By Josh Hechinger
Welcome once more to From Strip to Script, where I reverse-engineer a script from a finished page of someone else's comic.
I just wrapped up the excellent Samurai Flamenco cartoon (kind of a Kick-Ass for Japanese superheroes, except sincerely in love with heroes and what heroism can inspire in people), so I've got Japanese superheroes on the mind for this installment.
One Punch Man is…I don't know that I'd quite call it a parody, even though it's built around the idea that Saitama (the main guy) is so absurdly powerful that he can end any fight in (surprise) one punch. There's joking riffs on other heroes, other comics, the superhero genre in general…but at the same time, it gives just as much time and care to Bryan Hitchesque widescreen superhero action?
Hmm…I guess if I had to say that there's a difference between it and Flamenco, it's that Flamenco loves heroism, and while OPM likes heroes, its One True Pairing is dumb jokes and insane action.
Different paths, no regrets, y'know?
Let's look at one of the pages that's right on the jokey/action-packed line, from Volume 2, by James Gaubatz (Touch-Up/Relettering), Yusuke Murata (art) ONE (story), and John Werry (translation). Remember to read right-to-left.
PAGE One Hundred
P1. The crowd cheers on MUMEN RIDER as he squares off with HAMMERHEAD and the Paradisers. Dust from the fallen building drifts behind the Paradisers, dramatically.
– CROWD (no tail) Yaay! Mumen Rider's here!
– CROWD (no tail) We're saved!
P2. Close in on MUMEN RIDER, smirking with confidence and putting up his fists.
– SFX SWUP
P3. HAMMERHEAD and the Paradisers are also smirking, their eyes in shadow.
– HAMMERHEAD A hero?
– HAMMERHEAD Gimme a break.
P4. MUMEN RIDER launches forward in a dramatic dash.
– SFX WHSH
– M. RIDER Here I come!
P5. All black panel, blocky lettering.
– SFX POW
P6. MUMEN'S limp form skids face first on the ground.
– CROWD (no tail) Eeek!
– CROWD (no tail) Call a doctor
So, What'd We Learn?
– I always think of these kinds of gags as the "shoot the swordsman" gag, right? From Indiana Jones? Setting up a dramatic action, then immediately deflating it.
You can overuse it, like any gag…but then again, this kind of gag is more or less the foundation of the series, just usually played against the villains: we know how every actual fight is going to end, it's right there on the cover, but by doubling down again and again on the dramatic set up of the threats, you get amazing action sequences and then it's all the funnier when the shoe finally drops (so to speak).
– I like that you don't even see the punch that drops poor Mumen Rider. You really don't need to; you can also just as easily save the "oh, he was totally crushed" reveal for the page turn, but hey, this works.
– Also: if you're going to deflate a moment like that, go short, sharp, and hard. Mumen gets rag-doll KO'ed there, it's a pretty brutal hit. Indy shooting the swordsman is pretty harsh too, when you think about it. There's nothing lingering about it, but it's very…definitive.
– There's a couple few visual idioms from…I dunno, Japanese comics in general, the hero genre in particular, that interest me. The dramatic billowing smoke, for one. I guess we have that over here too in our hero stories, but the way it's used to kind of…mark the ring, so to speak, is something I think is more of a Japanese thing. It's almost like how you see tumbleweeds pass between a stand-off in Westerns, right? It gives you a sense of space for where the action's going to happen.
– The shadowy eyes are another thing that I consider more of a Japanese deal. American comics don't play as much with the moment-to-moment (and often non-diegetic) dramatic lighting effects Japanese comics do. I mean, unless the artist working on an American comic has put that in their toolbox, of course. Or if they do, maybe it's more of a horror thing than an action thing? I don't really have anything to back that up though.
Philly-based comic writer Josh Hechinger is a Cancer, and his blood type is A+. He enjoys explaining jokes, tokusatsu shows, and getting all choked up watching or reading inspirational comics. Not to be an armchair general, but maybe Mumen Rider would've had better luck leading with a Rider Kick.