After two weeks away from the internets, we’re back to ring in the new year right (and a week late…) on Gobblin.net! As promised last time, I’ve got new commentary on Return to Labyrinth Vol. 3, as well as a first glimpse of art. Granted, it’s just a thumbnail, but I think Labyrinth Fans will enjoy…
This image comes from Chapter 1, which is entitled “Jareth’s Lies.” As anyone who read Volume 2 knows, we left off with a pair of pretty dramatic cliffhangers and a lot of unanswered questions. Volume 3 opens with what I call a “Dumbledore Chapter,” in that it is full of sitting, palaver and furrowed brows. (All it’s missing is a Pensieve, but I suppose flashbacks are basically the same thing). While some Potter fans scoff at the exposition theater scenes, I find them an endearing genre fiction staple. (Did anyone else prefer Tolkien’s council scenes to the battles, or am I just crazy?) A talky chapter is all well and good in prose fiction, but Return to Labyrinth is a graphic novel – ignoring the visual component of storytelling is doing a disservice to the medium.
This is an area where I really think Japanese manga excels. Browsing my collection of western comics, there is a definite tendency to frame panels as if a scene is being shot by a camera with dialog recorded on set. Usually, what you see is the literal reality of the scene. In manga, the literal is seamlessly intermixed with the abstract and metaphorical to a much greater degree. An old standby that a lot of people associate with shojo manga (especially my old favorites CLAMP) is the seemingly random use of feathers and cherry blossoms in lieu of backgrounds. Sometimes you’ll see multiple panels on a page with no characters – just abstract images, motion lines or extreme close-ups. Certainly one reason that these techniques are so common is that it’s faster than drawing faces and backgrounds in every scene and helps creators keep the breakneck schedules demanded by the Japanese serialized format, but also, it helps break up the repetition of having to see a character’s head every time there’s dialog. Even when a panel shows the head or full body of a speaking character, a manga-ka will frequently lift them out of their literal setting and place them against a background that adds emphasis or irony in an abstract way (like a lonely character appearing on a barren moon, or a happy character appearing on a field of flowers). These techniques aren’t exclusive to manga, by any means, but the fusion of the abstract and literal seems second-nature in that tradition, whereas Americans comics are constantly having to rediscover it.
After reviewing volume 1, this was an area I knew I had to improve on as a comics/manga writer. Whenever possible, I looked for opportunities to play to the strengths of the comics medium, and specifically to integrate some of the tricks I learned from eight years of working on manga. Jareth’s flashback in Chapter 1 and Mizumi’s lecture at the end of Chapter 3 are the places where I think Chris and I succeeded most at capturing the manga storytelling spirit. In volume 3, I hope we’ll continue to improve. (We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us, as perhaps the most pivotal scene in the volume is done without any characters!)
Going back to Volume 3’s “Dumbledore” opening, it became clear early on that the scene needed some kind of visual metaphor to break up the talking heads. What we came up with not only helps add diversity to the images – it also adds a whole new layer of tension to the scene. Sorry to be such a tease, but you’ll have to wait until Volume 3 is released to see what I mean.
Oh, and if you’re curious what else happens next in Volume 3, know this – There Will Be Skub.