Photography’s Influence on Comicson May 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm
This is the famous sequence from New Treasure Island (created by a 17 year old Tezuka!!) which essentially birthed modern manga and even today looking at it with 21st century eyes, shrunk down 90% into some gif is still really fun to read. It’s super kinetic, uses lots of moment to moment transitions and clear, crisp staging. You really get the feeling of zipping along in that car which I imagine would be even more awesome if you were a Japanese kid in the 1940’s (my Dad told me he remembered the first time he saw a car and everyone in the village came running out to see it). Lot’s has been made of the Disney influence (duh), but it’s the Lartigue influence in the last 2 panels where you see the “camera” moving along with the car instead of stationary that’s the most interesting to me. Scott McCloud has identified relative motion as one of the hallmarks of manga. Anyway, the next time you see Voltron transforming and the background blurs into a streak of speedlines, it’s all because of this one panel! And this one panel was lifted from a Lartigue photo which in my opinion is evidenced by the fact that Lartigue’s shutter exposed his plate top to bottom causing the slanting effect to go opposite the motion the camera was panning. If you were trying to draw relative motion from scratch you could slant things any direction or more likely probably wouldn’t think to slant things at all.
Lartigue is best known for his famous race car photo and also his photo of a boy on a go cart because it was the inspiration for a scene in Rushmore. A lot of his photos had a theme of trying to capture time or motion: people jumping off stairs or throwing buckets of water into the air. He was like the 1920’s version of the hadouken meme. Most people are like, “Whatever. If I want to see motion, I’ll watch some TV.” But those same people pee in their pants when they see Keanu Reeves dodge a bullet in the Matrix or spend their day laughing at the internet memes of a man getting hit with a baseball bat. So clearly there’s something interesting about seeing motion dissected into its component parts.
There’s lots of debate over what the definition of comics should be but it pretty clearly has something to do with capturing time into an image or sequence of images. And to me, it’s mind blowing how much comics vocabulary borrows from the early history of photography. Motion lines are in my opinion an artistic rendering of motion blur. Sparkles and even stars are drawings of lens artifacts. The presentation of time itself as a series of panels seems like it might have come from Muybridge.
What actually got me started thinking about all of this was a bronze statue of Muybridge in the Presidio where the family and I went picnicking for mother’s day. The statue was really well done and actually had his horse galloping sequence incorporated as part of the sculpture too. But we didn’t stay too long because for whatever reason, Kazuo was really freaked out by the sight of a giant bronze immobile humanoid.