Friends or Foes Black Panther #4

I've been working my way through The Whole Plate, Lindsay Ellis's in-depth analysis of Michael Bay's Transformers series. Each episode looks at the films through from a different aspect of film studies - feminist theory, auteur theory, etc.

In the third episode she brings up the concept of "affinity of continuum of movement." Roughly speaking, that's the idea that you can make a sequence more comprehensible by keeping the focal point of the eye stays the same across cuts. Bay doesn't really pay attention to this while he edits, and so his films are hard to follow visually and therefore have less of an impact.

But you know who does pays close attention to affinity of continuum of movement in his work? Jack Kirby. Here are two pages from Black Panther #4, the tail end of the "King Solomon's Frogs" storyline, that show the technique in action.

Look out, Panther!Black Panther #4 (July 1977), pages 3 and 23
Art by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer.

Page three is the more complex of the two. In the first panel the movement starts from the golden box in Abner Little's hands, firing up into the attacking warrior. In the second panel the golden box is placed at the point where the beam terminated in panel one, and then your eye is drawn down to the right by the figure of the Black Panther. In the third panel the box is still the focal point, but is nudged down and to the right, in the space the Panther occupied in the second panel. In the fourth panel, the action starts at that same point but then moves up and to the right as the Panther snatches the box. And in the final panel, the focus stays in the same place as the Panther carefully places the golden box back on the shelf it came from.

Page twenty-three is much simpler. Here the focal point just stays in the center of each panel, with a few extra touches to guide the eye from one panel to the next, like the diagonal tilt of the Panther's leg in panel four and the horizontal line of his arms in panel five.

Now, I suspect that in comics this is a technique that works best when the story is using a regular layout, like the 4- and 6-panel grids Kirby favors, or the 9-panel grid of Watchmen. Or even a widescreen layout, like that Star Wars comic I talked about last month. Would it work as well with more complicated and design-y layouts? I'm not so sure about that, but I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open.

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