Have you ever watched Cloverfield? I’m the first the admit it’s not the best movie but it does manage to pull off its style quite well. The shaky camera, whether you love or hate it, is there and is used in every way possible, it creates atmosphere and even plays a role in the events. When the characters are in a subway tunnel being followed by nightmare creatures the cameras night mode reveals what’s chasing them. The camera also allows for the story to be told on a brilliant micro-macro level as we see the event from a ground perspective which keeps us interested in the personal stories of the characters while adding weight to the monster. Matt Reeves and JJ Abrams knew what they were doing, even if the final execution was far from perfect. So if this technique, which has cropped up in films many times over the years, is so good why hasn’t it turned up in comics yet? Why have I never seen through the eyes of Spider-Man?
Words And Pictures
If you haven’t read Scott McCloud’s fantastic book ‘Understanding Comics’ you probably should, it talks about how it’s a natural feature of the medium for a plot to be told from two angles simultaneously. In the above panel you can see Peter Parker at the Daily Bugle from what we would consider a third person perspective, with the speech from the receptionist coming at us from a third person perspective, however we also get Peter’s internal narration from a first person perspective. We see the internal and external Peter Parker at the same times. This has been the way comic books have been written for years as it allows a writer to communicate much more information much quicker. It’s similar to how voice over can be used in film but it’s more of a standard troupe than an occasional tool. However there are plenty of comics that forgo the internal narrative, especially if they are trying to keep an air of mystery, so what’s the issue with a first person perspective?
Spider-Man doesn’t See All That Much…
If a picture speaks a thousand words then it’s easy to see how a ten panel page can communicate much more than an internal dialogue box. In the above image you can see a full silent page from Amazing Spider-Man, it requires no text and is entirely told from a third person perspective yet it’s easy to understand what’s going on. As readers we need as much context and information in each panel to make the deductive leaps required to fill in the gaps between panels. I would suggest it is this requirement of the medium that has put many writers and artists off using a full first person perspective. It would be hard for Spider-Man to see much to give visual context as he swings across New York. However, I believe that it is for this very reason that a first person perspective could be even better in a comic book.
Cloverfield Works Like A Comic Book
In almost every action scene of the aforementioned Cloverfield we see snapshots of the action as the camera, and the cameraman, is thrown around. We are forced to work out what is happening from moment to moment, just as we are forced to come up with what happened a from panel to panel to panel in a comic book. It’s for this reason that I believe a comic book from such a perspective could work really well and give us a new angle on an old character. Peter Parker used to be a photographer, it would be amazing to see him running around with a camera for a day. The best part is, I’m not the only writer who feels this way…
Max Landis, Chronicle And Power Rangers
Once more, if you look at the film Chronicle, there are writers that agree with me on some level as Max Landis, who has just come off his awesome American Alien run, decided that a first person camera was the perfect way to capture super powered action. There have been a few comics, such as the opening of the most recent Power Rangers run and the X-Men Second Coming crossover, which have opted for a documentary style and I think they hint towards the potential that the first person view could offer. Personally, I think this has a lot of potential and it’s something I would like to explore in my own comic book writing, but what do you think? Hit me in the comments section with your thoughts on first person perspective and whether you think it could work in a comic book? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
…That was this week’s BearSleuth Opinion Piece!!! Check back on Wednesday for a new Comic History 101!!!