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Rain Has its Uses

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Nov. 18, 2017
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These past few days in Greece we’ve had torrential rains that feel like the prelude to a second Flood- terrible casualties included. And that got me thinking that it rarely rains in webcomics.

Usually the weather is dry in sequential art- perhaps because it’s troublesome to draw characters and settings wet, and depicting rainfall can make a panel look messy or busy… but rain, if used well, has a ton of uses in both storytelling, character depiction and of course mood (as any respectable noir comic or movie will attest to).

Rain can be a tool for the plot as well as the characters: When it rains, the senses are dulled (especially hearing and vision, the heavier the rain, the more limited the senses) and thus it can serve as a plot device- characters may not perceive what they normally would, or they may make mistakes where they normally wouldn’t (for example, when driving). Rain might throw off the timing or place of an attack, or a journey, or a meeting. It might destroy evidence.


On the other hand, how a character handles rain and activities that need to be done in the rain can show/display aspects of his/her personality for the audience: a character that rushes out into torrential rain without thinking may be foolhardy or irresponsible; given certain contexts, he/she may be emotionally distressed and display it by rushing in the rain even though they’re actually being stoic in terms of expression or dialogue.


Rain can of course also set the tone or reflect the emotions of the characters or the state of things: that’s why the scene of a funeral procession in the rain is so typical. It might also reflect turbulence, or the obstacle that a character is facing, be it emotional, mental or strategic. It can even range from sexy to spiritually cleansing depending on how the scene is set up.



Compare the tone of these frames from Mulan and how the very same rain acquires different tone in conjunction to Mulan’s body language and it becomes the agent of transformation for her, washing away her previous self for the new one to emerge:

Despair

Decisiveness

Strength

Rain can also be used to offset a character’s emotional state by contradiction- the famous dance number in the musical “Singin’ in the Rain” does exactly that: the main character is in love and happy, and in stark contrast with the weather and every other passerby.


So, use the weather, get your characters wet. Something is bound to come out of it.

comment

anonymous?

KimLuster at 9:58PM, Nov. 18, 2017

I've yet to do an inclement weather scene, whether rain, sleet, or snow... I've always wanted to but honestly just never think to do it... As your article points out, I've robbed myself of some useful evocative mood setting tools... Maybe I'll remember in my next project!! Great article!!

usedbooks at 4:34AM, Nov. 18, 2017

(Sorry for typos. Phone typing.)

usedbooks at 4:32AM, Nov. 18, 2017

One of my favorite arcs in Used Books took place on a stormy night. It was Fudo's suicide attempt, when Kaida ran into the storm to look for him. Significant character development was happening. I can't imagine calm weather working for that scene. The brain's role was pivotal. It created the mood. The sky quieted for a dramatic moment. Weather can be a handy dynamic, punctuating a story the way a movie's musical score does.(Drawing rain and wet is not easy. :/) I have used snow the same way, but snow has some different connotations. It can mean cold death or whimsical wonder. On the ground but not falling has a quieting effect. (And it's easy to color.)

bravo1102 at 4:08AM, Nov. 18, 2017

I work outside in the rain too much to want to add it to my comics. :) The drawn piece Security Breach I did for Lite Bites was set in the rain and it was a great exercise and I decided to draw the script because of it.

ozoneocean at 2:24AM, Nov. 18, 2017

That was well thought out! I've never had rain in Pinky TA, only sandstorms and snow :D I like the rain effect in Constellation Chronicles.

Emevsa at 12:07AM, Nov. 18, 2017

We used rain as a way to signal something was very, very wrong as it was indoors. On a space ship. With no crew. As you said weather is a great way to convey tone and meaning within a comic and can really enhance a moment.


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