Noir meets reality

Archive for April, 2013

Film Noir- Andrew Spicer Book research Report ( Philip Hampson)

Film Noir as a production cycle


As a production cycle one can discern three phases of film noir’s development: uncertain beginnings (1940-3), a major burst of energy (1944-52), and a longer period of fragmentation and decline (1952-9). The ‘major phase’ was consequent upon the success of Double indemnity, Laura and Murder, My sweet all released in 1944, which sparked a host of similar productions.”

{This quote talks about the success of film noir and its decline. By the 1960’s Noir films had declined in popularity, after big successes in the 1940s such as Double indemnity Noir films had a huge boost in popularity. After several more successful films the Noir style started to decline and mostly phased out.}

Figure 1 shows the number of noir films released by the 3 most popular film noir production companies in the 1940s-1960s. As you can see from 1940-1950 more and more film Noirs were released, but from 1951-1959 the production of film noirs rapidly declined.


(Figure 1. Table of film noir releases 1940-1959)

“The relatively high figures for Columbia, Warner Bros, and especially RKO, are an indication that noir was particularly attractive to cost-conscious production companies. The motto of RKOs head of production Charles Koerner was ‘ Showmanship in place of Genius’ and he favoured the production of inexpensive black and white thrillers.”

{Noir films could be made cheaply so production companies were able to produce multiple films per year as they made a high profit in return. The Quote ‘Showmanship in place of Genius’ I believe states that films had become more about being showy, than being about talent and rich story telling.}

“It was a system designed to ensure volume production- around 500 films per year on average- and consistent quality. This required an hierarchical labor force where the creative skills of directors, scriptwriters and cinematographers were subordinated to close control by the producer who used the carefully budgeted shooting script as the ‘Blueprint’ for the film and viewed the daily rushes as a from of ‘quality control’ to ensure that the film was of sufficient technical quality (‘ production values’) to maintain or enhance the studio’s reputation. The producer was responsible to the studio executives who, in turn, had to respond to the directives of the new your offices, which measured production targets and budgets against box-office returns and the advice of their marketing staff”

{During wartime a system was put in place to ensure films were still produced. It was (and in some ways still is) the producer’s job to ensure the quality of the film would boost the reputation of the Production Company or studio.  But they had to work to a tight budget and make sure everything worked perfectly, this meant they had to restrict the writers and directors of productions. This is still part of a producer’s job as well, and I feel that my work as producer has had to deal with issues like this. }

“In this view, film noir’s central preoccupations are ‘ claustrophobia, paranoia, despair and nihilism’. Its alienated protagonists, trapped in dark cities, expose the underside of American life. These existentialist themes mingled with ones drawn from a popularized Freudianism: schizophrenia, psychosis and disturbed sexually.”

{This is some of the key themes in noir narratives. I feel that Johnny Noir has several of these themes, including paranoia, Schizophrenia, Psychosis, despair and more. I aim to get some of these themes into my comic story as well.}



First published:2002

Pearson Education limited

London/ Essex


The Long Halloween – Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale (Laurie Dix)


The Long Halloween is one of the more famous Batman graphic novels.

The artwork is wonderful, and at certain moments it has ‘Flashback’ or ‘Aside’ segments, in which, occasionally, almost all colour is drained from the scene (as can be seen above and below).

At these moments, the lighting takes a turn for the darker, and the colour is kept to a minimum, using only red to highlight a body. I really like this effect, using one colour to highlight something and to only be used, in these instances, to wash over a corpse to either act as or to represent the blood.These two sections which I have offered up here are a wonderful example of the kind of style that I would like in the darker sections of my comics, using shadows to great effect and keeping the mood dark.

It is also worth noting that in both these sections, the panels run a simple two by three followed by a full page spread. This helps to tell the story clearly and concisely, but also highlights the importance of the murder. There are also no words, which allows the story to be told entirely through illustration. It is highly effective, in my opinion, and worth bearing in mind that, when writing for comics, you have the addition of an illustrator, and a lot can be said through pictures rather than just through prose or dialogue. This, compared to Alan Moore’s extremely wordy ‘Watchmen’  is an interesting comparison and one worth noting. Image

Watchmen – Alan Moore (Laurie Dix)



Watchmen, again, does not do anything particularly special in terms of illustration, layout or character design, but once again succeeds in storytelling. An interesting thing about Watchmen is that, throughout the comic, there are cutaways and interjections from other stories, which all interlink.

This spread is interesting because of its transition from light to dark, and although its layout is very traditional, a standard 3×3, it adds pacing to the scene.

The character design, again, in terms of illustration is nice, but nothing all that special, but the characters themselves are written with depth and backstory, and we even get an idea of how we think they talk, just from the writing on the page and the font style and bubbles between each character. The Watchmen was made famous lately by being turned into a film, however, in my opinion, if I want to get the ‘Watchmen Experience’, I will always reach for the comic, which has much more depth to it.

Sandman – Neil Gaiman (Laurie Dix)



The Sandman comics are some of my favourites. The narrative draws from Folklore and references fairy tales and stories told the world over, the character design is well thought out and the illustrations are wonderful and varied in terms of layout and lighting.

Neil Gaiman is a wonderful writer and storyteller, and these comics have to be some of the most original and vibrant pieces of illustration and storytelling I can think of.

This is a strong contender for the sort of style I would like to use, and I hope that our characters are as interesting and thought out as these. I only wish my storytelling was as original and imaginative.

Planetary – Ellis, Cassaday & DePuy (Laurie Dix)


This is another nice example of the frames spilling over into one another. I like this effect, and when used properly it can add real depth to a spread. The style, once again, is similar to that popular with American and European comics, and although it is not doing anything particularly new or special, it does have some nice layouts.

The use of lighting is quite nice sometimes as well, and the angles vary a lot, adding motion to the spread and the images.

Although not quite suited to the style that we will be used, I do like the overlapping panels, and may suggest to my illustrators using this technique once or twice.

Below is another example of nice layout, using only horizontal panels, adding pace to a scene.

Planetary 2

The Crow – J. O’Barr (Laurie Dix)

the crow


The Crow is a bit more of a classic comic look, and only using black and white we can see the kind of look I am expecting. The Crow is very detailed, very stylised and the style changed throughout, as we can see here, between traditional illustrational style, highly detailed ink work and something very tonal, more similar to watercolours. The gothic nature of The Crow is the kind of tone that I hope we can achieve, and the feel seems just right for a noir comic. I don’t expect it to be this angst-laden, if anything I hope we can make it very sullen and emotionally bereft, but this is a good place to start when looking at graphic style which would lend itself to Noir comics. The use of dark tones, akin to German Expressionism, is what we are looking for, and indeed this Gothic style can be attributed to European and Scandinavian art, which is where the visual look for Noir began.

I will be suggesting this as an example of potential illustrative style.

Maus – Art Spiegelman (Laurie Dix)


Maus is an incredible example of ‘Comics’, usually seen as light hearted pulp, being used to discuss highly controversial and contestable issues. People could see it as a trivialisation of the holocaust, replacing Polish people with Mice and Nazis with Cats, however, as the acclaim it received will attest, it should be treated as a narrative, not viewed in such trivial and cynical light. It is a means of making learning about the horrors of the holocaust more accessible, which it should be, ‘Lest we forget’.

Maus has received some of the highest praise I have ever heard of from a comic, and is an incredible example of how such heavy subject matter can be approached through a universally accessible medium.

Whereas Maus deals with much more than our comics will, it is good to remember that comics are not just for children, they are not all about super heroes and fantasy characters, but can ve viewed as a form of High art; combining art work and storytelling which can be of the very highest degree.

If you have never read a comic, especially if it is for fear that “comics are for kids” (an argument I have heard many times), I implore you, read Maus. It will open your eyes to many things.