Good onomontoPOWia — the ice cracketh

I tend to mockery on this blog, but I only kid because I love comics so much. Oh, and I'm a jerk. BUT I do think it's important to recognize examples of good work from time to time, and it's in that spirit that I offer up this page from "The Flash" #116:


A giant glacier sheet has begun moving on Central City, and has just breached the dam. I love the chosen onomontoPOWia; the "kk-kk" immediately brought to mind the sound of ice cracking and creaking. The colorist has complemented this nicely by using a cool whitish purple for the letters, reinforcing the idea that something cold is making the noise. The KOOM! brings home the sharply different effect of a concrete dam finally exploding, again strengthened by the color choice of red and yellow.

This is a great example of onomontoPOWia done well. Everything works together -- the lettering, the actual art, the coloring, the panel layout -- to give the reader that uniquely comics experience of dynamic action frozen in time (no pun intended) while still moving forward.

I want to expound on that for a moment. A friend of mine once told me that music is an art form that exists only in time. Movies are the same way. They are art only so long as they are moving forward; once they stop, the artistic experience stops except in the memory of the person who experienced it. Yes, you can see music written on a sheet, or study individual film cells, but it's not living, breathing art at that stage.

Comics, on the other hand, exist independent of time. You can hold it in your hand, look at an entire page all at once, put it aside and pick it up later, and it's still the same coherent art piece. You don't have to experience it as it plays out, you can stop, go forward or back, skip around, and do whatever you like with it. Even while you're consuming a panel your eye can jump to the next one, or you can leaf back to the previous page.

That uniquely comic effect -- that ability to exist both in time and outside of it as an art form -- shows clearly on this page. We're very much in the moment of action with the dam exploding, the sound echoing about us, and we're pulled into a close-up of two characters experiencing it along with us. But we're not limited to that reaction shot, our attention can bounce back and forth between them and the frozen explosion, setting up a wonderful sensory experience.

Which is really amazing considering that all of it is just ink on paper.

(Image and character ©1996 DC Comics, “The Flash”, #116.)