Comic Snippets: Prof. Xavier’s Theory of the Mind

New Avengers: Illuminati (2007) - #4 - Xavier monologueI’ve been looking closely lettering and composition in comics, since I first saw it this sequence always stuck out to me for having interesting prose and arrangement. Panels are featured in New Avengers: Illuminati #4. It features Prof. Xavier talking about the mind and the potential consequences of subverting it.

Prof. Xavier is the most powerful telepath in the Marvel universe, so he’s had a lot of experience tinkering with the mind and it’s perception of reality. These are his thoughts on why tampering with the brain is ultimately a bad idea,

Because it’s an organism.
It’s an organism designed to produce free will. It remembers what it is and how it got to where it is.
Sure, I could suggest a small thing, like having someone not see me as I walk by, but…
If I reached into your brain and told you to wear a dress and call yourself “Sally” – yes, you would do it.
But eventually, over time, your mind would find a way to work against that which, in your case, it knew to be false.
And if it couldn’t… it might find a way to do something to hurt you or others…
It would react.
Plus – if, listen, if I did do this…
…There’s a moral line that is being crossed that we could not come back from.

Not only is this point of view compelling as a means to imagine how the mind works and survives trauma, but it’s also a great case for how art, lettering and prose fit together in sequence. Figuring out how these panels work is like working backwards and comparing how the page could have been made.

If all the panels were put together, and presented as one solid piece, the art wouldn’t flow quite the same way as it did when it was segmented. That flow, or pacing, is important when you consider the word bubbles and how they are broken up to help pace the monologue. As with regular prose, a large chunk of text is harder for a reader to process than a smaller one. The monologue itself is 132 words, so a way to get a reader to absorb it easier would be to make it bite size.

Between how the art, prose, and lettering come together to make this sequence, I think this is an all-star example of the level of craftsmanship in the comic book industry and how each piece of a comic can harmonize to make a better product.

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Alex Añé

I am a geek, writer, web developer and avid comic book fan.

2 thoughts on “Comic Snippets: Prof. Xavier’s Theory of the Mind”

  1. Went googling for snippets of dialogue from Illuminati and found this.

    This is a great example of comics trying to convey a sense of time, too. If it were one big image of Professor X, it might look like a single moment. Breaking it up into vertical panels makes it read more as a slow camera pan, or helps convey that more time is passing–which is important because of how long the monologue is on this page. Your point about breaking up that monologue into smaller pieces is a great one too.

    My one complaint with this piece is that I think Bendis misses the mark of how Professor X talks. “Plus, if–listen, if I did do this…” doesn’t sound like the appropriate cadence or word choice.

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