Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Frank Quitely and a detail from WE3

Near the end of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's WE3 #1 there is a tour de force sequence in which six eighteen-panel pages tell the story with minimal dialogue; the panels are made to mimic the views of a security camera hub, where a guard could look at each screen to see what is going on in a given room. There is a tiny detail in one of the panels that I wanted to point out here.



In the six panels I have grabbed we see Dr. Roseanne Berry exiting her lab (she has just been fired, basically); then we see the screen on which she was supposed to have saved the codes that would lock her beloved animals down for euthanasia (by not pressing "save" she ironically saves them from death, as they can escape); in the next panel she walks toward the doctors who are on the way to kill her animals, then passes them, then is stopped. If you look closely at the panel in which she is spoken to you will see tiny diagonal lines in the upper right and left hand corners (the right hand one is impossible to scan onto the computer from the graphic novel but it is there). These lines, the juncture of the floor and the walls, match up with the lines in the panel above: even though we read the panels in the order I have described panel 3 and panel 6 (in the six I have grabbed) are a continuous space: were the gutter removed we would see an unbroken hallway. This moment of spacial continuity -- the only one like it in six pages, and the only part of the six pages with dialogue -- is at the exact point someone tries to make a connection with her by asking if she is all right; it leads into the book's most moving dialogue: he tries to comfort her with "You know it's best not to get attached to things," to which she replies, "But isn't that the point of it all?" The spacial continuity between panels 3 and 6 emphasizes the human continuity between the characters at this moment.

Jamie Grant, the colorist on All Star Superman also did the colors on WE3. I have already blogged about Jamie Grant, but, because it was an old post, I didn't notice that he was kind enough to respond personally until today. Just click the link above, or use the archive to the right, to read what he wrote.

7 comments:

The Futurist said...

More often then not, I give graphic novels as birthday gifts (especially to the uninitiated). And more often then not, the graphic novel I give is We3. The reason, I think, is that the storytelling in this book uses the medium to its absoulte extreme. It's constantly doing things visually that could only be done in comics. The security camera sequence is especially amazing. We're kept in this world of tiny squares for like six pages, in which the story describes the animals' escape from the facility. We turn that sixth page, and suddenly we're in one, giant frame covering two pages, soaring through the enormous sky, experiencing freedom from the confining facility along with the characters.
I've heard that you can get upgraded at most four star hotels by giving the concierge We3 to read. Any truth to that Geoff?

Geoff Klock said...

The futurist: the other thing that makes the splash page at the end of the six pages of cramped security camera panels feel so exhilarating is that each security camera image has a subtle layer of static, while the splash page does not. The splash page, in addition to releasing us from the captivity of so many tiny boxes, also releases us into the perfectly clear night.

And yes, before I left New York City for Oxford Sara and I had a going away party at a hotel. The guy at the front desk, it turns out, was a big comics fan, though he had not read one in years. I gave him my copy of WE3 while we set up the room (this was the week it came out and I was making everyone I knew, including people at the party, read it). The room we had was far to small for the number of people we invited; when I saw him again he -- now reborn and baptized into the Church of Good Comics -- was nice enough to give us something bigger, with a wrap around balcony and a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

James said...

You never cease to amaze me by noticing stuff like this, though I confess it kinda makes me feel like I read with blinkers on.

I'm so glad to have found your blog, How to Read Superhero Comics... was a primary source when writing my dissertation for my Illustration BA, and introduced me to some of the best comics I have ever read. Keep up the great work; I'm really looking forward to keeping up with the blog, and the second edition of your book.

Oh, and a heads up: it might just be me, but there could be a problem with your RSS feed, which seems to say the latest entry was the March 14th one.

Geoff Klock said...

James: Thanks for the kind words and the heads up: Sara, my webmaster, says she will check it out.

saradani said...

to everyone concerned: the atom feed on our end is updating, but, to help fix the problem I have now included links to the atom feed and to an rss feed (courtesy of FeedBurner) if that is more preferred.

As for W3, the story geoff tells is true, we did get a lovely room upgrade. And he did, and still does, force everyone to read this book. Except for me, I couldn't finish the last book, I was crying too much... :(

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