Monday, November 22, 2010

Life Happens in the Gutter

It sure isn't happening in this hotel room. It was another TV day.

I watched a rerun of a Comic Con interview on one of the geek channels. A graphic artist explained, "Life happens in the gutter." (If there's a specific person who should receive attribution for that quotation, please let me know. As far as I can tell, it's traditional wisdom of the trade). The gutter is the groove between the facing pages of an opened book, and by extension, the space between the panels of a graphic novel1. The pictures themselves don't move, so graphic novels depend on the reader's participation in creating what happens from frame to frame. The art of designing them is to facilitate that so that the page looks great, but the reader is never confused about where to look next, and the surprises aren't spoiled.

I mostly read webcomics, not printed comics2 so I'd never really thought about that. It's an interesting insight into the trade, but more interesting to me as a metaphor for actual life, along the lines of "life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans," plus the reminder that the static Kodak moments in someone's life aren't their whole life, and that even when you're down and out, living in the gutter, life goes on.

The other movie I watched today was The Life of David Gale. I didn't know anything about it when I turned it on, but very early in the picture I knew what was going to have happened, well before the murder victim was identified. It just so happened that as one of the characters dropped a little clue phrase that was designed to explain the movie in retrospect, I found it interesting enough to ponder how I would approach the issue, and then the rest of the movie fit my solution perfectly. I think the ending was supposed to be a surprise reveal, but the movie was interesting enough that I kept watching. It was remarkably balanced, considering that most of the main characters are anti-capital punishment crusaders. I think in the end that both sides were fairly presented.

The airplane should be back soon, so I can do some work.

1. You can't call them comic books, because a lot of them aren't meant to be funny.

2. I only own two graphic novels: Maus II, which I bought second-hand in New Orleans, and The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation. Definitely not comic books.


Wayne Conrad said...

I first read the concept that the space between the panels is important in "Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud. I don't know if he coined the idea, but he explains it nicely. Great book, lots to think about:

david said...

"You can't call them comic books, because a lot of them aren't meant to be funny."

I think "comic book" is a perfectly acceptable term: Dante's Divine Comedy isn't funny either (nor is the Comédie-Française, at least not all the time).

Sarah said...

I hadn't heard that use of "gutter". It has other connotations for me.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars -- Oscar Wilde.

Michael5000 said...

I second the Scott McCloud book.