20 May

By Darryl Ayo

Sometimes people who like comics get embarrassed by comics. One thing that has happened to me is that I have embraced the stupidness in the comic medium. In Andrea Juno’s book of artist interviews, Dangerous Drawings, the multiple-award-winning cartoonist Chris Ware said of comics’ visual vocabulary that “we are trying to communicate complex, deep stories using tools designed to tell jokes.” Or something to that effect.

In the interview, Ware was making a joke but I often think “why not?” Why shouldn’t cartoonists take advantage of the rich heritage of visual signs, gags, puns and tropes available in the comics toolbox? Of course there is always a question of appropriate tone for a given story, but from silly and irreverent comedies to stoic, naturalistic dramas, comics always have available to them an array of tricks that can give an extra significance to an idea.

I’m sorry, there’s a lot of glowing colors on this page, and zapping lights every which-a-way. What I’m looking at is the very comics-specific way that Doug Mahnke used to illustrate the sudden rush of memories that the character Green Lantern experiences on this page. We can see that this page is in the middle of a chaotic scene with multiple characters, but that panel takes the reader, just for a moment, into the fractured mind of the protagonist.


And here’s another example:

I feel a little brave, asking for audience participation, but here it goes: come on in and talk about some of your favorite comics-specific visual effects and what they mean to you. Posts pictures or links to stuff so that we can all join in and discuss!

Art: (c) Makoto Yukimura; (c) DC Comics


  1. Caio Marinho. May 20, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    I’m pretty sure there’s an official name for this effect:


    I think comics are a little like theater, in they are better for showing action than for revealing internal thoughts – like, say, novels. But that GL panel is really interesting.

    Oh, also, I got here through The Comics Reporter. Cool post.


    • darrylayo May 20, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

      Hello! Yes, that’s a great one. I’ve seen pictures of that spread before but still haven’t read Promethea. It seems that this scene is using several comics-medium tricks all in unison, which is fantastic. I’ve certainly meant to investigate that particular work.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. jdalton May 21, 2011 at 4:15 am #

    Nice topic. I love the things that only comics can do.

    For my show and tell I brought a page from Jason Lutes’ Berlin. This book regularly floors me with feelings of comicker inadequacy, but this page in particular gives me chills. Throughout the entire story he doesn’t draw a single swastika. He wanted, as I understand it, the characters’ actions to be what defines them, not a symbol so heavily charged with meaning. Their actions are enough. But then, at one pivotal point in the story where the sheiss is about to hit the fan as it were, he brings out this panel arrangement.

    Like I said, it gives me chills every time.

  3. kevinczap May 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    I’ve been trying to think of some good special effects since you posted this. I know there are hundreds but it’s hard to get my brain to call them up. In general, I love anything that uses the comics page as both Space AND Time, like one panel referring to another, etc.

    Another thing, which is more of a special effect as I think you’re describing in this post, is from New X-Men #137 when the Stepford Cuckoos smack the taste out of Quentin Quire (also a Frank Quitely joint):

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