From Strip To Script – Kyle Baker's Plasticman Featuring Superman

By Josh Hechinger

Welcome to From Strip to Script, where I take a page of finished comic art and try to derive a script from it, to see what I can learn from the exercise.

While I didn't read it at the time, I do remember this iteration of Plastic Man coming out waybackwhen; I mean, if nothing else, the covers kind of stick in the head a bit, considering they looked like nothing else on the stands at the time, cartoonier even than DC's actual cartoon adaptation books.

Thinking about it, I'm not sure why I didn't read it back then; Plastic Man was '04 to '06, yeah? So I'd have been in the tail end of high-school, which is when I was massively expanding what I was reading beyond Marvel/DC, starting to rope in more Japanese comics, Image, Dark Horse, Oni, etc.

I can only conclude that I just didn't give a crap about Plastic Man as a character back then (and if I'm being honest *ahem* that's still the case…)

My loss, these comics are amazing. Hold onto your hats: it turns out that giving a title called "Plastic Man" to a cartoonist-par-excellence like Kyle Baker makes for some fantastic comics, even if the page we're going to look at (from issue eleven) doesn't actually involve the title-character.

BC_34

PAGE Seven (SIX PANELS)

P1. A steaming-mad SUPERMAN hunches over, vibrating with popeyed rage.

– SUPERMAN      Grr.

P2. He clenches up and shakes his fists in the air.

– SUPERMAN      Oooo!!

P3. SUPERMAN hops up, zaps a preening LUTHOR in the belt buckle with heat vision…

– SFX      ZAP!

P4. LUTHOR watches his pants fall around his ankles as SUPES zips up, up, and awaaaay to our right.

P5. LUTHOR pulls himself up for a roar as the scrawny SECRET SERVICE dives in to recover his dignity.

– LUTHOR      Secret Service!

P6. LUTHOR sourly stomps forward, tightly flanked by SECRET SERVICE agents holding up his pants.

– LUTHOR      Curses!

So, What'd We Learn?

Squash/stretch (in animation/life: motion as compressions and expansions) gets just a little bit funky in comics. The straight version is P1, where Superman hunches down, to P2, where he rages up; compression and expansion across two panels.

– P3, Superman compresses (but also expands, with his heat vision), in comparison to the expanded figure of Luthor. Both figures are a bit compressed by the ZAP! sound effect.

– P4. Luthor is a top-heavy figure while his pants fall along the thing stretch of his legs to be a compressed form. Meanwhile, Superman zips out of panel with a compressed little cloud that expands into an off-panel stretched trail.

– P5. Page-layout-wise, we're on a six-pic grid, and Luthor's getting an expansion panel ala Supes in P2, but in the opposite direction. The SS (secret service) dashing into the panel from either side set up the motion of the next panel…

– P6. Luthor folds in on himself, but remains his bulky, top heavy self, his pants supported by the gangly figures of his SS. It's a rising motion for the SS, a contracting motion for Luthor, and the background contracts to a circle to put a button on the scene.

– In summary: motion is expansion and contraction, comics are prrrrretty good at both broad and granular expressions of motion, even within a single page.

Philly-based comic writer Josh Hechinger [joshhechinger.tumblr.com] is a Cancer, and his blood type is A+. You can find him being a loquacious dope on Twitter, and read his comic collaborations on Comixology.

About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.

twitter   facebook square