Santoro over at Comics Comics has a thus-far-three-part discussion about the effect of the grid. Basically, he contends that the six-panel grid isn't as powerful as odd-numbered grids due to the fact that there's no center. That's in part 1. In part 2, he looks at WATCHMEN's 9-panel grid and Steve Ditko's 6-panel grids in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. And in part 3, he looks at the Hernandez Brothers' grids in LOVE AND ROCKETS. Very interesting stuff.

  • Paul Cornish has a really fun blog here, but if you're a fan of the Amalgam Age of Comics, you may enjoy his other blog.

  • This has been getting a lot of attention on the Internet, but Kerry Callen had this thigh-slapping post where he details how Marvel superheroes would have been like if DC Comics were publishing them. See, in the 60s, Marvel was very dynamic, but DC was very silly, and some of DC's covers involved the Flash getting too fat or Superman having to eat a lot of hamburgers. So if they did this to Marvel? Well... Click the image to go to the post.

  • Have you been to Covered, where they take old covers and have an artist redo them?

  • What about Repaneled, where it does the same thing, but with old panels?
  • Finally, remember, I start the countdown of the ten most influential comics writers TOMORROW (or I guess tonight for you guys stateside). Be here!

Nov 12, 2010

Comics Cube! Reviews: DC Comics Presents CHASE (or Pardon Me While I Rant)

All right, so, as any reader of this blog knows, if I had to pick a favorite artist in this day and age, it would most likely be JH Williams III. His sense of layout, design, and storytelling right now, I think, is second to none. This is why BATWOMAN is on my pull list starting November 30.

I first discovered Williams when he did PROMETHEA with Alan Moore:

And later on, because I just LOVED HIS ART so much, I discovered that he was discovered by Alex Ross for his work on CHASE. CHASE, which is all of nine issues long, has never been collected. I do have the first issue, and I think it was very interesting and had a solid concept. Cameron Chase is a government agent who works for the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO). She doesn't particularly like metahumans, which is made more interesting by the fact that she appears to be a metahuman.

I never got the rest of the issues for financial reasons (and now I never will, most likely), so when it was announced that DC was putting together a small collection of CHASE stories, I was ecstatic. And then I read the blurb. And then I was annoyed. I explained why here, but the long and short of it is, why would you reprint issue 1, and then issues 6-8? There's a FOUR-ISSUE GAP right there that makes no sense as to why you'd leave it out, unless it's about money, which would explain why they picked two issues that have Batman.

I bought it anyway, hoping to send a message to DC, and that message is "GET CHASE COLLECTED, DAMN IT." And then I started reading it. And, while reading the first issue over again, I noticed a few things. This story feels dated, which is not the fault of the story. It obviously feels that way because it's so entrenched in the DC Universe of that era (1997). And JH Williams III's art isn't so refined as it would later be, but his design sense was already there, and in fact, his art reminded me of a mixture of Tony Harris' STARMAN in terms of layouts, and Tony Harris' more modern work in terms of figurework and shading.  But the key thing is the design. The design sense was already there.

Cameron Chase is a legitimately engrossing character, and Dan Curtis Johnson does a really good job of giving her a voice that is singularly hers. The second issue in this collection (issue 6, for some reason) reveals a lot about Chase's past, and why she's so against superheroes. It's an issue full of talking, and you don't really care, because JH Williams III, as usual, makes it a joy to read and look at anyway.

But then it's the next issue that got me. Issue 7, "Covered," guest-starring Batman.

All right, up to this point, I didn't care that they were omitting the covers to each story. It would have been nice to see them, since there was more of a continuous, unclosed feel at the end of each issue that just blended seamlessly and logically into the next, even with the four-issue gap. Instead of covers, they replaced these pages with ads. House ads. For Batman. And whatever else they had.that was related to Batman (including JH's BATWOMAN ongoing). Whatever. That's the nature of the business. I get it.

But then, this happens. I see this:

So I think "'Cov'? That's an odd title. I wonder why it's titled that way."

And then I turn the page, and I see this:


It's supposed to be a big image spread out across TWO PAGES. And they reprinted each half on OPPOSING SIDES.

Is this a joke?

Seriously. Is this a joke?

I mean, first, DC gives us four issues that weren't consecutive. I mean, if they really wanted to test the waters to see if this deserves the full collection treatment, why not print out, oh, I dunno, the first four issues of the series so that the readers can get a more unified feel for the story?

Oh right, because it may not sell, and maybe we can have Batman in it. So why not take away the fourth issue, and instead start off with Chase's first appearance, which is in the 550th issue of a comic called BATMAN??

Why give us the ridiculous inconsistency?

Next, I can forgive the omission of the covers, even if it's to make way for house ads just so DC can make more money, but to make a blatant publishing error like this makes me wonder, did anyone actually bother looking at this reprint when they were putting it together? Did anyone who was working on this reprint actually care about doing their job? Or was this just a case of, "Hey, that JH Williams guy is pretty big now, we should get his old stuff together. But not a lot of it. It may not sell. We'll just print half of it. The first issue, some random issue, and two with Batman. Yeah. 'Cause it has Batman. OH CRAP, we need to get this out ASAP! What's that? This needs to be fixed? Screw it! No one'll notice!"

When I read this, it felt like a slap in the face. You want to support the work of one of your favorite artists, then the publisher essentially says, "Okay, here, we're going to put out this product. Vote with your wallets," even when it wasn't advertised at all except for solicits, and then the product comes out and you buy it hoping that your support will send a message for them to collect it, and then you read it and you see that they didn't even bother making it a good product. It's like letting a baby have a bottle just to keep him from crying, except in this case, NO ONE WAS CRYING; it was just "Oh, cool! CHASE!" before you open it up to realize they've practically screwed you over with the deal. You've got to be wondering about who's laughing all the way to the bank here.

For the love of God, DC, you have a collection of freaking ECLIPSO. You reprinted ICON. ICON. And you couldn't properly reprint FOUR ISSUES of a series that ran for NINE? This. This is why people hate you and start saying that you don't care about the fans. Because the truth is, when you put out things like this, which deserve proper treatment, you clearly don't care about the fans, because you don't care about the art, the artists, or doing your job.

If I didn't really want to support JH Williams, this would be a complete and total waste of money. Now I feel like I just got it for the statement. Even the quality of the stories is dampened by the fact that it's not even bothered to be shown continuously, and that the people who put this together clearly don't care about it.

More JH Williams III stuff that's actually worth buying:

The Top Ten Most Influential Comics Writers

From November 15, 2010, to November 26, 2010, the Comics Cube counted down the top ten most influential comics writers of all time. Not the ten best, not my ten favorite, just the ten most influential.

The criteria is simple: What was the writer's overall impact on comics and the way they were told? How much have people built off of the work of this writer, sometimes without even realizing it? How much did they revolutionize? Did they affect how the world outside saw comics?

Check back on this particular post every day for the rankings!

10. Chris Claremont
  9. Otto Binder
  8. Alan Moore
  7. Charles Schulz
  6. Will Eisner
  5. Stan Lee and the Marvel Bullpen (mainly Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko)
  4. Art Spiegelman
  3. Carl Barks
  2. Osamu Tezuka
  1. Harvey Kurtzman

That's the list! Here's the shortlist of the people who didn't make it! And if you agree or disagree, let me know by commenting, here, on any of the posts, or on the Comics Cube's Facebook and Twitter pages!

Where Will the Cube Be This Weekend?

As I said in my 12 review,I will be at the 6th Annual Komiks Convention (Komikon) 2010 this Saturday, at the Starmall Trade Hall at EDSA corner Shaw Boulevard. (Take the MRT, get off at Shaw, and go towards the direction that's NOT Shangri-La, and you're good.) Like the name implies, the convention focuses strongly on the local komiks scene. I'll be there to shop around, and also to buy the second issue of BATHALA: APOKALYPSIS by David Hontiveros and Ace Enriquez. You can read it online here and my review of the first issue here.

I'll also be stopping by Planet X Comics this weekend AND next because they're having a big sale. We get at least 20% off on everything, folks! Stop by at Glorietta (not Trinoma) to see what they've got.

They've also got a sale next weekend, folks. Why not check out the Comics Cube's recommendations and reviews to see what you'd be into?

Nov 11, 2010

Comics Cube! Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #648 - BIG TIME!

Today marks the release of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #648, kicking off the storyline known as "Big Time." Basically, after three years of a thrice-monthly Spider-Man title with rotating creative teams under the Brand New Day banner (which I thought yielded mixed results at best, since some teams were gold and some teams were decidedly not), ASM will be under the unified vision of Dan Slott and will have only three artists (Humberto Ramos, Marcos Martin, and Stefano Caselli), all of whom have unique styles that are conducive to emotion, expression, and action.

ASM #648 was drawn by Humberto Ramos. I can honestly say I've never been a fan of Ramos' artwork; it's very stylized and it does the job, but it's not something I'd try to copy or make a wallpaper out of. Stylistically, Ramos' work has never been for me. But I think he nailed this issue. The expressions on everyone's faces and body language - including Spider-Man's, who wears a full face mask - are so clear and really help to both move the story forward and impress upon the reader the emotions going through the character's minds.

On to the story. This issue is pretty much divided into two parts. The first half, if I may call it that, focuses on Spider-Man leading the Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, the Mighty Thor, Wolverine, Hawkeye, and Spider-Woman) and the Fantastic Four in saving New York City from a bunch of robots (and a bomb) created by Dr. Octopus. It's a great start for newer readers. If it's a reader who's been reading the books these characters are the stars of, it's a primer about Spider-Man's place and importance in the Marvel Universe. If it's a completely new reader, then it's a fun ride where all the information can be gathered via osmosis - there's even a panel, just one, that sums up exactly what Spider-Man is all about. The resolution to this crisis rests on Spider-Man's oft-overlooked intelligence and establishes that he pretty much is a genius. (This is important.) It's also maddeningly and amusingly out of the box, so I'm not going to spoil it for you here. Go buy the book.

The second half of the issue is all about Peter Parker's individual life. Since this is the beginning of a new direction, there's a lot of streamlining and a setting up of the pieces. For example, some characters that may have previously been considered "fat" are now trimmed from the stories, making quick but logical exits. One of them, Michele Gonzales (a character I would have loved to see more of, since I think she was really potentially interesting), is Peter's roommate, who actually was the name on the lease. So, basically, Peter's out of a home. His search for a new one is an extremely convenient and clever way to get us to meet the rest of the supporting cast. We find out that some things have reverted to "classic" form (two exes have gotten back together), we find out an astonishing secret kept by Peter's girlfriend Carlie (Ramos nails this visual), and even a scene where Peter asks Mary Jane Watson if he could move in with her (Ramos nails this perfectly), which - no lie - had me laughing for a good minute. The characterization in these sequences is really compelling. If you've been reading for a long time, Dan Slott reminds you of why you fell in love in with this franchise in the first place. And if you're a new reader, Dan Slott will show you why you should.

Through it all, Peter is characterized as the guy who could make it big if he just happens to catch a lucky break. Ah, but catch a lucky break he does, because he ends up going for a job interview in the last part of the story, and - for the second time - he applies his brains to a situation, and I - a longtime Spider-Man reader - kept smiling through the whole thing, astounded at just how smart Peter was, and how I haven't seen him display this level of smartness in a long, long time.

Slott also simply excels at dialogue, specifically on Spider-Man's witty banter, which helps to keep you turning for page after page after page.

Sure, yes, there are subplots and more supervillains and schemes being hatched. The Sinister Six band together again for the first time, a mysterious figure is following Jonah Jameson around, and the Hobgoblin is back, but honestly? It all feels so secondary to the fact that Spider-Man - Peter Parker - is entertaining, amusing, and captivating all at the same time. Whatever comes his way, it's just exciting to see how he's going to handle it.

I had initial reservations about this comic book, mainly because of the artwork, but I've been proven wrong. The direction is exciting, the characterization is engrossing, and I'm reminded all over again of why I love the Spider-Man character and franchise so much. And I can only give this particular comic my highest praise: It makes me feel like reading it, putting it down, smiling about it, reading it again, wondering what's going to happen next, and eagerly awaiting the next issue.

In other words, it makes me feel like a kid again.


Check out more of Dan Slott's Spider-Man:

Nov 10, 2010

ELMER is out today!

Today marks the international release date of ELMER, by Komikero Gerry Alanguilan! It's about a world (specifically, the Philippines) in which chickens gain intelligence. You can read the first issue here. If you want to see the rest of the story, please go to your nearest comic shop and buy this comic. Doing so supports the Filipino artists and may extend a message to American publishers that yes, there is stuff from the Pearl of the Orient Seas that is worth publishing for a larger audience.

Nov 8, 2010

Comics Cube! Reviews: Manix Abrera's "12"

I will be at the 6th Annual Komiks Convention (Komikon) 2010 this Saturday, at the Starmall Trade Hall at EDSA corner Shaw Boulevard. (Take the MRT, get off at Shaw, and go towards the direction that's NOT Shangri-La, and you're good.) Like the name implies, the convention focuses strongly on the local komiks scene.

One of the guests for the show is Manix Abrera, whose exhibit I saw a couple of weeks ago at Cubao X. Manix is the artist of KIKOMACHINE KOMIX, and he has a formalist eye - that is, he tends to do things that comics can do exclusively from other media. (He had a large, poster-sized print of many tiny panels that could be read in any direction. It reminded me of Chris Ware.) So it's no surprise that right after that, I bought his anthology of silent comics, simply named "12."

12 is thus named because, well, there are twelve stories in it. And each story's title corresponds to their placement in the book - the first story is "1," the second is "2," and so on. The catch? It's all silent. That's right, 12 has no spoken dialogue, no narration boxes, nothing. As such, Manix has to convey all the information of each story as clearly and as fluidly as possible.

Manix makes it look so easy, in part because of his severely minimalist style. He puts nothing in the story that doesn't need to be there, thus leaving you with just the essentials. In most cases, he even omits clothes, putting them in only to signify things like age, occupation, designation, or anything else clothes may signify. For example, here's the first page of "2."

Note that there really is nothing there that doesn't need to be there. The old lady is wearing clothes to signify her age, and the bald guy is reading a newspaper to signify that he's too distracted to notice the girl until panel 6. The guy sleeping is there because it had to show a crowded train. And look - the only difference between the characters are the hair. Trust me, folks, it may look easy, but it's ridiculously hard to do. I give him a dozen and a half points just for that execution - and it's flawless; I never had to go back and look twice at anything to get it.

Content-wise, the stories vary in tone, but one thing they all have in common is that they're all incredibly imaginative. "1" is about a guy who, for his whole life, ponders the meaning of life, and it's signified by a constant thought balloon with a question mark. This element is then amplified and utilized in a satisfying and somewhat humorous resolution that can only be done in comics. Another story, "8," is about a little girl who loses her mother in a crowded area. In order to find her, she removes her eyes and affixes them to a balloon. It's whimsical and charming, and also, emotionally gut-wrenching. It's my favorite tale in the book.

Having said that, a lot of what comes out of Manix's pen does seem to be the kind of stuff that boys come up with when they doodle in their notebooks during a boring lecture, whether it's tiny people working to get information out of a brain or a tiny little person being attached to someone's arm. So for some of you, some of these concepts may be disgusting. No matter - just don't read those stories and go to the others.

Manix Abrera's 12 is an anthology that can be enjoyed by anyone, full of stories that will resonate with your entire emotional spectrum. If you wish to support the Filipino komiks industry, this book is a good way to show your appreciation and support. You can even give it to your kids.

Buy it. Read it. You'll love it.

Nov 7, 2010

Comic Book Glossary: Gutter

Welcome to a new installment of Comic Book Glossary! One of the aims of the Comics Cube! has always been to help out the newer readers who may be interested in, but aren't all that knowledgeable in comics, and one thing everyone needs to know if they're interested are the terms. Click here for the index!

Last time, we discussed what a panel is. All right, you know that space in between two panels? That's called a gutter, because, well, it looks like a gutter.

From NEW TEEN TITANS #38, by Marv Wolfman, George Perez, and Romeo Tanghal

There's the easy part. The more complicated part is what I'm going to say next, and that's the fact that gutters are the foundation of comics.

See, one drawing, that's a drawing. An editorial cartoon? That's a cartoon. FAMILY CIRCUS? That's also a cartoon. Those aren't comics - at least not the way that "comics" are defined, which is a sequential combination of words and pictures, or, as Scott McCloud put it in UNDERSTANDING COMICS, "juxtaposed pictoral and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the viewer."

The word "sequential" is key here, and it means that one picture has to follow another and tell the story. Okay, so Roy Lichtenstein's stuff, even though they were copied from comics? They're not comics.

Well, except for this one. See, this one involves a gutter.

Granted, Lichtenstein didn't seem to understand that for a foot to press down on the pedal to open the garbage can, you actually have to, you know, press down on the pedal. But hey, hacks will be hacks.

Okay, so, anything that delineates the separation of one moment from the other is a gutter, whether you're as straightforward as Ty Templeton:

Or as fancy as this scene by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (the purpose of this scene being to be disorienting anyway):

Essentially, just because you can't see the gutters doesn't mean there aren't any there - they're just tiny and you can't see them, but if you can delineate one moment from the other, they're there.

Gutters can also be used to split a panel with just one background, to imply the passage of time between both panels, as demonstrated here by Craig Thompson and GOOD-BYE CHUNKY RICE:

Okay, now, some comics scholars believe that the power of comics is all contained within the gutter, as it's what makes comics interactive. Comics are a big "fill in the blanks" medium, where the gutters are the blanks. For example, take this sequence from TOM STRONG #13, by Alan Moore and Pete Poplaski:

See, it's up to you to decide how hard Tom hit Paul, just how far Paul fell and how on fire he is. It's this kind of interaction between the story and the reader that sets comics apart - after all, even novels don't force you to interact in the same way. (Not that I'm saying one is better than the other.)

Obviously though, some gutters offer less interpretation than others. It all depends on the type of panel-to-panel transition, and we'll look at some of those next time!