Illustrating Nothing

In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen¬†graphics must tell what dialogue cannot. Excessive narration would kill the flow of the story, and overly mouthy characters would feel out of place. It thus falls to the illustrator to create images that add to the reader’s understanding of the story and characters in a way that is also amusing.

A most fascinating character is the Invisible Man. He should by all rights be the most difficult character to properly illustrate: he’s not even visible. However, the illustrator does a fantastic job of giving the Invisible Man character and of supplementing his humorous dialogue with complementary images. That is, at least, in general: sometimes it seems as though the illustrator lets the Invisible Man just be invisible, passing up an opportunity to add to his character/the scene in favor of a simplistic ’empty air’ approach. Here is an example.

You can tell he cares deeply

Having just killed a man in cold blood, the Invisible Man turns to his companions (presumably) and casually makes idle conversation. There is only one indication of this: the sword, and this is an example of where I feel the illustration slightly fails. The words here do all the work: they are what is funny about this scene. In later scenes the Invisible Man is better represented: he leaves fingerprints or interacts with his environment in a way that reveals his appearance, contextually. Here, however, there is nothing. This happens a couple of other times in the graphic novel, and I feel the illustrator could have done more in this scenario: show something leaning under his weight, or have him wipe the sword with a piece of cloth, anything besides making a sword float. It is to both the narrator and illustrator’s credit that the Invisible Man is one of the best and funniest characters in the whole book despite being an invisible man, but where in every panel other characters appear something about them is being expressed facially/via body language, some panels of the Invisible Man seem sadly wasted.