Thursday, 22 February 2007

BIG HANDS & little geezers (rule #2)

When I handed out my 'rule #1' yesterday I heard a murmur of discontent go around. Hey, it was my gift to you. If you have no use for it, put it at the back of the cupboard. Just remember to serve the drinks out of it whenever I'm visiting.

The matter was briefly mentioned on the Comics Journal forum where one Ben Towie noted that all I meant was that your choices should not be arbitrary. The next guy felt that much was to be lost by making the reader an observer rather than a participant. Well, if you want your reader to identify with either a woman who is about to be murdered, or her murderer, then obviously you need to stick with the 'pictorial language of melodrama' and have nothing to do with my antidote*. The same writer also appears to think I'm arguing for comics as an autonomous artform (i.e. which therefore owes nothing to cinema). Where did you get that one? I don't have any use for the idea of comics as an art form let alone an autonomous one (I'll explain this statement further down the track). I was just arguing for good taste.

Now, today I'm talking about SCALE. That's right, scale. When I arrived in Manhattan in June 2003 for the MOCCA show, the building around the corner from the hotel in which I was staying had a huge poster for the Hulk movie on the side of it. I mean a colossal building-sized image of the Hulk, and an image that was perfectly idiomatic, though I don't know whom we should credit for it or whether it was made by anyone close to the comics biz. I went out the next day to get a photo but it was gone. Look at this other building and just try to conjure it in your head. It was a wonderful feeling looking up at it, because I have always thought of New York as belonging to Stan Lee, while at the same time knowing that's not quite right. Here I was in the big strange far away foreign city, and my childhood pal was on the side of a building welcoming me.
It's a perfect scaling up (I used this term wrongly a few days back... let's differentiate between scaling up and blowing up, as in enlarging) of a classic Kirby-model Hulk. By Kirby I mean the big-hand-reaching-toward-the-reader formula. The classic style of this kind of image requires that the hand, in extremely exaggerated forshortening, cross behind or even break the line of the frame. It's an expanding frame of infinite possibility. It's like a recurring fraction producing infinitesmal subdivisions. It didn't even surprise me to see fingerprints on his mighty hands.
I paid my own homage to the icon of the big hand in this full page from a 1990 Eyeball KId, (art by Ed Hillyer), reprinted recently in Italy. The guy on the ground is saying "Look out! IT's Hermes, and he's got the BIG GLOVE! (that's the plug by which I justify spending today's time here-see Italy in the sidebar, volume 4))

In contrast, Ivan Brunetti was interviewed by the Comics Journal last year and in there he said something to the effect that for his characters to continue being real to him, they must live out their existences on the same small scale, with little variation. I don't still have the issue, so this is from memory, and I'm spinning it off into my own words. It's as though they are actually living inside these tiny boxes that form the frames, never touching or reaching beyond the delimited rectangle, for to do so would be to break their fragile contract with the world.

To summarize:
CAMPBELL's RULE #2:
The frame ain't random either.

****

p.s. *speaking of antidotes, this is the spider that tried to eat my pal Best a few days ago. The poor bloke's still suffering.

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9 Comments:

Anonymous All Chalky wrote said...

That poster is ridiculosuly close to an Alan Davis picture from the early 80s. I'm obviously too stupid to post it, but will bring it tomorrow.

Plag-tastic.

22 February 2007 6:21:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous Tales of Chalky said...

What's all this "said" crap. I was listening to the Housemartins and never said a word...

22 February 2007 6:25:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Christopher Moonlight said...

First of all Eddie, I'd like to commend you on making trouble. When people are discontent, they (by means of necessity) have to think, and thinking leads to new ideas, and new directions for those ideas to go in. I still think you should make a book about this stuff. People, am I right here, when I say that this stuff is every bit as relevant as anything Scott McClowed would tell us? Blogs are still a little to obscure for this kind of information to be carried on. Now, questions: Who do you feel are the worst offenders of these rules? Who are the ones best at navigating them? Should these rules forever and always apply to every comic? I know, I'm trying to make trouble now, too.

22 February 2007 9:57:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger HemlockMan said...

Hrm...

22 February 2007 7:37:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous andrew said...

Ivan's 'rule' seems to be related to cambell's first rule, that the entirety of the situation must be contained within each panel, maybe I misunderstand?

How anyone could hope to make the reader a participant in the story I have no idea - the comic form would seem to be one of the more autistic storytelling methods available...

You seem to react more strongly than I thought you might against the idea of comics as an autonomous art-form, could you cope with the idea of semi-autonomous? Or even one that can get by on it's own most of the time, but sometimes needs a little help from it's friends?

23 February 2007 3:49:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger drjon said...

Ah, the Big Glove.

The Big Glove was ace.

23 February 2007 8:13:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Christopher
not naming any offenders. too many
These rules apply at all times. I believe in Logic most rigorous.

Andrew
I will be getting back to the autonomy thing.
This blog is just all the stuff that's been rattling around in my head for months. great to get it all out, make room for new thoughts

Drjon
the big glove indeed. Ed drew it on the end of his mitt. I think I'd have built up some pneumatic machinery to make it work convincingly
but, who would notcie?

26 February 2007 12:56:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Rod McKie said...

Hi Eddie, I may have garbled what I was getting at (wouldn't be the first time). I was thinking of Clive Bell and the elite, and privilaged, little Bloomsbury Group's insistance on the autonomy of painting, ridding it of all techniques of photography and cinema and the foregrounding instead of the means of production, of the technique (always over substance), so that the painterly qualities of a painting, are all that matters and any discussion of the work should focus only on its self-referential qualities.

http://www.rowan.edu/philosop/clowney/Aesthetics/philos_artists_onart/bell.htm

The reason the foregrounding of technique disquiets me is that Clement Greenberg used Bell's arguements to champion Abstract Expressionism and he was udoubtedly a tool of the CIA's promotion of Abstract Expressionism, during the Cold War. It was not, as he was later to admit, something he believed in.

http://www.counterpunch.org/brenner01112003.html

http://www.newyorker.com/critics/atlarge/articles/051017crat_atlarge?051017crat_atlarge

He later excused himself by saying that nobody should have taken him seriously and that he was 'only making copy'. But as a highly influential art critic he destroyed a lot of careers.

http://www.newcriterion.com/archive/19/sept00/clement.htm

Whilst I wouldn't argue about rules being necessary, I would object to a definition that strips comics of all outside references; if it were ever possible, and subjects comics to nothing but self-referential signifiers.

3 March 2007 3:21:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Rod
I'll reply to this on the main page in a day or two

eddie

4 March 2007 12:13:00 am GMT-5  

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