Archive for the 'reading comics' Category


Reading Comics: James Stokoe & Lettering

April 30th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

There’s a lot of little nods to Godzilla and kaiju film tropes I’m trying to cram into the book; some are just visual (drills on everything!), some are part of the story. The second issue even has the first test firing of the Maser, which anybody who has seen a Godzilla movie will know barely ever works as intended. I got completely stumped trying to figure out what the sound effect for Godzilla’s trademark roar would be, so I looked up what it looked like run through an oscilloscope and just traced over that with some vague lettering. Godzilla has almost 60 years worth of movies, in different eras and with some radically different tones, so it’s great to pick through and try to figure out how to make those ideas work in a comic book.

-James Stokoe, 2012

Every medium has its own way, or ways, to wow you. Books may be devastatingly lyrical. Music may sound like a slice of heaven or hell as it crawls its way into your heart. Movies show you another world in excruciating detail. There’s even a certain amount of pleasure in watching someone explain something you’re not interested in, if they’re a good storyteller.

I think of the art that really, really wows me as solutions to a problem, which makes the comic artist. How do you get from A to B? How can I show this insane thing that exists only in my head? How can I quantify the sound of Godzilla’s roar? I can wrap my head around Garth Ennis’s dialogue or Rucka & Waid’s structure or Bendis’s pacing. I may not be able to quantify what’s so great about “Finn Cooley. Anyone not wanting to die for Ireland better clear on out the back” in Ennis & Fernandez’s Punisher: Kitchen Irish — “It’s harder than a Spanish test” is about as far as I’d get there — but I can pull it apart and dig into it in a way that I can’t do with art.

I get writing in a way that I don’t get art, which makes me want to dig into art all the more. Stuff like this, stuff like “Oh yeah, something something oscilloscope, something something vague lettering” would never even cross my mind. It’s a new way of thinking, one that’s not alien to my day-to-day life but definitely on a different track from mine, and that makes it irresistible to me. I’ve gotta figure it out. I’ve got to make it make sense to me, and since I’ve got a comics blog, that means talking it out in public.

I like that Stokoe’s solution to this problem was so literal and figurative at the same time. The oscilloscope shows you what Godzilla’s roar literally looks like. It’s the literal solution to the problem. And Stokoe’s execution is the figurative solution. He sketched a few letters on top and came up with EEYAEEEARRGH and a few letters (?) I can’t parse at the end. Just looking at that doesn’t seem very Godzilla-y to me. But when you combine the two, you get that jagged scrawl of a roar ripping the scene apart and looking great on the page. The sideways creativity there is fantastic.

Y’all should already be reading Orc Stain. It starts off as this raw action/adventure comic about orcs, and that got me hooked. And then issue 7 hit and Stokoe is folding in Vietnam War iconography into orc mythology and man o man o man is it A+ fantastic stuff. Get some.

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Reading Comics: Arcudi, Harren, & Stewart’s BPRD: Hell on Earth: The Long Death #3

April 23rd, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I’ll probably do a longer post on this subject in the near future, but I’m positively obsessed with how every act of violence in this bit from John Arcudi, Mike Mignola, James Harren, Dave Stewart, and Clem Robins’s BPRD: Hell on Earth: The Long Death 3 flashes orange. It only flashes when depicting specific aspects of violence, though, like in a video game. But the shade of orange Stewart used here reminds me of Jurassic Park and the flies trapped in amber more than anything else. Every comics panel is a specific moment captured in time, but the orange and the context makes it feel like these moments are extra important. They’re preserved.

I’m not sure if it was Harren, Arcudi, or Stewart’s idea, but I’m in love with this effect and their execution of it. Especially the bottom tier of the second page here — that fist swung out wide like a pregnant pause and then the gross, flat “whump.” You ever hear a “whump?” It sounds like a car wreck from a couple blocks away, and a really hard hit to the stomach.

Now to figure out how to explain to other people how cool this is, without just going “look how cool this is omgggggggg.”

You can buy all three issues over on Dark Horse Digital. A-one, a-two, a-three. It follows up on a couple years of BPRD tales, but I think it’s raw enough to stand up on its own. You might miss the finer points, but you should be reading BPRD anyway. Catch up.

(I can never figure out why some actions in BPRD get SFX and others don’t. Extra emphasis, maybe?)

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