Text and Image
Spill Zone is my first graphic novel. Usually I write books for teenagers, and one of the coolest parts of writing SZ has been exploring the differences between the comics and prose. This stretch of pages nicely demonstrates of one of comics’ particular strengths—combining the techniques of the novel with those of film.
In this passage, my fantastic artist Alex Puvilland goes fully cinematic. Magnificent vistas of the Zone share the page with close-ups of meat puppets, possessed rats, and the Zone’s weird “standing waves.” And all of it glows with Hilary Sycamore’s rich, surrealist colors. On the visual level, it’s very much a movie.
But at the same time, the narration remains inside Addison’s head. She addresses the reader in that intimate way that novels do so well, but that films only manage with clunky voice-overs.
I’m saying something pretty obvious, of course—that the combination of text and pictures is what makes comics awesome. How they can coexist as a one-two punch, reinforcing each other, or in counterpoint, with the narration undercutting the images. With this section of Spill Zone, I wanted to do both. The words and art are synched up, describing the same things, but Addison’s list of rules is almost casual compared to the nightmarish imagery. She’s either habituated to the phantasmagoric sights of the Zone, or she’s putting up a darn good front. This singular ability, to contrast objective reality with subjective narration, is comics’ superpower.
Of course, images and text can handle more than just objective and subjective. They can juxtapose past and present, fantasy and reality, grimdark and flippant, the cosmic and the minute—pretty much anything the creators want to play with! For a prose novelist like me, it’s like gaining a second channel into the reader’s brain.
Anyway, thanks for coming back for part two. Almost two hundred pages of Spill Zone remain. See you next Wednesday!