Friday, June 5, 2009

Crowd scenes: Happydale and Big in Japan

Seth began Happydale in 1998, and drew Big in Japan in 2005. Those books mark the beginning and the end of his comic book career.

I thought it would be interesting to compare crowd scenes from the two books. It's not so much that his style evolved (though that was at least partly true), but he consciously tried to use a different style for each story. Both those factors account for the differences between these two pages.

Of course no place is quite like Happydale. Its citizens are, to a man, unique, goofy, charming, and eager to participate in whatever is going on. In the page from Happydale (issue 2, page 24) the crowd has gathered because someone has been shot and the perpetrators have locked themselves in a house and taken the residents as hostages. Each frame is drawn from the point of view of someone in the crowd; indeed, three out of five of them take the point of view of a midget. We are among the people, enjoying the festive atmosphere, and knowing that the police are fighting a losing battle trying to keep the crowd under control. There is a feel of unrestrained delight in this page that is part of the story, and also, I think, how Seth was feeling at the time.
The page from Big in Japan (issue 1 page 19) is less intimate, more designed, more elegant. The people in it are individuals; we see their unique hair and clothing styles, but we can't guess their personalities. They don't connect with us, the reader. That is reasonable in this context, because the people in the crowd are not the stars of this series as they were in Happydale: the monsters are the stars. And the monsters shine! They are the ones that are cute and ugly, unique, goofy, and even charming.

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