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Comics like drums

Warren Ellis said this in his newsletter:

It’s hard to do melody in comics. I’ve been messing around with it for years, trying to duplicate My Bloody Valentine or Pixies effects in comics, and it’s hard, verging on the impossible. I got close to it sometimes in The Authority: there’s a point in an old Dr Feelgood song where Lee Brilleaux yells “Eight bars on the old joanna” and Wilko Johnson’s guitar clangs like a fucking fire alarm for thirty seconds, and I got close to that in the second story arc — just closed my eyes and ran with it and cannibalised poor Hitch. But rhythm is easier. My basic trick is working three balloons or captions a panel, five panels a page. Bang bang bang. Five panels makes the page just slightly asymmetrical, puts a little flourish in there. Drop back to four/four. Nine-panel grid becomes breakbeats, if you cut the text back. Half the toolbox is in Bryan Talbot’s Luther Arkwright. I stole all my pauses from manga. There’s a trick they use, that Scott McCloud explicated best in Understanding Comics — when they pause, they whack at least two of the panel borders out to bleed, so the picture extends off the edges of the page and is no longer contained by gutters or panel flow. It says that, in this panel, time has stopped. Sticks down. Pause. It’s the long second in the back end of my current favourite single, Queen Adreena’s “Pretty Like Drugs,” where the music stops and all you can hear is Kaite Jane Garside saying “Pretty Like Druuuugs” and everything else is frozen around that moment and you stop breathing.


  1. Thanks for holding onto this. It’s no longer in the BadSignal archives.

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