As promised, Corporal Wiley has returned!
Spill Zone is my first original graphic novel. As I’ve said in previous posts, part of the fun of writing it has been exploring the commonalities and differences between comics and prose. My favorite moments are when I can pretend to direct a film, while at the same time keeping the affordances of a novel in hand.
For example, take the first two pages of this passage. Corporal Wiley and his National Guard pals are hanging out at the diner, talking shit, and the “camera” holds the exact same shot for four panels. But, way off in the background, there’s a little drama playing out in miniature—Marty waiting by his truck for Addison, who arrives in art collector Tan’ea Vandersloot’s limo.
This deep background is hard to see, and maybe goes noticed until it explodes into the foreground (in the last panel of that second page, p111). A reversal in focus like this would be weird in a prose novel. Text has trouble asserting things like, “There’s this event happening in the background, but you don’t really see it yet.”
Film also has a problem with this sort of trick, because there’s a risk of the action going completely unnoticed. You can’t rewind a film the way you can a book to go back and see what you missed. (At least, not without completely disrupting the narrative.)
But comics can do both. We can show something in the deep background, with the certainty that a reader who’s missed it can scan the page again, rewinding time at their pleasure.
As a boring-old-prose-novels writer, I use Spill Zone as an opportunity to deploy these tricks whenever possible. It’s like I’m a skier who’s borrowed a friend’s snowboard, so I want to spend all my time in the half pipe. I can slalom anytime.
Also, those cupcakes look yummy.
See you Wednesday for the next installment!