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Becky Cloonan

Becky Cloonan's short story, Wolves, debuted at TCAF. She is currently drawing a 40-page comic to be released in Chinese, and after that she may or may not be working with Marvel. Who knows!

Blurbs

"Beautiful, haunting, and refreshingly mysterious."

– Mike Mignola

"Wolves has three of my favorite things- swords, blood, and beards. I can't grow a beard and this comic had me longing for more advanced genes. And by the way it's beautiful."

– Gerard Way

"Wonderful and haunting! Becky Cloonan's amazing brush fills in those shadowy places and dark recesses that go bump in the night!"

– Guy Davis

"I love Becky Cloonan's work - and never more so than when she's working on her own material. This stuff is just beautiful."

– Frank Quitely

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Wolves

Comics Do It Better

10/04/11

Comics can do things traditional writing cannot. After all, humans were pairing words with pictures long before even the Greeks carved up the Parthenon Marbles, which, if you think about it, is a form of ancient comic storytelling. The artwork of a comic can accentuate the tone of the script, captions allow the reader to access the thoughts of the characters, and reader pacing is manipulated by the spacing between panels.

Never read a comic? Never fear. Becky Cloonan’s “Wolves” is a short and sweet introduction to the world of sequential art. Although Cloonan has written for Marvel Comics, her self-published comic book is a dark, expressive foray into a simple but compelling fantasy world, not a blow-stuff-up-while-wearing-spandex superhero comic. This short twenty-page comic in which the readers follow the story of a hunter on a mission that will change his life syncs gorgeous black and white artwork with a memorable script.

In only using black and white (and greys in between), Cloonan’s artwork emphasizes the tone of the story: dark, sharp, stark.  With the black and white limitation, she dynamically uses white space to tell her tale. The shadows, a natural result of the lack of color, create a fantasy world that is primeval and melancholy. The forest world of the hunter is depicted as chilling and harsh by severe diagonal lines throughout.

A combination unique to comics of first-person captions with third-person artwork always thrills me. It makes comics such as these so personal yet comprehensive. The readers can understand the feelings and thoughts of the characters, but exciting techniques such as dramatic irony can still be expressed. In “Wolves,” we read the hunter’s anguished thoughts through the captions, yet still have a view detached enough to see this anguish expressed in his posture, eyes, and proximity to other characters.

Cloonan rarely uses dialogue, but reveals the depth of the characters through first-person captions and compelling full-panel close ups. Attempting to express character emotion through a pair of eyes filling the panel is risky. A bad artist will not be able to convey the emotion with a set of 2D irises, but Cloonan pulls it off.

Cloonen’s panels are expressive as well. Square panels enclose events happening in real time, rounded panels, the past. The space between panels, called “gutters” by comic writers, are used to express leaps in time and control the reader’s pace. Cloonan effectively uses the gutters, increasing space between panels to draw out a scene and pushing panels closer together to increase tension on the page.

Wolves” employs sophisticated techniques unique to comic books. So if you’ve never read a comic, just know that basically, comics can do it better.

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3 Comments

  1. ydde said on 10/04/11 at 9:04 am Reply

    Very cool and interesting. The only comic I’ve ever read was Alan Moore’s Watchmen, which was all kinds of awesome, and it got me interested, but I’ve never really looked around much. This sounds great.

    Cool, too, the whole medium, which I’ve never thought about doing because I can’t draw well, but I’ve recently changed my mind. My sister’s having her first child in a few months and she asked me to write a book for him, which got me thinking of all kinds of possibilities, mostly because that’s kind of where my real ambition is: children’s fiction. But I was thinking maybe I could make it a picture book and so I started thinking about friends of mine who can draw. That thinking got me thinking about a new sort of collaborative art project with a friend of mine, which is, basically, going to be a comic book of sorts. We’ll be trading things back and forth: she’ll send me a picture and I’ll write a short story for it and we’ll loop the work like that and maybe invert the process and see what we come up with.

    I mean, a picture’s worth 1,000 words, yeah? So what if you give those pictures an extra 100 or 500 words?

    Anyrate, I guess I’m trying to say I’m interested and I think this is a medium with a lot of promise. One that I’ve overlooked for most of my life for no particular reason.

    Reply

  2. Emily Lackey said on 10/04/11 at 9:10 am Reply

    I loved your discussion of the shutters. I’m interested in what this looks like. Can you explain more? Or maybe I should just buy a copy of the book. 🙂

    Reply

    Angie said on 10/04/11 at 7:59 pm

    YDDE, I think it’s awesome that you’re exploring a new medium. I didn’t read comics for most of my life either. I actually got into them because of the Marvel superhero movies, but I soon realized that comics can be so much more that superheroes. I’m a visual learner, so when I found comics, they clicked for me. I guess I’m a visual reader, too! Good luck with your children’s story.

    Emily, I’d say get a copy for sure! Gutters are best experienced as you read the comic; it’s kinda like background music in a movie. You don’t know what effect it has on you until you start actively thinking about it.

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