Flipping the Switch: Chapter Three

The final sequence of Chapter Three (not counting the one-page epilogue) is one of the most challenging and experimental scenes we have written for DROWSE thus far. The short, 12-15 page chapters have given the story a sleek economy, like classical narrative cinema. Every panel has been purpose-built to further the narrative. If a panel or scene wasn’t working towards that, we chucked it. The closing of Chapter Three, however, in which Caine wanders a neighborhood in the Linden Harbor section of Fairhaven in search of…something his esoteric mapping machine, the Infinity Projector, tells him is there, completely disrupts that model. Looking at it through the principles of the classical narrative model, it’s essentially a four-page waste of space that doesn’t “go” anywhere. Instead, it’s concerned with being somewhere, with mood, and especially with using the built environment to communicate the interior state-of-mind of Paul Caine.

If what we’re describing sounds suspiciously like what filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni was interested in exploring in his early 1960s cinema, you’re spot on. Antonioni – and in particular, the final scene of L’eclisse (1962), which you can see here (beginning at 1:29) – was a huge influence on the way in which we constructed our expression of Caine’s state of mind here. Antonioni’s camera-eye explored landscape and the built environment to express the alienation of everyday life in Late Capitalism. He’s definitely influenced our own preoccupation with using space and place, surface gestures and objects to express interior states-of-mind. Beyond the L’eclisse influence, you might also spot a couple of nods to other Antonioni films, like Red Desert (1964) and La notte (1961).

Constructing this scene was a huge creative challenge. Surely there must be other ways to express feelings in comics other than thought balloons or caption boxes? Can exterior things (buildings, objects, etc.) be used to express interior emotions and at the same time serve a narrative purpose that builds the city’s character? On top of that, can the built environment of the story be represented in such a way that we construct an architecture of the interior? In the final scene of Chapter Three, Caine wanders, lost amid an empty, post-industrial wasteland that is under transformation into something more alienating and eerie, until the concrete and brick buildings of the city itself box him in and weigh down upon him.

In addition to this cognitive mapping of Fairhaven, there’s also geographical mapping at work here, as this brief tour of these spaces of Late Capitalism set the scene for the social unrest that’s about to boil over in Chapter Four…