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The Use of Imagery

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Sept. 25, 2021
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One of the greatest power of webcomics is that a lot can be said with an image, thus making the need for words minimal. The old ‘picture is a thousand words’ adage, and so on.

Through the power of imagery, and what we choose to add or leave out of the frame, a lot of nuance and context can be given to a scene or a character. Even the dialogue can take on new meanings than just the surface level one with what surrounds a character and how that character interacts with their environment.

Consider this simple line:
“Honey, I'm home!”

What does it bring to your mind? Perhaps your standard 1950s husband returning home to his wife and a 1950s ideal house with the table set, and all those stereotypes that go with?

What if the man walks in, speaking this line, but the house is completely empty, with no sign that any other individual lives there? The line now acquires different nuance.

How about if the man walks in, speaking this line, with the house empty and only a cat perched on the table near the catch-all?

What if the house is blood spattered and completely in disarray?

The line of dialogue is the same, but the significance of it and the story it tells drastically change with the imagery in the frame.

Giving thought to characters' backgrounds, especially if they are significant to them, their personality, or what they are going through is an excellent way to get across things to the audience without having to say them: An empty fridge and a cupboard full of ramen bags may indicate that a character is either poor, depressed, or both. Or alternatively, they may be extremely particular about their food to the point of a mental disorder.

Other times, the imagery surrounding the character speaks not to their personality but to the emotional or mental state they are in. Rain will often match (or dramatically contrast with) a character's emotional state. Things they gravitate to may also signify or symbolize their qualities. For example, as in the gif for this article, the fact that Mulan makes her decision to take her father's place in the draft while rained on under the great stone dragon is not a random artistic choice: she is the one who becomes the dragon, the protector of her family not at the end of the movie, but at that very moment.

The familiar image of Batman standing on the edges of tall buildings like a gargoyle isn't random choice either: gargoyles were always there as protectors or to fend of evil.

There is no single way to use imagery. It all depends on style and artistic approach, but also what is significant to you as an artist and creator. The only common rule seems to be that imagery is always a code, a quiet, wordless message to the viewer that gives more information than what is overtly said.

How do you use imagery in your comics?

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anonymous?

Jason Moon at 11:26AM, Sept. 25, 2021

Eeve turning children into monsters with technology. I often look up google images of scared children for references and I came across old Vietnam photos of native children who were naked and filthy running and crying from armed soldiers. Images can stay with you forever.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 10:20AM, Sept. 25, 2021

I think the scene I posted on Molly Lusc this week was one where I managed to get the most out of through the imagery, with only one speech bubble of dialouge in between. Molly's face- and -body expression in every panel she was in felt very emotionally striking, attempting to comfort Nico, wanting to take away some of the pain he was going through in that moment, only to be rejected and left with nothing to do but to leave, while having all these genuine regrets over what had happened that night cloaking her mind in deepest sadness.

usedbooks at 5:29AM, Sept. 25, 2021

Some of my favorite scenes in my comic were the wordless ones. Or using subtle images to suggest more graphic ones. I think the scene of Valentine washing his hands with blood running down the sink drain was effective. I also try to make characters' possessions an extension of their character -- like Mike's sparse apartment and Jack's shiny golden everything.


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