Any comic-makers, I seriously suggest taking a look at what I have to say about Alien - I've learnt a lot from thinking about the techniques here and I want to share -
Although I do warn, SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE ALIEN
Guys. It arrived!!!
You should all probably have realised by now that I'm a big fat alien fan
. With a little bargain hunting I found a good place to buy this book along with the Prometheus artbook, cheaper than normal price!!! YEAH!!
The Alien comic has been for a little while a HUGE artistic inspiration! God, its so good and I'm not just Alien-biased..
The use of colour in this book is bloody fantastic. Check it -
These are my two favourite pages in any comic ever. Just look...a suspenseful and frightening moment in the film, translated effectively and beautifully into drawn images.
The use of a large panel in the first page is amazing. The Alien is so huge
and absolutely COMMANDS your attention. And the use of the warm colours on the big chap in contrast to Brett's cool colours...its just so, so effective. And then! Then theres a smaller panel with a thin border, cropping off most of Brett's head and all of his body. We don't see much of his facial expression besides his eyes, but by the use of colour and strategic cropping we get so much menace and fear out of one panel. The use of blank space in between he and the Xenomorph creates the kind of tension that we see in the film.
As for the second page! Ah, this is probably my absolute favourite. Its a little gorey, yes, but just look at the sequences. The first panel is fantastic. We see Brett still hasn't moved, his feet are planted and probably in the same position as he's in the previous panel. Thats fear
The Xeno's tail..you could associate it with something slithery and dangerous like a snake. I tip my hat to Giger - give that tail a sharp tip and a skeletal, plated surface, and you've got something ridiculously scary in a tail.
Just a tail. And its under Brett. Slinking underneath him. Like shit, thats scary.
I love the next row of panels, they're just so ridiculously effective. I'm always a sucker for that kind of panelwork, I love when panels of the same size show a clear sequence. You can see Brett's back arch, you can see the tail delve in, his face changes and you can again see that fear. I think not being able to see most of the Xenomorph's body makes it even freakier - its suddenly become this even more distant, threatening creature which can kill you with just its tail. On top of that, see how the background colour changes!! Really adds to the whole mood of the page, I think.
The use of a big, close-up panel breaks the sequence and jumps out at you. It creates an interruption, breaking the flow and surprising you, much like a Xenomorph would do in any of the films -
Then, of course, we have the lettering. I really like how it is coloured in a gradient, starting with yellow, fading into red and being cut off with a splatter. I think that may be one of the best ways to portray death I have ever seen in a comic...its obvious, its explicit, threatening, but not overly
The last panel is harder to see in the photo, but Ripley and Parker are shown reacting to Brett's scream. It again acts as an interruption, and while its not as effective as the others, I feel that this panel is quite necessary to the flow of this page.
Heres another cluster of panels that I like.
Check out that net. Look at how the floor is yellow, and the same colour is used as a border around Brett and Parker (obviously this is before the above two pages...) and the net. Look at how that border fades into a bolder, brighter, more attention-demanding colour - red - BREAKING a panel and ending in a burst. If thats not effective I don't know what is. Take a look at how the net and the gradient guide your eye, look at how they contrast against Ripley and the grey/black. That is good comic work
I also always love when speech bubbles take away from the gutters. I love how the burst bubble cuts through the panel with the cat, and leads directly to Ripley - its not a classic speech bubble with a tail to the speaker, but it still is obvious who its coming from.
Also, I just love that headshot of Ripley, the cropping and facial expression is fantastic and just wow I love Ripley. She's my role model, not gonna lie.
I mean come on. She's great. Parker, I've got the toughest job on this ship. I have to listen to your bullshit. Love you Rip.
Again!!! PANEL SEQUENCES!! Look at the top ones. Look at how the whole eaten by acid gets bigger and the colour changes to a more intense, vibrant shade. You can't see it much but the smoke actually joins with the panel border. Its great.
Now, I normally hate vertical panels, but take a look at this. We've got a panel with Brett's face, then directly underneath, we've got characters running. I think that normally I'd get really confused about this, but then I thought: what makes this work?
Simple answer: Its the speech bubble. When you see a circular white gap anywhere, your eye is drawn to it. You know you have to read whats in it!
Now notice how the bubble that reads "PARKER!" overlaps the panel with Brett's face. It then leads to another that reads "BRETT!" Your eye is already now in the panel, it has been guided by something as simple as speech bubbles.
Naturally you now go to the left. We have a long panel - but if you look at it, you'll see its not one long panel. Its three vertical panels, in one! Well, maybe not literally, but its easier to think of it in that way. You won't recognise it as three immediately, which is why your eye continues down the page rather than going left again.
These three panels show the acid burning through the levels. Our eye is guided downwards not just by speech, but by the ladder and the acid's path.
Naturally we now go upwards and left, as is normal. Theres nowhere else to go so we continue downwards.
This page is, honestly, the best execution of vertical flowing panels I have ever seen!!
I love this too. I'm sure you can figure out why. Maybe take a look yourself, figure out whats effective about it?
Also, Kane, I love you. You're my second favourite though, sorry, you can't beat Ripley.
Anyway, I think that reading this comic (which you can do for free here
) can be seriously beneficial to any comic maker. I've learnt a lot just from reading it and I find it really inspiring!! Even if you don't like sci-fi or Alien it is a seriously good comic from an artistic standpoint, even the use of narration is fantastic. Please take a look!!
TLDR; I want to be Walt Simonson when I grow up.