I’ve been a fan of Matt Maxwell’s Intrapanel Tumblr since its inception, but I found it difficult to articulate what precisely I found so appealing about it until I took camera in hand and tried it for myself.
I know that the landscape of comics has changed so dramatically in the last ten years - just in terms of the expansion of the digital landscape - and, arguably, over the last twenty or twenty-five in terms of the production value, expense, volume and accessibility of the books as the direct market overwhelmed the supermarket bookshelves. Comics aren’t so disposable as they once were, they no longer fade and yellow and fall apart - now they’re preserved in light or printed for archive, seemingly forever.
It’s disreputable to fetishize books as objects, I know - first and foremost the content of the book is the measure of its value. But the relationship between the reader and the book is midwifed by the medium, and the nature of the medium has transitioned, these days, from the vulgar to the imperishable.
For me, at eight or nine years old, here’s how comics worked - I walked or biked from my house on Bear Canyon Rd in Tucson Arizona, about a mile south to the to the U-Tote-M,where there was a spinner rack of bent and misarranged books. They’d come home with me in a slim paper bag which the clerk usually reserved for skin mags, clutched in a loose fist, fingers flat, of a hand balanced on one side of the handlebars, desperate not to drop them in the hot dirt or - worse yet - accidentally run over them on the way back.
The experience of seeking, buying and shepherding the books was as much a part of the experience as reading them (no wonder we eventually placed them in plastic bags; we worked and worried hard for these things). There’s a fascinating, sensual reaction to these books which exceeds the merely pornographic, there’s gravitas in their shabbiness.
I think Matt mentioned that the project was “tiny acts of worship”, borrowing another photographer’s sentiment, which is what was brought to mind as I dawdled over the angle of the shots, considering the landscape of the bent pages and cartography of the benday dots and washed out inks. There’s something I’ve heard described as the complete immersion of the self in a moment or a place, which is what I achieved while lurching around this open book with a camera in hand. My whole mind was involved with this book on a level I don’t think it had been since I was a child, utterly engrossed and worshipful of this shabby, impermanent bit of fluff…
Battlestar Galactica vol.1 No.19
Walt Simonson - Story and Pencils
Klaus Janson - Inks
Tom Rosen - Letters
Alex Miller - Colors
This is a thirty-page story that packs the first half of a heist movie into the last eight pages - give this book the attention it deserves and it’s a solid hour’s read for four bits. Simonson is obviously saving the big conflict for the entirety of the next issue, so the dramatic action of this issue is pushed to the back - a strange vessel is careening towards the Galactica, breaking up as it goes, and the crew is convinced it’s the absent Starbuck returning home. Once he brings the ship in (in pieces), a compact four page narrative synchs the disparate story arcs - the panels fill the reader in on Starbuck’s ironic misinformation. There’s a LOT of story happening in a short burst, Simonson gives his money’s worth (and how about those Janson inks?)
Not sure, in panels three and five, if those sound effects are courtesy of Simonson or Rosen, maybe a collaboration. I may be mistaken, but I’m under the impression that letterers typically added the sound effects in these old books…
The virus, it spreads.
Remember, anyone with a camera can do this. I recommend sticking with direct sunlight and newsprint, though. Glossy pages are a bear. Yes, old covers are glossy, but not nearly as much as new pages/cover stock is now. One of the reasons why there’s a lot of pre-1985 comics here on Intrapanel.
Also: scanning sucks and is a mechanical, inorganic process. Bleah.