Three... Two... One... GO!!!Motor Crush #1-5

Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr's Motor Crush is all about the sport of motorcycle racing.1 So how do they convey extreme speed and motion in a medium composed entirely of static images? Here's a run-down of some of the the techniques they use and don't use, and why.

VRMMMMM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM PANG WHAMM!Motor Crush #1 (December 2016) pages 25-6
Art by Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr.

Techniques Used

Speed Lines. Mostly manga-style speed lines, which are used mostly in the background to show the direction of overall movement. For individual movement they use the "floating headlights" effect from the Akira movie, which also gives the book a unique visual hook and has the advantage of keeping the linework relatively clean.

Color. Fast-moving objects rendered in warm reds, pinks, purples, and white - colors that are generally thought of as active or energetic. Slow-moving or stationery objects are rendered in cool blues and purples, neutral yellows, greens and browns.

Panel Layouts. The racing scenes stand from the rest of the comic by using a different layout style. They're composed of long, thin panels in more tiers, allowing the art team to cram more action into a single page. They also frequently use panel shapes that are skewed, which adds some extra dynamism.2 They also have thinner gutters, which has the mental effect of shortening the amount of time between panels.

Panel Composition. Stewart and Tarr use lots of dutch angles and leaning into (or away from) the direction of movement. There are a lot of tight close-ups and over-the-shoulder shots, combined with frequent medium and long shots to provide overall context for the action.

Techniques Not Used

Extreme Foreshortening. This can make a scene feel dynamic but often falls apart on detailed scrutiny. It is used sparingly in a few scenes to add some extra oomph.

Motion Blur. The art team doesn't use it, mostly because it would clash with the clean, cartoony linework. Like the extreme foreshortening, it's used to enhance a few special moments.

Afterimages. You know, "let's put three Flashes in one panel to show just how fast he's moving." As an effect it's cheesy and played out.

  1. Not really but that's the spoiler-free version.
  2. This technique is used heavily in the first issue and then less and less as the series continues. I can understand why - when it's omnipresent it can make pages harder to read, whereas when it's used sparingly it makes for an effective shock/change of tone.

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