Submitted by Pear-pear on November 2, 2007 - 07:42
You know, there's not enough dialog between silent movies and comic strips. There may have been at one point; Krazy and Ignatz come to mind. The more I think about the conventionalized visual language of silent film, and how Comix is being reborn on the web, I think there's a lot the latter can learn from the former.
I remember reading in one of Bill Watterson's books, probably the 10th Anniversary Book (since its the one with all the words in it), about how newspaper strips were way too dialog-based and largely missing the opportunity for physical comedy and slapstick that the medium naturally provides. I honestly can only muster up the will to read newspaper comics every so often, but I see what he means. Garfield used to have a lot of slapstick stuff, a lot of which worked. Mother Goose and Grimm has some every now and then, a lot of which doesn't work (for me anyway). Watterson, on the other hand, was always experimenting with the possibilities and I'm seeing now how much of an influence on me he was -- not so much in artistic style, but in timing.
I feel like McCloud's term for the gestalt between panels, "closure," can apply to the mental process experienced by the viewer of a silent film (especially a viewer familiar with the conventions of the medium). A lot of what makes Buster Keaton, Chaplin, or the early Stan Laurel stuff so funny to me is how the situations they find themselves in are constructed piece by piece through the visual narrative; and the protagonist himself is almost a physicalization of the gestalt; one watches a figure/type of one's mind connecting the dots as one's mind connects them.
I've got a couple timing experiments cooking in pear-pear right now. Some of the physical humor also tries to play with timing; Pear-Pear describing how he intends to use the spoon in #31, for example. on a slightly grander narrative scale, we're waiting for the other shoe to drop with the kiwi, and wondering if we'll see the apple again. Or at least I hope some readers are responding this way.
For the halloween comic, I wanted to play with timing in another sense. We see the pumpkin at the moment right before the complete realization of the horror of his fate sets in. Positioning the moment exactly there, for me, is how to get the most comedy out of extending the foods-on-the-breakfast-table-are-alive convention to a pumpkin on its way to jack-o-lanternitude.
Enjoy, and a happy Halloween/Toussaint to everybody.