Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The case for motion lines, exhibit a

From Ultimate Spider-Man#8, page 15, by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli:

On this page, Spider-Man sees a number of metal rings in the air; in the fourth panel, he has to duck to avoid one of them. On the following page, we learn these rings are being hurled through the air by the Ringer.

The problem with this page is that there's no sense of what the rings are or what they're doing. Are they flying through the air? Are they falling from the sky? Are they hovering in place? The only panel where the rings' nature is established is panel 4, when Spider-Man ducks one of them. Here, Pichelli realizes she needs to add motion lines for the action to make sense (if Spider-Man were ducking a seemingly stationary object it would be confusing).

This fourth panel sums up exactly what the other four panels on the page are missing: motion lines. Without the motion lines, we don't understand where the rings are coming from, what path they're following as they travel or how quickly they're moving. Is Spider-Man in danger? Are the civilians in danger? We'd know if the motion lines had been used in panels 1-3 & 5. As it is, the rings appear as threatening as soap bubbles.

Comic book makers: don't be ashamed of motion lines! These, and other such tools belonging to the language of comic books, are in your toolbox for a reason - to be used! "They don't have motion lines in movies" is not a valid defense.

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