May 7, 2010

The Isle Where Women Rule

A story from Terry and the Pirates # 3 (1947). "The Isle Where Women Rule." Featuring the Boy Commandos. An 8-page story penciled by Kirby.
Close-up of the splash. Note the commando ladies toting the machine guns. Nice precursor of all the various action GRRLS! so popular in modern comics.
Here's an example of beautiful page design. Kirby uses a sharp-to-fluid panel border between frame 1 and 2, leading the eye down the page to the lightning bolt panel border between frame 5 and 6. I suspect that as Jack continued to experiment with sequential storytelling over the decades from the 1940s through the 1960s, he gravitated in a more cinematic direction where he used standard square panels to let the action in each individual panel speak for itself, while in some of his early stories like this one there is a compelling aesthetic quality to the ornamental page design.

It may be that this kind of layout appealed to readers looking for innovative approaches towards over-all page design. Also, this style might be a reflection of viewers used to looking at drama on the stage, so Kirby is creating his own kind of flexible comic book proscenium arch where the eye is not limited to the confines of a traditional four-sided frame. Nowadays we are so used to watching media in a rectangle on the HDTV or on our computer monitor, I wonder if using different-sized, sometimes circular panels would be effective with contemporary audiences.

As I work on the website, I'm finding that enlarged, single square-shaped comic panels reproduce very nicely in the weblog format where you have an image filling 1/2 of the page. Elongated rectangular comic book panels tend to look very small when packed into 1/2 of the weblog page, but look terrific when enlarged. Entire comic book pages tend to be very difficult to look at on a computer monitor unless they are high-resolution scans and you can significantly enlarge them, which is why I'm finding it fun to zoom into certain page elements so we can look at details and subtleties in the artwork.

Nice pool shot below, all the balls in with one stroke. Nothing like an "inferior male" kid schooling a bunch of amazons in a game of billiards.

The last page of the story. Another beautiful Kirby page design.

Wonderful balance between panel 2 in the top right-hand corner and panel 5 in the bottom-left. The circular panel design of panel two leads the eye down to panel 5, and mirrors the shape of the ship's wheel. The design also creates a rocking motion, enhancing the feeling of the ship being buffeted back and forth by the waves of the ocean.