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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 12/ 1/2008

The Morning Line: Voiceover: "In a World of Cinematic Comics..."

By Michael Cavna

Comic Riffs comes here today not to bury, but rather to praise the cinematic cartoon.

Whether a product of shrinking comics or changing reader tastes (or both), the funnies, overall, are far less cinematic in look than decades ago. And by "cinematic," I mean not just the "realistic" look of the soap serials, but also such assorted techniques as the shifting perspectives, the quick-cuts of exterior and interior shots, the use of contrasts to heighten mood, to cite just a few examples. (And it's worth noting: I do not include the apparently unintended "verite" of some shaky artists.)

Today, 'Riffs particularly enjoys movielike elements from a quartet of comics:


Have gun, will babble. (NAS) Enlarge Comic

As noted here before, it's hard not to appreciate the noirish feel of the strip's high contrasts in recent weeks. Artist Eduardo Barreto has really ratcheted things up as the femme-fatale plotline has come to full flower. It's so cinematic, we're about ready to issue a casting call: Which real-life actors should play Sam Driver and Dixie Julep/Kathy Patterson?


The ever-shifting lens. (WPWG) Enlarge Comic

Relatively simple touches -- such as the establishing "exterior" shot and the foregrounded image -- make this strip infinitely more visually interesting than some.


The tracking Web shot. (KFS) Enlarge Comic

Spidey has had his share of real screen-time, of course -- and I much prefer his look in the comic books to this. Still, this version has its share of visual interest. (Although one pesky detail: Not sure why the body-man's jacket goes dark to light -- if he's coming out of the shadows, why didn't his shirt change in tone, too? )


Props by Lucas. (TMS) Enlarge Comic

Swell to see the "Star Wars"-esque zoom-in on Deathroid. Cool cosmic detail that we don't get much anymore in a post-"Calvin and Hobbes" world.


The "Serge" is working. (KFS) Enlarge Comic

Speaking of working with shadows, today's "Beetle Bailey" is an apparent nod to the great MAD magazine series "The Shadow Knows" by Sergio Aragones. Sergio remains the master.

By Michael Cavna  | December 1, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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For Sam Driver and Dixie Julep:

Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger

Posted by: rw-c | December 1, 2008 9:21 AM | Report abuse

As far as cinematic influences on comic strips go, I would say that with its enormous animals in the foreground overshadowing the humans in the background and its word balloons coming from random directions (including word balloons pointing to the animals, and word balloon pointing to other word balloons), certainly "Mark Trail" is Fellini-esque. Also, the artwork in "Gil Thorp" is as, um, weird as the cinematography in the films of Ed Wood.

Posted by: seismic-2 | December 1, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Another cinematic call-out: in today's "Gasoline Alley",

we learn that the sound made by poking a fat guy in the belly is "POIK!" An appropriate sound-effect for "pork" that one can easily imagine hearing in a "Three Stooges" short.

Posted by: seismic-2 | December 1, 2008 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Judge Parker, Yesterday's (Sun 11/30/08) strip. The last panel, with Dixie/Kathleen in an inset against the nighttime desert panorama with the wolf, is superb.

Posted by: hdradio | December 1, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

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