Style test/experiment

So I don’t usually do this but I need to know something for… reasons. I’m working on a way to depict rapid action and I’m leaning towards “after images”, which is a comics technique that draws more than one pose in the same frame to imply motion fast enough that doing it in multiple frames would slow down the pacing. It’s especially useful when movement doesn’t move left-to-right which is the normal reading direction. Spider-Man comics have utilized this technique heavily. I’ve tried an experiment and I’d love to know what you think!

After some feedback, I’ve identified a major weakness of the approach and I’ve adjusted my approach to something I think is clearer and more effective:

Yeah, the first version was actually slowing me down as I tried to figure out what was going on; the second version is better. I did get hung up a bit tying to figure out what movement was indicated by the thing below and to the left of Chip’s face, but then I realized it was just the left arm of the person he’s punching – so that’s just something for this specific panel, and quite possibly something that wouldn’t have tripped me up if I hadn’t been deliberately looking and trying to evaluate the technique. As for how well it works for the intended objective… hm.

Well, to begin with, I think this is the first time I’ve encountered this technique, at least that I’m recalling; I thought knowing that might be useful to you in processing my feedback.

In the test panel… in my interpretation, the most important piece of information communicated, at least that I’m first thinking of, is Chip’s hat coming off, and some details on when and how it happened. …Hm. The second thing that comes to me, actually, actually seems to suggest slower action, though. Basically, I’m assuming that the panel before this one would have Chip not being in the process of punching. Moving to this panel without the afterimage, well, obviously Chip started punching, because he wasn’t, and now he is. It clearly happens fast, because there’s not a panel in between. The natural assumption might be that the punch started directly from wherever his arm was, presumably down around his side. The afterimage, however, indicates that he first raised his arm and drew it back… though as the target does not appear to be attempting to put up much of a defence, presumably this still happened pretty quickly.

So, yes, I think my interpretation of the art is that the afterimage indicates that Chip took a little, but not much, extra time to punch with more power, and that his hat came off in the process of that, which may be important somehow.

Hopefully this is useful to you?

Hopefully this is useful to you?

Yup! And yeah, the windup is important because you’re right, the idea in this test is to show that this isn’t just a quick jab, this is a haymaker and it’s got to travel, but it’s fast enough that the guy can’t react—which is why Chip gets an after-image and the poor sumbitch he’s wailing on doesn’t. (I personally call this the Quicksilver effect)

Like I was telling another focus group (GET READY FOR HEAVY BEHIND-THE-SCENES COMIC PRODUCTION SCHOOL), a somewhat unintuitive part of comic creation is pacing. Importantly for this scenario, each new panel comes with a pause—albeit brief—while the reader stops processing one panel and starts processing the next. To put it another way, there’s a brief “hiccup” in the action. So imagine a fight scene in a movie where every hit and movement has a slight pause before the next one: windup, pause, haymaker, pause, sidestep, pause, get hit, pause, gut punch, pause, gut punch, pause, etc. You can see how that would be really slow and lack energy.

Another challenge is how to capture that quick action when the action is moving left—because that’s not how reading naturally goes, so basically with every panel the reader is doing a quick reverse: read right, moves left, read right, moves left. This creates additional slowdown as the reader kind of trips over what’s happening. And you can’t just have every move going to the right because that can actually get confusing real fast—for example in a fist fight if every move has to travel right, the characters are going to switch sides constantly, which (good) fight choreographers will tell you is a terrible idea. It confuses complex movement in an environment as well, since if we’re always going right, the room will be spinning. If quick, connected moves are contained in the same panel, it minimizes those potentially confusing elements.

It’s going to be very important to the comic be able to overcome this kind of almost slow-motion result and capture rapid-fire frenetic energy, so the question isn’t one of whether to put quick one-two actions into the same panel, but rather how to do so. Something I’m wondering at the moment—and let me know what you think—is that you seem to have parsed it after a bit of brief processing, but now that you know this is how the action is being portrayed, do you think that future panels using the technique would be easier—and thus speedier—for you to intuit?

Another related challenge, and one I’ll have to play with, is that close-quarters combat is… well, close. Meaning you’re going to have characters all up in each others’ business and they’re going to overlap on the page. I’ve touched this panel up with some subtle outlining and ambient occlusion (the light shadow around the Wailed On) to try to separate the characters without it being too intrusive an effect. The 4-shade limitation of the art style makes it so the characters will often have identical shades of grey—although I suppose I could just plan ahead for that and just be smart about how I color the characters, like using pure black on the Wailed On here. But if the outlining/AO is working here, that’s less of an issue.

Anyway, this has been a lengthy treatise on the kind of forethought I have to put into the comic. Hopefully it’s been illuminating~

Ah, good!

“Something I’m wondering at the moment—and let me know what you think—is that you seem to have parsed it after a bit of brief processing, but now that you know this is how the action is being portrayed, do you think that future panels using the technique would be easier—and thus speedier—for you to intuit?”
It’s hard to say. Somewhat, at least, I expect, because of having some experience with it now; I’m not sure how much, though. The test panel now seems to process quite fast for me – but then, I already know what happens in it.

“But if the outlining/AO is working here, that’s less of an issue.”
I think what you’re talking about might relate to the difficulty I had at first with the target’s left arm – but I did figure that out pretty quickly, as I recall.

“Hopefully it’s been illuminating~”
I think so; thanks. :slight_smile:

Also side note, it would be important that the hat leave his head here because it in a moment conveys the intensity of the action; “He’s going too hard for this hat to stay on.”

Ah, thanks; I don’t think I’d explicitly thought of it that way.

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Please don’t hurt me for saying this, but I was gonna ask if you recreated the Will Smith meme. (By the way, I need to catch up on your comic and fully plan on doing so!)


WIGGLLLLLLLES I’ve missed yooou

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I’ve missed you toooooooooo!