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Infographics in Hickman’s PAX ROMANA


As I mentioned previously, Jonathan Hickman, who was an actual graphic designer before he got into comics, has done the lion’s share of the most striking recent use of infographics in comics. Check out his first series, THE NIGHTLY NEWS.  This, which I think was his second or third book, dials their use back – but it’s worth looking at how he uses them here, folding them more sparingly, but more effectively into the service of narrative.

There’s a real fusion starting to happen here.  He could have done this with Google Maps screenshots and some clipart, but the connective marks are clearly from infographics.

I don’t think I have a lot to say about this, as such: it’s more about looking at how he does this, how he creates graphical associations.  It’s easier when you clip out things and place them together.

In this single image, an army is being sent back in time.  The story to this point, and the narrative panels on either side of it, contextualise it so that he can do this work in a single panel.

(There’s probably a whole other conversation to be had about Hickman’s use of colour, too.)

And then, there are the maps.


I love books with maps.  One of my favourite things about CRECY was getting to put maps in it.

This map gets repeated later in the book, changed, but that’s a spoiler.  I mention this only because I want to get across that this is a narrative element.  It repeats, with changes, in service of the story.

And then there’s this:

(much larger)

Note how the art element, the jagged stream, associates with the time-travel panel above.

I clumsily whited out a balloon here because it felt like spoiler.  But, again, see: narrative element.

Everything connects, everything reflects something else, and the book develops its own smooth language.  He doesn’t use these elements to jar.  Except when, in my favourite bit of infographic fun in the book, he does.  This still makes me smile.  And, yes, it’s a mild spoiler, but fuck it, it’s glorious:

It’s a single panel, less obviously impressive than many of the pieces above, but this is the audacious bit: it’s beautifully presented, utterly playful superfluous information that yet somehow enriches the panel.  This is the audacious bit, that harks back to Chaykin and Bruzenak, or Talbot in ARKWRIGHT: there is no need for it to be there, but it’s pretty and it adds something artistic and it makes me smile.  There’s a little bit of baroque nuttiness in Hickman’s otherwise clean-lined designer’s mind that I greatly enjoy.

Published in comics talk


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