When you read a book it is almost impossible to guess the words in the exact order they appear in the next paragraph you are about to read. You have no idea what words I am going to use two paragraphs from now, for all you know by the time we get to there I could be talking about how you have super powers (and indeed I will). This is the same with the medium of film, there is almost no way of knowing exactly how an actor is going to move, or what they are going to do scene to scene. This allows for multiple viewings as the human mind simply cannot remember every minute movement an actor makes. Comic books are different. The rules are different. Look at this extract from Civil War by Mark Millar:
Picture Source: http://schmoesknow.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/spider-man-out.jpg [Accessed 8/06/2015]
The way this was originally displayed in graphic novel version of Civil War as two separate pages. So to travel from the first page you had to turn over and look at the next page. The reason this was done was simple. If the two pages had been presented side by side it would have ruined the reveal. With a graphic novel the reader is given a sense of limited precognition, they can see the future. The next couple of panels are easy to view and the reader cannot help but notice if something is happening towards the bottom of the page which is meant to draw their eye, such as Spider man revealing his identity. The super sense that the media form affords the reader is still limited though, to the edge of the page. Comic book writers know this and can exploit it to create certain dramatic effects.
Now obviously we all know that Peter Parker is Spiderman, so why did Mark Millar and his design team decide to structure the comic in such a way to hide the reveal? Immersion. If you’ve never heard of the term its the idea of getting ‘lost in the world’, it’s something video game designers often concern themselves with, as with a video game the goal is to attempt to trick the player into thinking they are in the scenario suggested on screen. In a comic book Immersion is less important but a certain amount is still needed to allow the audience to connect to the characters and the events occurring on screen. Therefore, even though we know that Peter Parker is Spiderman it’s more immersive to be able to turn the page with baited breath and be greeted with the moment of Peter’s reveal. Just like how the characters in the Marvel Universe have this ‘drumroll moment’ the reader gets to have it. It’s a piece of perfect suspense, with a really fun pay off.
This isn’t a technique that can be used in every issue of every comic book or graphic novel but it is a good way to highlight a moment. However, the unique ability of limited precognition that a comic book grants is something to always bare in mind when writing and reading comic books and graphic novels. As a writer it can be helpful to create action towards the lower right of the page to help pull the reader down the page and create a more active pace. As a reader it is always worth bearing in mind that the artist and the writer have decided to place every element on the page as one chunk of narrative, broken into smaller chunks though use of panelling and this can help inform you understanding and reading of the media. Check back next week for another Grr(aphic) Monday!
Heading Picture source: http://imageserver.moviepilot.com/superhero-electoral-campaign-tobey-maguire-for-spider-man-3966374b-b252-4e62-ab18-1174c36f51af.jpeg?width=1280&height=1555 [Accessed 8/06/2015]