Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 283: Silence
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month (for a while) I will be showing pages chosen by you, the readers. Today’s page is from the Silence, which was published in 1980 (I can’t find the publisher, unfortunately). This page was suggested by ollieno, one of our many foreign commenters. We’re an international community around here! Enjoy!
Silence is a graphic novel by Didier Comès, who’s the artist. I found it on Amazon, where it lists Jean Maurice Rosier as the author. But I can’t find anything else about Rosier, especially because I don’t read French and that’s all that comes up when you Google him. I suppose it doesn’t matter, as this page is basically silent (ha!), but I thought I’d mention it.
I haven’t read Silence, so I can’t speak too much about the story – ollieno mentions that the dude’s name is Silence (as we can see from the final panel – I can read that much French, at least) and that he’s – surprise! – mute. According to Wikipedia, it takes place in the Ardennes right after World War II. So there’s that. Let’s check it out!
This is a nice page, setting the scene pretty well. It’s fitting that we see Silence first, and Comès places him in a pastoral setting, with everything moving us from the left to the right. We don’t know where the snake is in relation to Silence when we first see it, but Comès does an interesting job with it – in Panel 1, Silence is looking to the right, so the fact that the snake is looking to the left implies that it’s confronting Silence even though the character isn’t in the frame. Comès swings our point of view around in Panel 3 so that we’re looking from behind the snake, and we see Silence’s legs in the background. The first three panels set up the “meeting” between the man and the snake well, as the “camera” moves around the scene.
Panels 4 and 5 are interesting, as we get close-ups of both the snake and Silence. Comès links the two of them by this technique, and you’ll notice that both the snake and Silence have similarly-shaped heads, which links them even more. Again, I have no idea where this page goes and if Silence’s relationship with the snake is important at all, but obviously Comès wants us to make that connection. The visual cues lead us to Panel 6, where Silence reaches down and the snake licks his hand. Then, we jump to the snake wrapped around Silence’s arm, and the snake is even friendlier – it’s comfortable enough to smell Silence close up. It almost makes the final panel redundant – Silence does tell us his name, but we’ve already seen that he’s kind, because why else would the snake curl up around his arm and sniff him so closely? What’s fascinating about the final panel is that Silence is obviously writing it, so it gives us clues to his personality. His handwriting doesn’t stay on the lines, and he doesn’t know how to spell very well. Unless that’s an unusual dialect, the French is spelled incorrectly – it should read “je m’appelle Silence et je suis gentil.” Is this a different dialect than “regular” French? Does anyone know? Anyway, he tells us that he’s a swell guy (“je sui genti”), which we already know because a snake digs him. But it does tell us that he’s not quite all there – he can’t stay on the line and he can’t spell. Unless he can.
This is a beautifully illustrated page, and once again, it shows how universal comics are because of the visual aspect. It’s not too hard to decipher this page, after all. So that’s cool.
Next: Another last-minute reader suggestion! You can still send yours in if you’re struck by inspiration! Will tomorrow’s be the final reader suggestion? We’ll see! See all the reader suggestions in the archives!