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Sandman comic panels

I recently read The Sandman Papers, most of which were interesting though some were "oookay, academics can be weird." Then last night I re-read Preludes and Nocturnes... and then, inspired by one of the papers (on The Tempest) and Scott McCloud, I went back and looked at the paneling. What's square, what's not, what's borderless? First I was looking at "The Sound of Her Wings", where we meet Death, and... well, I noticed a lot of variation, but not a lot of pattern. Tended to the rectangular, but borders were often simply missing, or present only as part of the park bench. One page the background color was pink, except for one panel where it was blue.

I also found myself wondering if the final page, where Dream scatters his bread and joyfully hears the sound of (pigeon) wings, is actually a hint of his decision to commit suicide. Most of the comic is about what Death does, after all, and there's that poem about welcoming death. Then "She has responsibilities. I have responsibilities", which sounds like he's finding comfort in getting back to work again, but then... the wings, as if the pigeons are a foretaste of the sound of *her* wings at the end of it all.

Anyway. After that I went looking at the chapters in general, and I think I saw more of a pattern. The first issue is pretty whacked out, panel-wise, including lots of circular panels, usually as facial closeups, especially if seen through an eyepiece, the glass cage, or a scrying ball. There's lots of "panels on top of backgrounds", and curvy panels, and diagonal borders. Of course, the whole issue is largely "magical".

Then the next issue, Dream in the Dreaming with Cain and Abel, hardly has a rectangle anywhere, it's all curvy borders. Most of Constantine's issue is standard rectangular panels, diagonalizing or warping a bit when the dreams get heavy. That seems to be the basic pattern: everyday stuff uses traditional panels, dreaming stuff uses curves, some stuff in the middle uses diagonals.

I also saw one part where a unified scene was nonetheless broken up by diagonal gutters, for not obvious reason. (Unlike Spike: Shadow Puppets, where an otherwise unified 'picture' of a diner is broken by a gutter in the middle, and on the left Spike is coming out of the doorway of the diner and in the right he's moved across the street, so there's a temporal function.)

Sidenote: I was long impressed by how long and dense the first issue feels, and wondered if it was from the sheer fast pace of changes, like the ending of the third arc in Twelve Kingdoms, which feels (pleasantly) like it's a lot longer than 22 minutes or whatever. At some point I discovered it actually has more pages than a standard issue.

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Damien Sullivan
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