Two for No is written by Alexander Danner and Tymothi Godek. You might think of these pieces as kin to narrative prose poems. Most strips are standalone pieces, though some will be multi-page series, or even sets of independent pieces riffing on a common idea or theme. Realistic fiction, science fiction, and even some autobiography will be mixed together without differentiation. You are welcome to guess at which are which!
My hope is that the pieces will stand on their own artistic merits without readers needing to be familiar with the rules of the structures we’re using, so that those who are not interested in such things will still be able to enjoy the comics. But for those who do share our interest in formal process, please continue reading: hopefully this will add to your appreciation.
Visual Language and Poetic Structures
In this series of short comics, we are experimenting with formal structures and constraints, some of which are explained below. Many of the comics in this series are inspired by theorist Neil Cohn’s essay in search of a poetry of comics formed not by imitating the established formal structures of text poetry (although we might eventually play with that idea too), but by adopting formal constraints based on the native elements of comics themselves. Neil’s writing on this topic proceeds from his theories of Visual Language–a complex and compelling exploration of the linguistic structures underlying the comics form. It is not necessary to read his full theories to enjoy the comics we are making here, though I do recommend them as worthwhile reading in their own right.
Since the forms used here are based on grammatical entities identified in Neil’s theories, in order to explain the forms themselves, I’ll need to define a few of Neil’s terms. Please keep in mind that my definitions are based on the practical role they’re playing in my work, not necessarily the most official definitions as they appear in Neil’s theories.
Panel classes are defined by the number of active elements they contain–how many subjects take significant action within a given panel. With that in mind, the classes are:
A panel that repeats a single entity in multiple states of a complete action. A single runner depicted at multiple points along his running path, for instance.
Multiple active entities. A crowd scene would be a macro. Or a shot of a busy highway with many moving cars. Or a factory with many machines doing their work.
One active entity. A panel focussed on the action of one clear subject, such as a single person or moving object.
Less then one full entity. Another panel type that focusses on one subject, but does not show the full figure–generally a close up, such as on eyes opening in surprise, or teeth biting down on a piece of food.
A panel containing no active entities. A landscape or an empty room would be amorphic panels.
In his essay on formal structures, Neil invented the first of the forms we’ll be playing with, which he calls The Reducto, by virtue of the fact that it uses all of the panel types, arranged in order of decreasing action, punctuated by micro refiners. A “refiner,” is a panel focusses in on a detail from the preceding panel.
A reducto is formed by the following arrangement:
The second form is one of my own devising, which begins with an arrangement of three panel types int he following rhythm:
[mono] [macro] [mono]
[ macro ]
[micro] [mono] [micro]
…and includes the further constraint that text may not appear in monos, but must appear in all other panels. (Text is thus “disassociated” from the primary subject of the piece.)
This form plays with the power of comics to deal in simultaneous information. In this case, the entire page represents a single moment in time, seen from multiple points of view. Built on a nine panel grid, each corner is a direct first-person perspective of a different character, with the remaining five panels providing additional views of the scene or event. There are not rules regarding the content or text, save that no time progression may occur between panels.
Other forms will follow. Please feel free to work in these forms yourself!