Two More From CCS: L’Age Dur and Short Notes On Long Comics

Posted by on October 18th, 2010 at 5:10 AM

Rob continues to review minicomics from CCS students & fellows, with Short Notes On Long Comics, by Tim Stout and L’Age Dur, by Max De Radigues.

L’Age Dur #1-5, by Max De Radigues.  Belgian artist De Radigues, a recent CCS fellow, has a delicate line and a talent for conveying the minutia of young adulthood.  In this series of five 8-page minis depicting particular slice-of-life moments for a set of teens, De Radigues conjures up an aching verisimilitude.  “Picnic” is about two best friends who nonetheless are frequently in each other’s faces about issues of masculinity.  “Bagarre!” is about a young man wishing for attention from a particular girl, only to accidentally elbow her when another boy picks a fight with him.  “Detention” is about what appears to be a shared moment for a boy and a girl, only for the boy to realize that the moment didn’t belong to him.  “Jealousies” is about the way that no matter how much one feels jealous of one relationship, there are others who feel much the same way and act like idiots.  Finally, “15 Minutes” subverts what seems to be a story about trying to get laid into one that’s about trying to get a key homework assignment.  De Radigues’ figures are minimalist but lovely, carrying a great deal of expressiveness in their thin, sketchy lines.  He also creates a steady rhythm with a 6-panel grid on each page, quickly propelling the reader through one anecdote and into the next.

Short Notes On Long Comics, by Tim Stout.  This isn’t a comic but rather a breakdown on story structure in long-form comics.  Stout wound up playing to his strengths at CCS as someone best suited to advise on, edit and tweak the work of others.  With a background in film school, it’s no surprise that he uses a template created for cinema by author Blake Snyder.  That template pushes the classical three-act structure to a film or comic, using a number of particular milestones (“theme stated”, “B Story”, “Dark Night Of The Soul”, etc) to provide tentpoles for writing.  Stout applies this template to well-known long-form comics in a number of genres, from Hellboy to Maus to Blankets, grappling with the particulars of each book’s conflict.

I think there are times when Stout strains a bit to fit the structure of a comic into a 15-step process, but he also does a fine job of sussing out themes and zeroing in on the central conflicts of stories.  In particular, the static nature of comics storytelling makes the final scene (designed to convey the opposite feeling of the opening image) one that is all the more effective.  Stout’s breakdown of the final images of books like Maus and Blankets is especially instructive in how a story went from point a to point b.  Of course, this comic isn’t meant as criticism or analysis per se, but rather a road map for struggling cartoonists.  Stout fortifies this mini with a number of testimonials from his fellow students.

Stout’s method is limited, locking comics into the three-act model common to two-hour films.  He acknowledges that fact early on, noting that plenty of comics don’t fit into this model.  His method acts as less a tool for inspiration than one for organization, in an effort to prevent cartoonists from following narrative dead ends or get off track as to a character’s motivations.  While there’s a danger of the assembly-line effect in terms of encouraging repeated use of the same sort of narrative structure, Stout pointedly addresses this with the wide variety of material he analyzed.  It would be instructive to see him analyze a few successful comics that didn’t use this three-act structure and map out their templates, just for a point of comparison.

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One Response to “Two More From CCS: L’Age Dur and Short Notes On Long Comics

  1. [...] Short Notes on Long Comics was reviewed by Rob Clough on tcj.com! [...]