At the time of this writing, I’ve just started reading Gene Luen Yang’s Dragon Hoops – and I’m already falling in love. Yang is a superb storyteller, and it’s very interesting to see an author who notably “dislikes sports” figure out how to best present them in comics.
One of comics’ greatest strengths is artists’ ability to influence readers’ perception of time. Each comic panel is a moment, and each comic page is a vignette, and the number, style, and layout of each page’s panels can noticeably shift a reader’s movement through time. Minutes can become seconds, and seconds can become minutes.
Sports, too, are quite concerned with time. They are divided into halves and quarters and minutes and seconds, and at times, those units of time don’t behave quite linearly. Tense seconds may feel like they lasted minutes; exciting minutes may feel like they lasted seconds.
I would guess Yang hit upon this connection, between sports and comics’ shared ability to distort time, at some point during his research for Dragon Hoops. Because early on in the book, he finds a way to portray the final seven seconds of a basketball game in a way that is a) entirely accurate and b) a great simulation of how the final seconds of a sports game feel:
Most readers will process this page’s action quickly, likely in less than the six seconds it took player Lou Richie to dribble downcourt. So, to ensure readers understand how long those actions actually took, Yang places a countdown timer on the page’s right-hand side, containing six equally-sized boxes. Reading through these boxes actually takes six seconds, forcing readers to slow down and actually feel how much time just passed in the three panels to the left.
The following page contains Lou’s buzzer-beating shot, and no, I’m not going to tell you whether he makes it or not. To learn that, you’ll have to actually pick up Dragon Hoops – which even from page 35 of 436, I can recommend.