Composition – Eternals # 8 Artwork Part III

In the artwork for Eternals # 8 page 5 Jack gives you a full page close-up of a new character: “The Reject,” a Deviant with a human face. I wonder if Jack had big plans for this character and this was his way of emphasizing that. In the background Jack uses a technique where he has a cast of characters all commenting, coincidentally all of them speaking in turn from left-to-right. In a film, the director/writer could have the characters speaking in a different order, but a comics artist/writer is limited by the constraints of the page so the left-to-right word balloon presentation is really the only one that works, and Jack always pulls it off seamlessly.

Another interesting thing to note is that when you read a comic you tend to make a mental cut when you go from frame to frame. Unless two (or more) panels are almost identical, you don’t see the narrative as a flowing narrative like a film where camera movement leads you in and out of an image, but more as a series of cuts where the comics artist is directing your eye to specific frames or moments in the story. For example, looking at Page 6, panel 1: Jack starts off with a medium-long-shot featuring Kro and Thena standing on a balcony. Visually, Jack establishes they are in the city by showing you the buildings on the left.

I adjusted the contrast and size of the original scanned-image so we can take a closer look.

I particularly like the way Jack illustrated that shadow on the wall in the bottom right-hand corner.

Mark Evanier has mentioned in the past that he recalls in the 1970s Kirby illustrating the whole story first, then adding text after he had finished that process, but looking at some of this artwork, I find myself wondering if at this point, maybe Jack was adding text first, then doing the illustrations. Then again, looking especially at Kro’s text, it looks a little packed in there, as if Jack ran out of room, so maybe Jack did draw the basic composition ot the two characters, the cityscape and building; then Jack went back later, added the text, and that is when he also added the background details surrounding the text. It’s interesting to note that although legible, Jack’s text was a little sloppy — certainly not suitable for publishing, so again, I think it’s revealing to take a close look at how Royer turned Jack’s sketchy text into professional-looking comics lettering.

Panel 2: Jack moves in for a close-up. If you make an effort you can see panel 1 and panel 2 as two frames in a sequence where the frame is a camera floating into the close-up, but I think the images are varied enough that to the casual reader it looks more like a cinematic cut. Of course, this sort of thing is something the reader is not aware of, and Jack as storyteller may have made decisions like this unconsciously.

Visually, these type of sequences do have meaning. As the reader we can see these characters are close, but there is tension. Kro has an ominous look and is lower in the composition. Thena is closer to the reader, higher in the image, and clearly having doubts.

In panel 3: Kro now fills up most of he frame, he blocks Thena from the reader, and also seems to grab her fairly hard. This is an example of a panel that would probably not work if you were filming the sequence in one continuous shot. Physically moving your camera from a close-up to a medium shot would be a little jarring, so a filmmaker would probably use a cut here, and that is also the effect you get in a typical comic book when transitioning between frames.

Panel 4. Again, Jack zooms in for a close-up. Now Kro is higher in the frame, dominating the image.

Panel 5. Then Jack cuts to the image of Kro holding Thena’s hand — or more specifically, grabbing her by the wrist. An interesting choice of image: the fact that Kro almost seems to be pulling her hand towards him, and Thena seems apprehensive visually shows the reader there is obvious tension between these two. Again, you probably wouldn’t see a filmmaker use an image like this — unless it was a cheesy romance film — it just probably wouldn’t work, but in a comic book sequence it’s pretty effective, especially because out of the corner of your eye you can still see the entire page — you have 4 panels of Kro and Thena already, so making this final move to the close-up of the hands in the final panel is a solid way to use the comic page as a way to explore a scene by zooming in and out of the main composition, highlighting the most pertinent and dramatic details.