Spinning with the Joker: Use of time in comics

While recently reading Batman and Robin #16 I was so impressed with the artists cooperation with the writer in establishing a definite sense of time passage during dialogue. You may recall seeing an older page from Spider-man during class wherein during a 10 store-or-so fall Spider-man is able to have a full blown conversation with himself, a surprising feat to accomplish in such a short amount of time. One has to wonder if this can be attributed to the characters super fast cognition or a difficulty the creators had in combining dialogue and action on the page.

Screenshot_2013-02-06-14-02-27Take a look at what writer Peter J. Tomasi and Artist Patrick Gleason did in Batman and Robin #16 and how they married dialogue and time. I love how erratic Joker seems and how calm and cool Robin is. As Robin’s back is turned he defiantly says, “I’ve got nothing to say to help you”. But, Robin is hanging by his feet, allowing him to spin, how nice it is to see the artist take advantage of this and bring this defiant line to life through Robin’s positioning.

As the joker speaks, Robin spins. The dialogue isn’t left stagnant because of a dull scene with no action, but it also isn’t dialogue that is strewn over a scene with far to much fast-paced action for it to be possible. Gleason sets the tone of the scene well and firmly establishes a realistic passage of time in relation to dialogue.

While a little gruesome at times I definitely recommend the new issues of Batman and Robin by DC. #1-#12 are a great read and the art throughout has been consistently fantastic.

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And if you are interested in more, check out this interview with writer Tomasi on the psychological relationship between Joker and Robin in recent issues of this comic. And please, share your thoughts on the passage of time in comics and any good examples you have come across, see you in the comments!

– Lee

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5 Responses to Spinning with the Joker: Use of time in comics

  1. aksran says:

    The passage of time in comics is a key concept in the creation of a continuing story line, as each panel is read it is the artist’s duty to give the readers a sense of time elapsed per scene. In the Brunetti Anthology the comic Seasons shows an imminent passing of time through which one location is focused on and is viewed through the changing of the four seasons. As well in this attached Spiderman comic the readers are clearly able to observe through Spiderman’s body position and changing postures through each panel that time has passed. Even without the “waiting caption” the artist has wisely used the changing background and body positions to state that a reasonable amount of time has gone by which in the characters mind seems to be a very long period. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-bEM7MowClpA/T8j_ExE4gpI/AAAAAAAAAqA/Ra3pHhTVChI/s1600/71+SpM+Time+posture.JPG Lastly, in this “Daily Quests” comic the character is stuck waiting and the endless time span that has passed is portrayed through her emotion, changing body movement and the decay of her horse into a skeleton. Throughout six panels the emptiness gives the idea of a very long waiting period.

  2. wolovick says:

    I agree with this blog, as the new DC batman comics are amazing. The attention to detail for drawings, and the awesome dialogue made this some of the best I have ever read. I also agree with the time displacement of the mentioned scene being spot on. It is pure perfection in my opinion and I would recommend these books to anyone and everyone.
    Brendan Wolovick

  3. sarahdeboer says:

    Hey! Sweet post!
    Let me get some fangirling out of the way first: I love love LOVE the Tomasi/Gleason creative team!!! I followed them from their run on Green Lantern Corps to Batman and Robin briefly before the DC 52 reboot, and I am so glad I stuck with them. I’ve pretty much stopped reading Green Lantern Corps, because the creative team wasn’t as good, well, that and the fact that they split the Green Lantern “family” of books into like 5 separate monthlies, instead of 2.
    Anyway, back to your post, you made a great point, contrasting the posted page to the Spider-Man page we looked at in class.
    I also find that the lettering of the Joker’s dialogue since his return to the “bat-books” has really helped me to imagine an erratic and ridiculous speech pattern, adding a lot of dynamism.
    Thanks for posting that interview, I’ll be sure to check it out soon!

    -Sarah de Boer

  4. villar says:

    Very cool post! I remember the lecture on the passage of time in comics, but those panels with Robin and The Joker demonstrate it in a way that also draws attention to the differences between the speakers. I love the contrast between them, not only when it comes to body language, but the lettering as well. It really just adds to the mood in those panels. Also, I enjoyed how they made a point of having Joker physically grab Robin, not just to keep him from spinning around again, but as a way of making sure Robin is looking directly at him when he tries to get his point across.

    -Kyrene Villar

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