September 24th, 2012 | comics talk
Use of infographics in comics is hardly new, of course. And, in the work of people like Jonathan Hickman, still current. But I was interested in the way, in Darwyn Cooke’s adaptations of the PARKER books for comics, he uses them to compress information.
This is from the most recent book, THE SCORE, and, in fact, is pretty much the only place in the book he resorts to the idea:
He kind of defeats his own point by describing the guns in the text, and really just gets a pretty picture out of it. But that is close to being very useful. It sometimes feels like he’s champing at the bit over his own inventions, not quite able to run with them. He does it better in the previous book, THE OUTFIT:
Some of these elements had been introduced before, but not all of them. Here, he’s done the work the comics adaptation of a novel needs. A novel radiates more information from a single page than a comic does. This sort of graphic action makes the comics page informationally denser. He’s working on a page size that’s smaller than standard, too, closer to prose-book size, so it’s a concern.
Cooke does a lot of work with maps. Each of the books has at least one map, used either to bridge scenes or quickly distil exposition. This and the page below are again from THE OUTFIT, the book richest with infographic practise (as well as shifts in illustration style).
It’s hard to make out (even in the original print object!) but the box marked MACE contains an explanation of that criminal term – “a stolen car with clean plates and forged registration.”
He’s trying to construct an infographic idiom using the available cultural tools of the period, while also trying to remain conscious of the narrative requirements of the comics page. And trying to do it all in a fairly holistic manner – there’s no diegetic breakdown, in these pages. (Cooke throws his hands in the air in a later chapter and does a sequence as magazine-typeset prose with a couple of spot illos.)
Again, he’s telling a little bit more than he’s showing – I don’t venerate “show not tell” to the death, but it’s a handy yardstick unless you’re after very specific narrative effects. But the page has a beautiful balance, and does the work of comics narrative – your eye is led in pretty much the way it needs to be, and you end up in the bottom right corner as you should.
It’s interesting to see him try and work this out for himself on the page over three books. Or, perhaps, two books, as it’s almost entirely jettisoned in the third book. We’ll see if he returns to it. But I wanted to get these samples out in front of me and think about them a little bit. It’s something that’s currently of interest to me – writing a couple of longer novels has got me thinking about pages and information.