Ephemeral landscapes: of the page, fundaments . . .

Motion and movement

vertical scrolling advisory
Rodolphe Töpffer, Wilhelm Busch and other 19th century comics precursors experimented with a wide range of schemes of lines, blurs, distortions, human postures and dynamic compositions to suggest physical motion and movement (Kunzle 1990: 348). Their prefiguring of what would be cinematic movement and cartoon animation remains a remarkable achievement.

A century later, now that we "know" how things and places are supposed to look, the conventions of movement have been regularized.

Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics, 1993, pp 112-115.

Some techniques, like bending objects to imply movement, can only work if the complete context is comprehensible, and the artist is a virtuoso.

Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend

We have come to accept even the crudest of streaks and blurs, and the contortions of certain specially talented superheroes, as indicators of rapid movement, but only when we have accepted the rules of their particular environment, which may have to change over time in order to preempt reader boredom.

In Japanese manga-style, it is sometimes necessary for the whole world to be in rapid motion in order to identify with a character in motion.

Akira, 1988

The conventions for movement in space include the "stroboscopic" view of a character in several positions but occupying the same frame -- in this case, the stroboscope means to suggest movement in time as well. It also helps to know that the superhero's name is Johnny Quick.

These elements (and others) may be interesting in themselves, but their real impact is in combination, to tell comic stories.

Back to top