The beautiful synergy of comics

I am criticized from time to time for not doing more positive stories (a very fair criticism, I hasten to add), so I wanted to share this example of comics done exceptionally well. It’s from a daily comic strip that predates even my ancient time called “Gasoline Alley” by Frank King. In its day it was as big as Spider-Man or Superman are today. But what caught my eye (thanks to a friend on Facebook) is the way the shadows define the forms here without requiring actual outlines:


(Click to embiggen.)

The last two panels are just breathtaking in their elegance, simplicity, and effect. You barely notice that the figures are made of nothing but shadows and negative space, a wonderful rendering technique just on its own. But the magic of comics comes from the way the effect works with the dialog to enhance the sense of foreboding the creator is striving for. There is beauty in their upcoming marriage just as there is beauty in the forest, but some darkness awaits as well. Either the words or the art by themselves are still good, but when combined they achieve a kind of beautiful synergy that only comics can provide.

(Original artwork and a great essay are from “Hooded Utilitarian“.)

5 Responses to The beautiful synergy of comics

  1. It’s amazing how a simple visual technique (when so beautifully executed) can make your brain fill in the gaps for you. I had to look at it a couple times, because I swore I could see an outline (that was in fact not there). Very impressive.

  2. I see what you mean. In the third panel, I keep thinking there’s outlines, even though there aren’t. It’s wonderfully executed- a series of ink strokes manage to create shapes that are very clearly human, despite not human-shaped outlines. In a way, it’s a subtle technique, because it uses shadows to imply a shape and your brain, well, fills in the gaps.

  3. For me, the most amazing thing is that this was done before personal computers EVEN EXISTED, and so the concept had to be designed as well as the work done–it probably couldn’t have been imagined accidentally, as I did masking a background instead of an item onto a body. This was when imagination didn’t have so many assists. One wonders if the Green Lantern pre-computer would have automatically been more powerful than a modern one.

  4. I am criticized from time to time for not doing more positive stories (a very fair criticism, I hasten to add), so I wanted to share this example of comics done exceptionally well.

    Without wanting to take the thread off topic (I love the strip shown here, btw), and in the spirit of the above, I wanted to share this work of comic genius.

    Enjoy.

    http://www.facebook.com/jl8comic

  5. Amen, Fuzztone, I love that strip! Beautiful and funny and touching all at the same time.