The Girl You Want
I was going back through my collection and stumbled across this lovely sequence from Demo #5 that I thought deserved further analysis. This doesn't need much set-up, all you really need to know is that the dark-haired girl is kind of losing her mind and stalking the light-haired girl. And it's raining.
Becky Cloonan uses several methods to telegraph the protagonist's deteriorating mental condition, none of them all that noteworthy on an individual basis, but which have tremendous impact when put all together at once.
On the first page, the panels are nice, clean right angles. On the second, third, and fourth pages the angles aren't quite as clean, like Becky Cloonan used a ruler to lay them down for her pencils but inked them freehand. On the fifth page and sixth page, they go way off kilter, to the point where the first tier of panels on the fifth page has a noticeable slant to it. At the same time she also starts destroying the negative space of the gutters with full bleeds, scratchy linework that floats over the edges and undercuts their integrity, and in-panel shapes that mimic the shape of the gutters.
Though it's hard to see at this size, the quality of the inking also changes dramatically. On the first few pages we have mostly nice clean lines and solid blacks, with only a few brushstrokes and rough areas to indicate the storm outside and inside. But as the pages go on the lines become scratchier and rougher, less descriptive and more emotive, more lost edges. The balance shifts from controlled pen strokes to rough, blobbly brushstrokes and savage slashes of rain. The blacks become less solid and have more gaps and patches in them.
The panel compositions also become more bizarre. We go from solid, sensibly blocked if somewhat staid compositions to tight close ups, strange dutch angles, and bizarrely-cropped scenes where the areas of interest are pushed off-center. The pages also become darker, much darker, until we get a brief respite on the sixth page, creating some brief space and some false breathing room so we can be utterly destroyed by the twist that comes next (which I've left off here so I'm not being spoiler-y).
Altogether a great way to suck the audience into the protagonist's inner world without telegraphing it from a million miles away. Cloonan's strong visual storytelling allows Brian Wood to underplay his captions, creating a one-two punch with real impact.
Becky on Becky
And now, Becky Cloonan's own thoughts about this issue, from the letter column.
Each panel is one scene. THe size and shape of each box determines how long the shot is, how long the reader's eye will pass over it. That's what I think anyway. While I was thumbnailing I thought about htis idea a lot, size being relative to time. I was also thinking that comic artists should be allowed to have 2 extra days in each week.
I gotta say that the most challenging part of this issue was making the nighttime rain scenes look convincing. It's hard to draw weather.