Sunday, March 13, 2011

Parker: the Hunter

I've been meaning to get to Darwyn Cooke's Parker books for a while now, and finally picked up the first one, The Hunter.

What a joy!

The story's good, but its based on solid material, so why not?

Of more interest for me was looking at Cooke's drawing, and his narrative techniques.

Cooke successfully transfers his cartoon/animation oriented drawing style to this hard-bitten crime story very successfully. The look recalls Eisner's The Spirit more than a little. He combines simplified rendering with a keen eye for detail as on the first page of Book Three. Its a single panel page showing a few items on a counter top. Cooke remembers to include wet rings from where glasses had been set. Nice touch.

The tones for the art are in blue, and maybe a bit too dark. Occasionally text is overprinted on the blue, and becomes a little hard to read. Part of what is nice about the way he approaches the tones is that they sometimes are captured by the black line work, and at other times are not... on occasion even becoming the lines, often for a woman's hair, giving a softer look. In another subtle usage, he draws the hinges for a door in the blue tone. Another example of a detail appropriately downplayed. It seems likely to me that he planned the tones right from the beginning, rather then coming back after to find spots to place them.

Narratively, Cooke blends dialogue, silent pantomime panels and lengthy narrative blocks to vary the texture of the story. Art can provide lots of information about setting and tone in a compact and dense way, but text can present activities, especially those designed to transition from scene to scene, in an equally compact manner.

Many writers want to "show" every bit of business in the panels and some of its just not worth showing. But combining these techniques a comic can be dense and compact, and not just something to flip through, done in a few minutes.

I recommend this for anyone who wants to see how a master cartoonist tells a story.

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