11/19/2018

Caleb Orecchio here with a wonky layout from a Gray Morrow page.

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Lois Lane 1 of 2 written by Mindy Newell and drawn by Gray Morrow. Colors by Joe Orlando, letters by Agustin Mas and edited by Robert Greenberger

 

Mindy Newell serves an incredibly personal PSA to readers in 1986. Within the pages of this two-issue mini-series, aggressive ace reporter Lois Lane investigates the epidemic of missing children sweeping Metropolis and the nation. Nothing will stop her in her pursuit, but is Lois taking on too much by herself? Will she except the help from her friends and estranged sister? The story, though heavy-handed at times, is sincere and written by an author with a purpose.

I picked these issues up for the Gray Morrow art and Joe Orlando colors. I’m impressed by Morrow’s resistance, or the appearance of resistance, of relying on photo reference. As a result, there is little in the way of awkward, collage-y images that feel stiff and contrived; a common, yet not always unwelcome (by me), plague of Morrow’s comics. The pages herein are smoothly and professionally cartooned. More or less. Actually Morrow struggles as usual to make a format that even resembles a coherent structure. Below is an interesting example.

A variation on the “shattered-glass” approach to comic page formatting. This way of making comics almost always looks clunky. The word balloons are unorganized, the space allowed for figures and backgrounds seems cramped, and the eye has a hell of a time knowing where to look. If you are following the dialogue, the page is divided into two tiers. The middle horizontal gutter dividing the top half from the bottom. I have shown the sequence of panels in accordance to the word balloons below:

 

However, I think Morrow meant the page to read clockwise. Like this:

 

Follow the sequence of the images as I see it. In the third panel, Lois slaps a newspaper with her backhand. In panel 5 the paper is still on the editor’s desk. She appears to pick the paper up in panel 6. They way the dialogue determines the sequence, Lois would have smacked the paper, picked it up, and put the paper back down again. Visually, it doesn’t make much sense.

Still, the way I think Morrow intended the sequence to work makes for tricky reading due to the horizontal middle gutter because the reader would have to abandon the traditional rules of comic book reading. I think the editor, Robert Greenberger, made an executive decision and made the page read traditionally not only due to the middle gutter, but due to the fact that the clockwise reading presumably intended by Morrow ruins the flow of the spread by making the reader start in the top left of the spread, down to the bottom left corner and back up to the top left corner of the facing page. As oppose to the traditional pattern of top left to bottom right of the page, and top left to bottom right of the facing page.

These are things that jump out at me and urk me. This is a flawed page and makes for confusing comics. I feel that cartoonists make these kind of pages in service to some strange sense of making personal art. Cartoonists must learn from these formatting mistakes and not fall victim to such practices.

Keep it simple, stupid.

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