Sharing Time: Men and Blizzards in Black

(Apr 01, 2010)

Sorry about another Thursday post. I swear I’ll crawl my way back to Wednesdays eventually.

Here’s something I drew for the Johnny Cash Project.  The Project is creating a music video where each frame is a portrait of Johnny Cash provided by people online (though each portrait is based on a still that is assigned by the site).  I love Johnny’s music, and I thought it would be fun to participate (though I overworked my frame waaay too much).  Anyway…

Johnny Cash mourns the dying tradition of finding porn in the woods.  As do we all, Johnny…

Last week I picked up a book called BLACK BLIZZARD by Yoshihiro Tatsumi.  It’s a 1956 manga about two prisoners escaping from a crashed train.  One of the things that appealed to me about this book is its design.  The cover recalls the look of pulp crime novels, though the similarities to old peperbacks don’t end there.

We should have asked this guy to do an image for this year’s BPB calendar…

The book is printed on heavy newsprint, and the image quality is crude, like bad xeroxes of old photostats.  This is not to say the comic looks unreadable, but these touches give the feeling of reading something from the past.  This is the fourth book by Tatsumi to be released by Drawn & Quarterly, but it’s the first to have the physicality of the book recall the time period in which it was originally produced.  I’m interested in seeing if future books by the author follow this route, or if they will continue to experiment with each book’s design.

As for the comic itself, Tatsumi’s work seems overly simple, but there are many nuances in his cartooning that build tension to these prisoners’ tale of escape.  Tatsumi frequently plays with composition inside his panels, allowing some figures or objects to loom over others to create a disorienting effect.  The simplicity of his drawing allows actions to feel direct and explosive.

Throughout the book, the escaped prisoners have to make their way through a raging blizzard.  In these scenes, diagonals become much more prominent… snow pounds down in harsh, zipping lines, the panel views tilt and rock… All of this helps to create a disorienting effect.  We feel the characters’ struggle as they try to navigate the powerful storm.

It’s also interesting to note that Tatsumi builds the story on a simple six-panel structure.  One method of conveying the disorientation I mentioned earlier would have been to change up this grid, and use more unconventional layouts.  Instead, Tatsumi chooses to manipulate the composition within the panels.  I think it’s admirable that he can get such great energy out of a straightforward layout.

On a random note, this is probably my favorite panel in the book.  I just love that face.

One more thing before I go… Earlier this week, I stumbled upon a blog post by Tim Hensley, who helped design the cover of BLACK BLIZZARD.  He talks about designing the title text and shows some variations that he had come up with.  It’s worth a read if I haven’t already bored you with all my yammering.

Anyway, see you all next week… Same Bat-Channel, though hopefully not the same Bat-Time.

One Response to “Sharing Time: Men and Blizzards in Black”

  1. ‘Last time I was here I had a drink of water….I don’t know what the hell it run off of. I guess it run off of Luther’s boots or something.’

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