Monday, March 29, 2010
Your Monday Panel 5
Indian Summer (1983), page 15 panel 5. Drawn by Milo Manara.
For all the pitfalls of detail (see last issue), it remains one of the most important tools in the artist's repertoire. When it's both called for and used well, detail can create entire worlds that go beyond simply allowing the reader to slip through them and seductively drag the eye down into the story they're telling. This is one such panel.
What elevates Manara's way of filling frames up with information above almost anyone else working in comics is how naturalistically he draws. One of the problems with the Image school of liney art that took a bashing in last issue's comments is that even if you can get past the line matrices all over the human beings, that style is simply wrong for depicting furniture, or buildings, or certainly the natural world. There are only a very few things you can draw using it. But Manara can encompass multitudes, his thin, even lines almost shying away from the idea of "style" and into something like documentary, attempting to summon forth the real world on the page more than play any fancy self-referential tricks with his mark-making. Thick fields, sparse wilderness, the striving human form, the wildness of the animal world -- all are delineated in the same, exacting manner, one that seeks not to simplify them but to show them as they really are, in all their glory.
It's a very valid approach, but one that never seems to get enough attention, and maybe that's because there are at most one or two other artists using it who have Manara's intensity of vision, who can conceptualize a world this deep. Few could imagine every stalk of vegetation, tree and cloud and crow here in enough detail to draw them -- and then to draw them so masterfully! Manara's line is so perfect, so able to ride the razor's egde between cartoon bounciness and realist rigor that with a simple outlining of forms, a few lines here and there for shading, and a wistfully expressive color palette, he can give us a world to be lived in as fully as this one.
And he does it with the details, with the creation of something as fully realized as it possibly could be. Note too the thickness of the cornfield, its unwillingness to be run through. The way the spiraling crows' panic shows the covered-up motion of the running boy more effectively than a mere figure drawing possibly could. The huffing, puffing billow of the clouds seen almost touching the boy's breathless face. The picture's every detail is visible and free of abstraction, but much of what makes this panel so real is that the detail does more than just sit there. It enriches, gets the lines to come alive. This is an utterly beautiful picture, to be sure. But Manara's genius lies in taking it farther than just making beauty. In drawing as truly and as realistically as possible, the artist is engaged in a far greater task -- the re-making of life.
Your Monday Panel is an ongoing series examining the building blocks of comics -- individual panels.