Xaime’s Tiers – more grid talk
Sunday, November 7, 2010
I just sat down and re-read thru the new Love and Rockets issue. Shame on you, True Believer, if you haven’t already dog-eared this one. Please, please order this one today and thank me for urging you to do so. As Mr. Heer has already pointed out on this site – Jaime Hernandez has outdone himself. I mean, I’m a cynical super fan at times who often believes he’s “seen it all” and then something like L ‘n R New Stories #3 comes out and just slays me. And like I said, if you haven’t read this one yet – shame on you. I’m talking to you in your pajamas in the front row. Go click around the internet or put some clothes on and hoof it down to ye olde comics shoppe and buy this one. Do it now!
I’m struck by how Jaime lets the story dictate the layout and the pace. I’m gonna try and walk you through, so follow along with me… if you haven’t read the new issue, stop here. I may possibly ruin some plot points for you. Fair warning.
OK, start on page 37; The Love Bunglers page one is a right-hand side page. It’s a 3-tiered page. Jaime stays with the 3-tier template as you turn to page 38. These two pages, while not a spread, are linked narratively. These are “Calvin” pages. As page 39 begins, it’s a dream Maggie is having. We have switched POV. The page is again a 3-tiered template and it accommodates the tall, 2-tiered panel number three. The panel shapes also accommodate Maggie’s dense interior narration. Page 40 is another dream page and another 3-tiered template. This is the first full symmetrical grid in the story. It is a left-hand-side, 6 panel grid, and it is married to a right-hand-side, 4-tiered, 8 panel grid.
I like how the reader is brought into the dream on the 38-39 pages spread. And how we come out of it in the 40-41 spread. If those two dream pages were one spread, I think it would read differently and not allow the reader to be with Maggie as she comes out of the dream and into real-time on page 41. I also think it is the correct musical pairing to have the 6 panel grid with the 8 panel grid in one spread. The timing, check out the timing.
With the 8 panel grid on page 41, Jaime has an efficient way of navigating the quick back and forth between Maggie and Reno. Dig the way Jaime pulls back and jumps scale, but notice how he basically reduces Maggie to a series of profiles after the close-up of panel number one. To me, that lets Reno’s reactions to Maggie’s words be felt the most. Jaime’s pointing me to what to look at (I think).
The Love Bunglers part one:
page 1- page 37 in the book – a right hand side page. 3-tiered. Calvin shown. Sort of his POV
38-39 3-tiered spread. Calvin POV continued on left hand side. Right hand side of spread (pg. 39) begins dream sequence.
40-41 3-tiered layout on left hand side. 6 panel grid. Married with a 4-tiered 8 panel grid on the right hand side of the spread.
42-43 4-tiered double page spread. 8 panel grids on each page.
44-45 3-tiered layout on left hand side. Calvin appears. Bridge between scene with Reno and scene with next scene. The right hand side goes back to a 4-tiered 8 panel grid.
46-47 4-tiered double page spread. 8 panel grids on each page.
48-49 4-tiered double page spread. 8 panel grid on each page. Last 5 pages has lot of back and forth dialogue.
page 50 – last page of The Love Bunglers part one – a left hand side page. A 3-tiered 9 panel grid. Calvin appears.
Gilbert Hernandez’s (amazing) story creates an interlude here before Jaime’s next story, Browntown begins. I always think that Love and Rockets is designed sort of like a Rocky and Bullwinkle episode. Serials broken up into stories within the framework of “The Show”. Watch Beto pull a rabbit out
of her snatch of his hat.
Browntown page 1 of the story – page 65 in the book. This is a right hand side splash. 3-tier layout.
pages 66-67 3-tiered spread. 6 panel grid on each page. The whole story is set up in this 12 bar blues melody statement.
The next 13 spreads – pages 68-94 – the rest of the story is all laid out using 3-tiered pages. Meaning all spreads for Browntown are 3-tiered – Jaime is keeping us in this “time” – not switching back to present day – no 4-tiered pages at all. Occasionally, he uses a 6 or even a 9 paneled grid on a single page within the 3-tiered layout, but not again as a symmetrical spread like pages 66-67. Fittingly, I think the places he uses a fixed, 6 panel grid on a single page are strong, emotional scenes. There is a sense of balance and calm that works in tandem with the emotions. The framing of the figures take on a more mural-like composition of stilled action. Also, tellingly, fittingly – Jaime uses a 9 panel grid with possibly the most emotional scene in the book on page 84. Where do you see a 9 panel grid in the present day? Page 50, the last page of The Love Bunglers – so there’s a “rhyme” there with Calvin – however tenuously – just by virtue of the same rhythm of the 9 panel grid which brings us back to beat of the story.
The last page of Browntown is a left-handed side page (page 94) and it is a 3-tiered page. Facing it on the right side of the spread is page 1 of The Love Bunglers part two. It begins with Ray’s interior narration. It is a 3-tiered, 6 panel grid. The shape of the panels, again, accommodate the text blocks. And the 3-tiered layout creates a smooth transition of scale from the left side of the spread. And thus, the two worlds meet.
Turn the page to spread 96-97, and we switch out of Ray’s interior narration, and into a 4-tiered spread – a grid of 8 panels per page. 16 panels across the spread. Back into the present. Out of Browntown. It’s a remarkable, emotional shift. I really feel it. At first, with Ray’s dialogue, and then with the quick back and forth between Maggie and Ray.
Spread 98-99 is another switch. Left-hand-side is still 8 panel, 4-tiered layout. The right side goes back to the 6 panel grid, 3-tiered template. The tone changes. It’s Ray’s interior narration again. Turn the page – the last page – Calvin appears – and it retains the 3-tiered layout -which rhymes with the Browntown tone of all pages having 3-tiered layouts.
So we see how the structure of the story, the tempo, and the emotional color of the scenes can dictate approach and what I like to call song forms. And we see how whenever Calvin appears in the present day story of Love Bunglers that Jaime uses a 3 tiered layout. Only the dream sequence and Ray’s interior narration scenes are 3 tiered in Love Bunglers. When I read these stories in order as they are presented I feel the “beat” change. The pace of the story is created by the controlled changes in rhythm. Specifically from 3 tiered pages to 4 tiered pages in the Love Bunglers; and when he utilizes symmetrical grids in Browntown. How Jaime composes for these changes is, to me, breathtaking.
**I contacted Jaime and here is what he had to say in regards to planning for the left / right orientation of spreads:
“Yes, I do always check with Gilbert on his page count so I’ll know how my story will look when it starts but it’s been only a few times that it was really important that it started on the right or left side. For example, When we collected my last stories from L&R vol 1, it was important to shift every page in the book so that the two pages of Maggie getting her face slapped by all her friends could face each other and become a spread that packed a much bigger wallop.”
And as far as “giving up the center” with certain layouts – I will get into that next week. But if you look at how Jaime manages “the center” in all his pages you will note how he uses the negative space quite deftly – especially with the space around the figures.