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Eric: You know, those rivets on Cutter's eyepatch must have really hurt. Kind of makes labriet piercing look wussy, doesn't it?

Ssc20080819 Fuseli

(From Starslip Crisis. Click on the thumbnail for full sized alcohol induced psychosis!)

I haven't really said it enough, but I fucking love Starslip Crisis. It's one of my favorite heavy story strips. (Unlike some of Straub's fans, I don't prefer Extra to basic Starslip. Extra's funny, but the story's what keeps me coming back so obsessively in this case.) I was a fan of Checkerboard Nightmare back in the day, but Starslip Crisis is really where Kris Straub came into his own as an artist and writer alike. When I get back to the State of the Webcartoonist stuff, I really need to push Straub to the top.

But this strip just jumped out at me with the third and fourth panel bridge. The teleportation/time jump effect was subtle but well conveyed. Having Cutter finish his word in the future location helped to convey the abruptness.

The thing that really sets it off, though, is the fact that the word balloon sits below the panel borders. I think most artists, especially if they were using computer magic to make their word balloons, would have the balloon sitting over the panel borders. It would be more legible, among other things, and it would be clear it's one word being said in two places. However, the actual physical break created by the panel border creates a sense of separation. Having the word unbroken between the two panels would create too much sense of continuity. It would be hard to immediately realize that Cutter's been brought into the future. Having the panel border shear the word in two creates the clear impression that Cutter isn't where he was. This is just reinforced by body language -- in panel three he's sitting in his Captain's Chair -- confident and strong. In panel four, he's fallen to his knees, helpless.

It's a little tiny thing, really. But when you have just four panels to work with, the tiny things are all you have. Anyway, I thought it was cool.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at August 20, 2008 8:02 AM


Comment from: Atomic Penguin [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 9:18 AM

FYI: the thumbnail link does not work (8/20).

Another (minor) effect of putting the word balloon under the panel is that it avoids breaking the fourth wall.

Comment from: Eric Burns-White [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 9:31 AM

Fixed! Thanks!

Comment from: TRS-80 [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 9:59 AM

In other Straub news, CxN is being re-run with commentary (mostly video), starting at http://www.checkerboardnightmare.com/retro/20080711.shtml

Comment from: DarkStar [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 11:35 AM

I loved how Straub used the panel border to break the word balloon. I think any other way wouldn't have had the same, jarring effect.

If the word balloon had been on top, he'd have had to put tails to both panels, or it would have looked like it just came from the last one. Enough comics are liberal about word balloon placement, that having them overhang the borders doesn't even get a batted eye anymore (or maybe I just read too much Dandy & Company).

The other way would have been to break the sentence in half and ellipse it between two word balloons. This would have made the break obvious, but I think it would have softened the jarring effect.

Cutting the word in half the way he did was a subtle, but very sharp way to communicate the sudden change of scene.

Comment from: Zeekar [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 1:40 PM

Agreed on the effect, but I think it would have worked better if it were separate from the "I sure hope..." balloon, with its own tail in the first panel. As it is, it wasn't clear to me that the word "SEC..." was even coming from Cutter at first.

Comment from: MaroonedComic [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 5:12 PM

I agree about the bubble - it's tough to do innovative things in a 4-panel strip, because people read them a certain way and convention is very strong. So a small change like that can have a big effect. Straub is definitely a guy who is at the top of his craft, I enjoy his strip a lot, it's super well done.

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