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The idea that comic books, or graphic novels as they are sometimes referred to, Purpose and Method The purpose of this paper is to examine the comic book. ATLANTIS Journal of the Spanish Association of Anglo-American Studies ( June ): –35 issn Comic Books and Graphic Novels in their. Anthony Burgess described Bashford's book as "one of the great comic novels of the 20th century". Grotesque characters in slapstick episodes.
In describing the manner in which we read comics, Eisner suggests that the format of comic books, that of a montage of words and images, requires the reader to exercise both visual and verbal interpretive skills. The regimens of art e. Eisner goes on to suggest that the psychological process involved in viewing a word and image are analogous, and that the structures of illustration and prose are similar 8. However, as Eisner points out, this process is largely dependent on the comprehension of the reader.
This interaction has to develop because the artist is evoking images stored in the minds of both parties Comics as a medium make use of a series or sequence of images and words, and the process by which these series or sequences are communicated to the reader is vital to an understanding of how we read comics. This is not entirely unlike the way in which we perceive the world around us. Yet our senses can only reveal a world that is fragmented and incomplete.
McCloud refers to this phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole as closure Nothing is seen between the two panels, but experience tells the reader that something must be there.
The panels used in comics fracture both time and space, and offer a jagged, staccato rhythm of unconnected moments, but closure allows the reader to connect these moments and mentally construct a continuous, unified reality McCloud This is not the case with traditional prose writing. He also points out that participation is a powerful force in nearly any medium, citing filmmakers who long ago realized the importance of allowing viewers to use their imaginations. Closure in comics fosters a silent, secret agreement between the creator and his audience, an intimacy surpassed only by the written word According to McCloud, the comics creator asks his reader to join him in a silent dance of the seen and the unseen, of the visible and the invisible, and no other art form gives so much to its audience while at the same time asking so much from them.
It is for this reason that McCloud feels it is a mistake to think of comics as merely a hybrid of graphic arts and prose fiction.
All four of what might be thought of as the primary elements of narrative are present in virtually all stories told in the comics medium. Among these are what James L. Potter refers to as the basic elements of the subject matter of narrative, namely character, setting and action 27 , as well as point of view, the means by which the first three are portrayed to the reader. Of the first three, certainly character and setting are present in comics, since without characters and a setting there can be no story.
Most often, characters and settings in comics are not too dissimilar from their counterparts in other literary forms, such as novels and short stories.
There are both protagonists and antagonists, and those characters are often given clear motivations and in-depth characterizations. Similarly, settings range from vague and sparsely detailed to those rich in detail and which exhibit great depth.
The discussion that follows focuses on the nature of actions and how action is portrayed in comics, the portrayal of emotion in comics, and the specific ways in which point of view is employed in comics.
Action The portrayal of action in any medium, whether that action be something as simple as tossing a ball up and down or as complex as breaking into and robbing a bank, involves several factors, and primary among them is the passage of time.
Without the passage of time there can be no action. This is especially true in comics according to Will Eisner, who considers the ability to convey time as being critical to the success of a visual narrative In addition, there are other factors contributing to the portrayal of action, including motion and sound.
It is these three factors, time, motion and sound, which allow the reader to perceive the actions being taken by characters in stories. In graphics the experience is conveyed by the use of illusions and symbols and their arrangement Understanding how the passage of time is portrayed in comics is important, if not essential, to understanding the portrayal of motion and sound. And just as pictures and the intervals between them create the illusion of time through closure, words introduce time by representing that which can only exist in time — sound Sound breaks down into two subsets: word balloons and sound effects, both of which add to the duration of a panel, partially through the nature of sound itself but also by introducing issues of action and reaction McCloud He then goes on to describe how over the past several years, comics artists and creators have struggled with dozens of variations in their desperate attempts to depict sound in a strictly visual medium.
Motion also breaks down into two subsets. The first type is panel-to-panel closure, while the other type is motion within frames McCloud Just as a single panel can represent a span of time through sound, a single panel can represent a span of time through pictures McCloud This is achieved most often by use of icons known as motion lines which attempt to represent the paths of moving objects through space McCloud , but there are also other methods by which this can be accomplished.
One such method is known as the polyptych, where a moving figure of figures is imposed over a contiguous background McCloud Emotion In addition to the portrayal of actions, the portrayal of emotions in comics is also important in how characters are portrayed in comics, is accomplished through the use of both words and pictures. But emotion, as well as other meaning, can also be portrayed through the use of pictures.
This can take many forms including the use of unique or unusual panel shapes, as well as the style used in the illustrations. Even something as mundane as a simple line can be used to convey emotion. McCloud insists that all lines carry with them an expressive potential. Through change of direction a line may go from being passive and timeless — to proud and strong — to dynamic and changing. By its shape, a line can appear to be unwelcoming and severe — or warm and gentle — or rational and conservative.
This use of simple shapes and lines to convey meaning and emotion extends to the very frames and panels depicted in a given story. It can be used to convey something of the dimension of sound and emotional climate in which the action occurs, as well as contributing to the atmosphere of the page as a whole.
But the ability of art to convey meaning, even in the simple form of lines, is not restricted only to pictures, but also extends to other types of icons and symbols. In addition, the means by which meaning is conveyed by different types of icons often crosses between the visible world of pictures and invisible world of symbols.
An example of this idea can be seen in the human face as it is depicted in comics. Though the cartoon face is an abstraction, it is based on visual data. Some indicators of emotion, such as the familiar sweat bead, are also visually based. But while one or a few sweat beads might be considered visually based, if a face were to be encircled by a ring of sweat beads, its use would have drifted out of its visual context, and what was a picture changes form and becomes a symbol.
Point of View Beyond action and emotion, another interesting narrative element in comics is point of view. Like action and emotion, point of view in comics is also a result of the unique vocabulary and grammar of comics, as well as the mental processes by which comics are read.
As described previously, words and pictures can combine in a virtually unlimited number of combinations, each of which allows for a slightly different point of view. In terms of point of view, the latter two, dialog and sound effects, are best thought of as part of the picture, while the former use of words, that of narration, are outside of the picture. It is the relationship between narration and pictures that forms point of view in comics.
Sometimes the narration will takes us into the minds and feelings of the characters, while other times the narration only serves to tell the reader what is happening.
Like narration, pictures also most often adopt a third-person point of view as well, and again the specific type of third-person point of view varies.
When narration is present, this is the most common point of view seen. Third- person limited, or subjective, is very rarely employed by pictures in comics, as artists must often use images and icons to portray the emotions of characters.
In instances where narration is not used, the point of view most often adopted is that of third-person limited. In this style, the reader sees events happening as they occur in the story through the pictures and associated dialog and occasionally other icons. But because comics employ both words and pictures, and the possible interactions between words and pictures are so numerous, it is not uncommon that the narration and pictures in a given story will employ different points of view.
But if comics are in fact a literary medium, then they should be able to hold up to the same sort of scrutiny and examination as other literary forms such as novels, short stories, poetry and drama. In this section I shall apply a number of critical literary approaches to a number of comics in an effort to show that comics are indeed capable of sustaining the same sorts of literary analysis as other forms of literature.
This is not to say that all comics are works of literature, no more than all novels, short stories or poems should be considered literature.
Rather, my goal is to prove that as a medium, comics are worthy of being considered literature. What follows are four critical analyses of comic works, each based on an established critical approach to literature as described in A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature.
These include two of the traditional approaches to literature, specifically the Moral-Philosophical approach and the Historical-Biographical approach, as well as the Exponential approach and the Mythological-Archetypal approach.
Each of the analyses that follow begin with a short explanation of the specific approach being employed, including any special consideration required in applying these approaches to a form with which they were not intended to be used, and more specifically, to a visual-based medium like comics. When employing these types of approaches, the first step is to determine what literary genre the work to be discussed falls under. Having determined the genre, the next step is to determine what the work says on the level of paraphrasable content Guerin When defining the genre of the works analyzed using the traditional approaches, rather than considering comics to be a single genre, I shall define the works in terms of the traditional literary genres of novel and short story.
Genre and Paraphrasable Content Each of the issues in the series is most similar to the short story in terms of form and genre, but taken as a whole, the series is in essence a braided anthology, where each of the stories involves the same characters and premise, and each is in turn a part of a larger story-arc.
The series involved two primary characters, after whom the series is named, the superheroes Green Lantern and Green Arrow. The series takes the form of a journey across America and ultimately across the galaxy in which the two main characters seek to learn about the problems plaguing America, including racism, overpopulation, pollution, and even drug addiction. The story begins when Green Lantern, an intergalactic cop in the employ of an group of omnipotent and aloof beings know as the Guardians of the Universe, learns the difference between upholding the law, and doing what is BGS Senior Thesis First Draft Louis J.
He is immediately chastised by the Guardians who seek to punish Green Lantern for this inexcusable act. It is then that Green Arrow confronts both Green Lantern and the Guardians and asks them to join him on a search for America and the causes of the problems it faces. Many of the stories dealt with these issues by confronting the main characters, Green Lantern and Green Arrow, with situations and circumstances involving these issues that were far beyond their control. Even their fantastic powers and abilities were impotent against the types of problems they were facing, such as the ravages of industrial pollution or extreme overpopulation.
This is especially true in the two-part story dealing with drug-addiction. And now, he erupts into hot Fury! It lasted thirteen issues as compared to other attempts of social relevance that lasted no longer than six issues. Rather, We would dramatize issues. It was a bad thing to do. The series questioned the world around it, and everything was open to new examination, including the culture, the values, all of the pre-existing assumptions. Beyond the fact that these stories featured stirring writing and stunning art and were prime examples of comics at their best, they were also a reflection of the times in which they were published.
When employing this type of approach, the moral or philosophical teaching is the important thing to keep in mind. Genre and Paraphrasable Content In terms of genre, Watchmen is the equivalent of a novel; in this case it is a graphic novel comprised of twelve chapters.
Though originally published as a monthly comic book, upon reading it becomes clear that from its first panel through to its last, Watchmen was conceived, written and illustrated as a single story. Watchmen takes place in a world that until closely resembled our own, with the exception of a small group of costumed adventurers who fought crime during the s and s.
With powers and abilities of immeasurable strength, Dr. Manhattan, as he was christened, became the lynchpin of American foreign policy, allowing the United States to achieve victory in the war in Vietnam, and firmly grasp the mantle of being the most powerful nation on earth. But while the presence of Dr.
Manhattan ensured no foreign power dare directly confront the US, the Cold War raged on with a fury, stopping the nuclear clock that represents how far the world is from the brink of nuclear war at a mere five seconds to midnight. Manhattan, until social pressures and a nation-wide police strike forced the government to outlaw vigilantism, forcing this new generation of heroes into retirement.
It is at this point that the story told in Watchmen takes place. The story takes place in , and follows the efforts of a masked vigilante named Rorschach, who is still active having defied the government ban, in discovering who is behind the murder of a fellow vigilante named The Comedian.
Manhattan from the earth. As the world looms closer and closer to the brink of nuclear war in the wake of Dr. It is only when Nite Owl, another retired adventurer and a former ally of Rorschach's frees Rorschach from prison that they learn the truth. While trying to seek help from another former hero named Ozymandias, Rorschach and Nite Owl discover that all that has transpired has been planned and executed by Ozymandias as part of a terrible plan to save the world from itself.
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Graphic Novels Graphic novels are, simply defined, book-length comics. Links Columbia University Libraries - Graphic Novel Page A university website with a compilation of weblinks, including awards, publishers, conventions, and blogs. Comic Book Resources Comic book news updated daily. Comics Timeline The history of comics in America.
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