About The Project

“The Comic Book as the Ideal in Storytelling” is a collection of academic essays that sprang out of the idea that the comic book/graphic novel format is the ideal when it comes to storytelling and information transmission.

© 2013 Constantine Koutsoutis

11.27.2010

The Groundbreaking Nature of GHOST IN THE SHELL’s Page Layouts

One of the greatest assets that comic books and graphic storytelling have is their ability to transmit the maximum amount of information per page that most forms of literature can.  The classic manga GHOST IN THE SHELL is an example of this sort of information transmission optimumization that exemplifies great comic book storytelling.


Classic Western reading leads us to follow characters and images/action in a left-to-right trail, and when presented with a trail to follow on something like a standard 8.5 x 11 page read top to bottom, we also read at a left-to-right and downward pattern, creating a sort of left-to-right downward curve that the eye and brain naturally follow. On a smaller scale within each page, this pattern is created inside each panel, with the start of dialogue always being closest to the upper left of the panel (though the action per panel doesn’t necessarily always follow this).  This is how comic book pages in the West are read.
However, reacting against this, each page of Dark Horse Comics’ English publication of Shirow Masamune’s manga series is a combination of not only art and text panels that ell the story graphically, but also text in the sections of the page between each panel (known as the gutters in comic book parlance).  The 4th wall-breaking gutter text acts as a steady stream of supplementary information to the reader, telling us about information that while not necessarily seems important to the story, helps readers understand the sciences being used in various chapters as well as add background information for the world that Shirow crafted in his comic. 
Alternately, some pages also deviate from the standardized comic format by being mostly text against little if any art, with some pages in a ¾ text-to-art ratio.  This drastically changes the layout of each page, breaking away from the format of page that most Western comics have followed in order to create optimum reading/viewing.
Chapter 5 of GHOST IN THE SHELL, “Megatech Machine 02: The Making of a Cyborg” (103-108) is an example of this sort of new way of creating comic pages.  Shirow’s characters go over a hypothetical construction process for artificial cyborg bodies, defining and breaking down the various (theoretical) sciences and technologies step by step.  Only the inclusion of Motoko’s interaction with the female tech (107-108) gives us any sense of connection between the universe, the story as a whole, and this chapter, which could very much stand apart as just someone’s musings on cyborg manufacturing in the future.  

(Masmune, Shirow | "Ghost In The Shell" 108 2001)

Each page is a combination of traditional comic panels, blocks of raw text, and text in the gutters, all of which is meant to help further express what’s going on, and help the readers fully understand Shirow’s vision.
Combining these types of new page layouts with 14 pages of text-only notes in the back pages of Dark Horse’s edition, GHOST IN THE SHELL is a standout of cartooning.  Its usage of unique ways to carry the narrative on each page and integrate supplemental information into the reading.
It’s arguably incredibly groundbreaking not only in comics but composition and narrative storytelling in general, combining the arts of cartooning, essay writing, and academic/technical writing all in one. 

1 comment:

  1. Everything else aside, I am very impressed with Shirow's ability to convey a vast amount of information in the dialouge without disturbing the pace of the story. It makes the world he created feel real. The depth of the politics and the biomimetic engineering is staggering AND the details are authentic.

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