Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Prickly City's Phantom Gap

Scott Stantis' Prickly City is, at heart, a comic strip that uses humor to make political commentary. It's not difficult to figure out where Stantis himself stands. But because his message is delivered subtly, rather than with a bludgeon, the strip succeeds in delivering a certain viewpoint even to those who might otherwise not wish to be exposed to it.

His late August, 2014 sequence is a good example of that -- doubly so since it uses a convention of the comic strip to tell the story.

The first sequence breaks the fourth wall, as the two main characters notice the white space (called a gutter) separating the two panels. (click on images to enlarge)

One character is conservative, the other liberal. While long-time readers will know which is which, note that throughout this sequence Stantis provides no labels at all. Because having one side winning over the other isn't what this sequence is about.

The gutter expands as the sequence continues, further separating the two characters. And note how it expands -- it grows out from the middle. The left side isn't squeezing the right, nor the the other way around. Both sides are being squeezed, and as it continues and communication breaks down, both seem to blame the other.

It's a brilliant use of the medium. Stantis makes his point about the breakdown of political discourse, and does so in a way that everyone can relate to. The villain isn't the character on the other side of the strip -- it's the white void of nothingness that's boxing them both in. 

The gutter is always there between the panels, just like political differences exist between people. Most times, we just don't notice it (either the gutter or the differences). But when it grows, neither side benefits -- either in the funnies, or in real life. That's the message I got from this sequence. How about you?

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