Skip to main content

How do you understand comics?

In reading the first two chapters of Scott McCloud's Understand Comics: The Invisible Art I was quickly reminded of my initial introduction to the world of comics. Every time my mother took me along to the grocery store, I would pick up a copy of Batman or Spiderman and read it cover to cover before "swinging between the aisles" as if I had been bitten by some radio active spider. However, at such an age, I was not aware of McCloud's definition of comics as a "juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and /or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer" (9). While the definition might be new, my understanding of it now and then are not that far apart. As I aged and "matured," I was quickly introduced to the Japanese import of manga, and eventually to the much longer and more "intellectual" graphic novel. While my tastes changed (and the direction I read), I never lost my love for the conglomeration of picture and text in a stylized package. Because that is what a comic truly is. Whether it is Robert Crumb , Stan Lee (Fantastic Four, etc.), Alan Moore (Watchman, V for Vendetta, From Hell), Charles Shultz (Peanuts), James O'Barr (The Crow), or Nobuhiro Watsuki (creator of the Japanese manga and anime - Rurouni Kenshin), each comic is founded on a "juxtaposed pictorial... in a deliberate sequence." Panels usually contains characters, setting, dialogue, style, etc. In each panel of a comic, there are hours of sculpting, framing, and stylizing so that when a reader picks up a comic, they understand the movement of time. Depending on the creator, the sequence could be as simple as one kick of the football (Peanuts) or as complex as Dr. Manhattan's chapters in Watchman (1986). In either case, however, the passage of time is deliberately constructed to flow from panel to panel in a series of "juxtaposed pictorial(s)."

So what you might ask is what is a comic and why does it work. Stepping away from McCloud's definition, a comic is a series of panels that make use of abstracted characters in a highly stylized manner that best interprets the creator's vision of reality in a deliberate sequence. Comics work because they fuse the best parts of mass media: television and the novel. While one is dying, the other is thriving, and yet, comics continue to flourish and cross over to the big screen because of their easy accessibility and abstracted reality. By striking the perfect balance between reality and meaning, a comic fuses the best and worst parts of the two mediums and constructs a masterpiece of unrivaled popularity and accessibility.

Comments

J. Chambliss said…
Excellent analysis and commentary. Keep it up. As the class move forward, the complexity of the comic experience will be a central theme.

Popular posts from this blog

Marvel, Iron Man, and Media Convergence

When munitions manufacturer and millionaire playboy Anthony “Tony” Stark goes to observe some of his military hardware in action in Vietnam, he is wounded by an enemy mine and taken prisoner. His communist captors threaten to kill him unless he creates weapons, but in a desperate bid to survive (shrapnel from the mine is slowly moving toward his heart) he works with a fellow captive, Professor Yinsen, to create a chest-plate to support his damaged heart and transistor-powered iron armor that amplifies his strength and destructive power. While Yinsen is killed, Stark escapes to return to the United States. Like most Marvel heroes, Stark’s power is as much a curse as blessing. As Iron Man, corporate spoke-man for Stark Industries, Stark battles Cold War inspired foes to protect his company and his country. Yet, his condition has not been cured; he must wear his armor chest-plate to stay alive. Iron Man was the most political of all Marvel comic characters. Iron Man was overtly pro-…

The Zero Hour DESPERATE WITNESS (Conclusion) hosted by Rod Serling