Thierry Groensteen's theory of "spatio-topia" has held my interest throughout the semester, especially with regards to what Groensteen refers to as "mise-en-page" or "page layout." The different ways that comics artists manipulate the "distribution of spaces" and "occupation of places" on a page-by-page basis to create meaning are simply fascinating to me. To this day, creators continue to innovate as they find new ways to use paneling and other methods of manipulating space to communicate their narrative or get across some kind of idea or emotion to the reader. This fact is more evident than ever in Issue #2 of Tokyo Ghost, written by Rick Remender with art by Sean Murphy and colouring by Matt Hollingsworth, which features numerous examples of creative use of page layout.
The first instance we'll examine comes from page 7 of the issue. After a meeting with their employer, Debbie and Led descend down from the enormous shopping mall into the city streets and eventually the sewers through which they will make their escape out of Los Angeles. The makeup of the page is quite ambiguous, with only the top panel distinct as its own entity. The rest of the page is marked by the scene pictured above. What appears to be a burn mark tears across the page, separating the high-class people of the surface from the impoverished commoners living underground. Although the mark draws a clear line between the two scenes, they remain connected through the path our two heroes take to get from one to another. It is also worth noting that the marking tears through not only the panels, but the gutter as well. This drastic image could easily imply a change in more than just scenery.
The second striking use of page layout comes on page 9. Led, after being "woken up" from his tech-induced mental slumber, experiences a shock to the senses that is displayed through a burst of panels varying in shape and size. The panels show scenes from different points in Led's life and are imposed over a close-up of his pained and deranged face. This image combined with the layout of the panels paint an effective portrait of Led's current mental state. The reader can almost feel the emotions exploding from within him, and may even have a difficult time taking in all of the information presented to them. The "fhraaaa--!" present in the speech bubble indicated that Led is having a similarly difficult time.
The final page worth noting is one that I already touched on in my paper, so I'll keep it brief. The usage of colour, paneling and page layout on page 12 to tell Led's backstory is simply exquisite. The choice to let the images do the taking while providing supplementary information via text along the sides of the page comes across strong. It's thanks to the smart layout that readers are able to digest the story the way they want, and ultimately read into the narration at whatever pace they feel fit.
Written By: Andrew Masse
Groensteen, Thierry. The System of Comics. Tr. Bart Beaty, Nick Nguyen. The University Press of Mississippi, 2007.