Essex County

by Lindsey H., Kayla P., and Eilidh S.

Essex County is a compilation of three graphic novels by the amazing Jeff Lemire. Top Shelf published the trilogy in 2011, but they were originally three separate stories; “Tales from the Farm” (2008), “Ghost Stories” (2008), and “The County Nurse” (2009). In this combined version we are also given two shorter graphic stories that stay within Essex County, “The Sad and Lonely Life of Eddie Elephant Ears” and “The Essex County Boxing Club”. This trilogy pulls on the reader’s heartstrings and gives a bird’s eye view of Essex County, Ontario, Lemire’s hometown. Jeff Lemire is best known for his work for DC Comics but to truly experience the heart and soul of this man you must go back to Essex County, to where it all began.

Essex County is a beautifully crafted tale that centers around the passage of time and the memories that come along with it. So much of this story was defined or catalyzed by the past and the emotions those memories evoked. Even from the first story of a young boy’s Image 1memory, and specifically the memory of a trauma, Les is deeply affected by the passing of his mother. In the second book, there is the constant memory of Lou betraying his brother Vince by sleeping with his girlfriend, and later wife, Beth. This mistake cost Lou much of his happiness and instigated a life filled with regret. There are many other instances in this story of the power of the past and how those memories affect people for the rest of their lives. This leads to the discussion question: There is a theme of childhood and generational changes in this book. Why is it significant to tell this story over the course of four generations and roughly 100 years? What is powerful about showing this timespan and what is the power memory holds?

One of the things that Jeff Lemire has stated in his online blog post is that “all of my Image 2stories start with the setting, and even more than that, location totally informs how my characters and plots grow and take shape. The Essex County books, all started when I decided to do a book set in the tiny Canadian farming town where I grew up.” Setting is clearly one of the most important parts of this story and Jeff’s process as a graphic novel author. In Essex country, so much of the storyline is driven by where they are and how that setting affects the characters. The farm and the city of Toronto are constantly juxtaposed and at odds with each other, paralleling to the different lives lived in each setting. What is the significance of the setting (rural juxtaposed with urban) and how does this relate to hockey? Is there a generational link? Does it show a common thread of interest? Does it evoke a sense of national pride of Canada?

Next, In Essex County, Lemire has created such a unique and interesting style. His Image 3characters range from iconic or realistic and back again. He can emphasize through detail or simplicity and he utilizes black and white versus gray scale. Specifically in this text, Lemire uses gray scale whenever he is depicting a memory. When Lester’s mother dies and her funeral, in the scrapbook Lou finds with all the pictures in gray scale, even Lemire’s childhood sketches are in gray scale. This begs the question: Why do this? What is important about making the memories throughout the book in gray scale? What does it offer to the overall novel?

Finally, the most present symbol throughout the entire book is that of the crow. It is present in every point of transition and in every generation’s story. It seems that the bird is present at most points of transition throughout the book acting like a symbol for the passage of time. Of course, it couldn’t be the same bird throughout all the generations, but there is nonetheless always a bird at times of change. It is possible that the bird acts as the reader or audience does, literally giving the birds-eye view of these people’s lives. The bird acts as a omniscient lens that zooms in and out of focus independent of time or place. What is the purpose of the bird? If it is used as a lens of change, is it used effectively? Is there a symbol that would have been better suited?

Together, these three installments that make up Essex County create a surprisingly cohesive and truly touching story of a family over the span of roughly 100 years. Lemire is able to use his experiences of growing up in a farm town in Ontario Canada to craft an authentically raw story.

Image 4References:

Lemire, Jeff. Essex County. Atlanta: Top Shelf Productions, 2009. Print.

Lemire, Jeff. “Jeff Lemire’s Blog: The Real Essex County.” Jeff Lemire’s Blog: The Real Essex County. Web. 24 Apr. 2016. <http://jefflemire.blogspot.com/2008/11/real-essex-county.html>.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Comics in the Classroom

[The following story appeared in The Morning Call]

Comics in ClassroomLeading her Phillipsburg High School English class in a discussion about the previous night’s reading assignment, teacher Faith Roncoroni posed the typical questions:

How did the plot unfold? How did the story reflect the characters’ experiences?

They’re the sort of questions English teachers ask to get students to dissect Jay Gatsby or Holden Caulfield or David Copperfield.

Or in this case — Superman. [Read more]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Surprising Origin Story of Wonder Woman

[The following article is available at Smithsonian.com]

Wonderwoman-1.jpg__800x600_q85_crop“Noted Psychologist Revealed as Author of Best-Selling ‘Wonder Woman,’” read the astonishing headline. In the summer of 1942, a press release from the New York offices of All-American Comics turned up at newspapers, magazines and radio stations all over the United States. The identity of Wonder Woman’s creator had been “at first kept secret,” it said, but the time had come to make a shocking announcement: “the author of ‘Wonder Woman’ is Dr. William Moulton Marston, internationally famous psychologist.” The truth about Wonder Woman had come out at last.

Or so, at least, it was made to appear. But, really, the name of Wonder Woman’s creator was the least of her secrets.” [Read more]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Exploring the Human in the Inhumane: My Friend Dahmer

by Kaitie B. and Chelsea G.

Monsters. Freaks. Unnatural. These are the terms used to define people who commit atrocities and crimes. Dahmer is by far one of the most well-known serial killers of the day. His murders are notorious for being particularly gruesome and beyond human capacity. While most of the world views him as a bone-chilling killer, one man attempts to tell the story of the man before the monster. Derf Backderf knew Dahmer when they were adolescents, and the title of his book insinuates that they were friends as everyone in a small town is. In one interview Derf says that people forget “Jeff was a human being who Image 1went to high school and had friends.” (Derf City Interview) The general assumption of serial killers is that they are not human, and the time of their lives before losing their humanity often goes unnoticed. Derf shatters these notions in his graphic novel. Through themes such as isolation and neglect, he tells a different story than the rest of the world. (DerfCity interview) To Derf, the infamous Jeffery Dahmer was a character who seriously needed help and attention; but as he passionately questions in his introduction where were the adults? Derf refers to the adults as “inexplicably, unforgivably, incomprehensibly clueless and/or indifferent.” (Backderf p11) If Dahmer had received the help and attention of the adults in his life, the way his life turned out could have been drastically different. What are ways that he shows the staggering lack of attention Dahmer receives from adults-no matter his behavior? Similarly, what are ways the author shows how immensely Dahmer is in need of that attention?

Though Derf is trying to create a story in which people see that Dahmer was not always so Image 2disturbed, he continually shares that his sympathy ends with the killings. (Backderf p11). How does Derf attempt to show Dahmer losing his humanity? In contrast, how does he attempt to humanize him to the reader to illicit that same sympathy he feels? Is it possible to put aside our single-story of Jeffery Dahmer and attempt to understand who he was before he became a killer? Derf attempts to problematize the idea that serial killers are not human by sharing little snippets or moments where his humanity can be seen. For instance, being a homosexual in a time where the society would have been insanely judgmental, or living with a mother who had a severe mental illness and was not being treated properly for it. Facts like these are crucial to seeing the man and the struggles Dahmer faced. Another key contributor to Dahmer’s decent that Derf highlights in his graphic novel is the isolation he faced. How is the theme of isolation presented in the novel? Is it effective? Does it come across as a choice rather than neglect? Dahmer was not just neglected by the adults in his life, he was isolated. His parents gave him little supervision or guidance often leaving him to fend for himself, his teachers are quoted saying that they never noticed anything strange about him showing the incredible distance they had from him, and even his friends only used him for entertainment, ditching him at the earliest opportunity. Through Derf’s approach the world is able to see the strange teen as a person and the events that influenced his loss of humanity.

If you approached this story as Kaitie and I did, with queasy stomachs and wary mindsets, you might have raised the question: “why do we need to read about this?” Upon completing the book I found myself asking the same questions as Derf: where were the adults? I began to question and then understand why he views Dahmer’s fate as preventable. Derf believes that the Dahmer murders and the person he became could and should have been prevented. In your opinion do you feel this is accurate? Could Dahmer have been “saved”? For those who intend to become future educators, how does the role of education and educators play in this idea of “prevention”?

References

My Friend Dahmer; Backderf, Derf. http://www.derfcity.com/interviews/interviews.html

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Peeking Beneath the Unflappable Iron Cape of Superman: Red Son

by Andrew B.

Image 1Why Russia? Since World War II Russia has been portrayed as our cultural antithesis, for very real and propagandized reasons. Regardless, the Cold War defines the world we live in today. Not just our nation, the very world. Everything from North Korea’s nuclear threats to the Taliban-focused War on Terror, to the red-scare paranoia whenever Bernie Sanders says, “I’m a socialist.” All have roots in the U.S.A.’s geopolitical kerfuffle with the U.S.S.R.  So it only stands to reason that a flip flop of our iconic defender of Truth, Justice, and the American Way to “A Never Ending Battle for Stalin, Socialism and the International Expansion of the Warsaw Pact” (p. 13, Red Son) be worth the thought experiment.

Writer Mark Millar says of Superman, “To me, Superman is the son of God and he’s here quite simply to make the world a better place. However, he’s as troubled as Christ was in this forty days in the wilderness or in the Garden of Gethsemane.” (Millar, Superman.nu) This idea of Superman as savior-like is old hat. Being the savior and Russian changes the tone of this God-complex in Red Son, such as in the moment Superman stops the Daily Planet’s globe from falling and simultaneously retrieves a boy’s red balloon. “They realized I was there to save them,” (p. 22 Red Son) the wizened Superman narrates. Here theImage 2 hammer and sickle emblazoned alien from the motherland or our nemesis displays a wide berth of heroic tropes. Or that’s my cynical view. I showed this image to my father and after giving him the gist of the story asked his opinion. He said, “It shows Superman’s strength and compassion.”  The Russians were not portrayed as compassionate, in real life or in the book. In canon, Martha Kent is Superman’s loving mother. She has a brief cameo saying, “Ain’t it enough they got their satellites and enough nuclear bombs to blow us all up ten time over without Stalin’s super spaceman too? I just thank my lucky stars dear sweet Jonathan never lived to see the day this country would be brought to its knees like this;” (p. 12) I wonder if this is a story meant to inspire empathy or simply a reflect our own short comings? Does this book succumb to cultural bias against Russia?

When it’s all said and done, who are we supposed to see as the villain? How are traditional comic roles reinforced or broken? For example Lois Lane and Wonder Woman are reduced to submissive love interests. Is this to reinforce how alike Superman and Luthor are? Or is this merely another example of marginalized females in comics?  I feel we’re supposed to see Superman as having been the hero throughout, even when he reprogrammed dissidents, it wasn’t as though he Image 3killed people or threw them in jail or a labor camp for life. I’m left to question if this is me importing my traditional Superman on to this book, because Lex Luthor is so obviously evil. But if this is so, then how do we reconcile the ending? Our savior Superman becomes manipulated by Luthor with his letter as well as being manipulated by Brainiac. Although I Image 4have a nagging feeling we aren’t supposed to see the letter as a manipulation but a revelation. Superman goes on to fight Brainiac declaring, “At least leaving them alone means they can make their own mistakes again.” He goes on to state, “This isn’t how the world was meant to be. We weren’t born here and we’ve no right to interfere.” Seeing as how Millar views Superman as the “ultimate immigrant” (Millar. Superman.nu) this is a contradictory message, for the “here” Superman says he and Brainiac weren’t born in isn’t the United States, it’s Earth. And on a personal note, I believe people arguing to make their own mistakes is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s tantamount to willingly ignoring the lessons of history. If it’s a mistake, don’t make it. Like leaving the fate of humanity in the hands of Lex Luthor. Despite initial success things fall apart in the end, the gimmick being, Superman was related to Luthor and not an alien after all. Are we supposed to believe that Superman would have ultimately failed the human race as Luthor did? Is the take away that humans will inevitably be their own undoing?

References

Millar, M. (2003). Superman: Red Son. New York: DC Comics.

Millar, M (2003). Red Son. From: http://superman.nu/a/ges/redson/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Interrogating the Role of Cultural Models in Persepolis

Persepolis CoverAn early-morning visit to a local coffee shop reminded me both of the role that cultural models play in allowing us to make sense of the world, and also of their inherent fallibility.

As I sat reading on the coffee shop patio, an older man pulled up on a Harley Davidson motorcycle and proceeded to park opposite me. Distracted from my book, I watched him as he made his way across the parking lot, and I found myself making note of the fact that he wore a black leather jacket emblazoned with a variety of patches, including one depicting the Confederate flag. He also wore a pair of wrap-around sunglasses, black leather boots, faded blue jeans, and a red bandana from beneath which a long, braided ponytail emerged. Based on these signs, I immediately constructed the man as a “biker,” a cultural model that, for me, calls to mind a range of qualities: rough; anti-authority; not especially well educated; and so on. I was therefore caught off-guard when the man unexpectedly stopped walking, bent down, and picked up an empty water bottle that someone had discarded in the middle of the parking lot and then proceeded to place it in a nearby trash can. I was even more surprised when, having reemerged from the coffee shop sometime later with a drink, hetook a seat opposite me and engaged me in conversation about the book I was reading. Before long, we were talking (comfortably, I might add) about our favorite writers, exchanging titles of literary texts, etc. Driving home, I found myself thinking about the narrow cultural model that I had unquestioningly imposed on the man, and the problematic conclusions it led me to draw about him. I was reminded of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie’s (2009) observation that “the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete” (n. p.). As the above anecdote suggests, the same is true of cultural models.

In her introduction to The Complete Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi explains that her decisionMarjane Satrapi to write and draw the graphic novel was motivated in part by her desire to complicate a cultural model that she credits Western media with imposing on people from Iran. Specifically, Satrapi writes:

Since [the Islamic revolution], this old and great civilization has been discussed mostly in connection with fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism. As an Iranian who has lived more than half of my life in Iran, I know that this image is far from the truth. This is why writing Persepolis was so important to me. I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists. (n. p.)

In talking about Persepolis, we might consequently ask how, in the context of the story, Satrapi constructs the aforementioned cultural model, and how—having done so—she proceeds to push back on it in order to deconstruct it. At the same time, recognizing that comics constitute a form of multimodal narrative, we might ask how Satrapi uses the text’s two narrative tracks—one visual, the other verbal—to accomplish this. In tackling these questions, we might consider the opening sequence of panels in which the character of Marji instructs readers, “This is me when I was 10 years old. This was in 1980. And this is a Veil1class photo. I’m sitting on the far left so you don’t see me.” One cannot help but notice the multiple meanings that come into play here. Yes, Marji is positioned physically to the left of her classmates, so that readers are only to glimpse her shoulder protruding into the second panel. At the same time, however, her family, and Iranians like them who embrace a progressive ideology, are for all intents invisible to Western audiences, accustomed as they are to encountering representations of extremists in media reports about Iran.

As another example, note that while Satrapi credits fundamentalist ideology with leading religious leaders in Iran to insist that females wear a veil and cover themselves, she also highlights a similar practice at work in the West through her portrayal of the Catholic nuns that house the character of Marji when she leaves Iran to live in Austria. Indeed, viewed side-by-side, the nuns bear a distinct resemblance to Satrapi’s renderings of fundamentalist Muslim women. In this way, she invites readers to ask why the former are seen as “devoted religious practitioners” while the latter are constructed as victims of an oppressive religion.

Persepolis Image 1_0002Persepolis Image 1_0001

This leads me to wonder, were you cognizant of other occasions in Persepolis when Satrapi uses word and image (either together or independent of one another) to complicate or problematize representations of Iranians as “fundamentalists”, “fanatics”, and “terrorists”?

Literary writers may set out to problematize particular ideologies, but the nature of language is such that they end up reinscribing others. Recognizing this, we might ask whether there are occasions in Persepolis when Satrapi reinforces (even if unwittingly) dominant cultural models. Having taught the graphic novel before, I am always struck by the appeal it holds for many American readers. If the text were as critical of Western cultural models as is often assumed, one might not expect this to be the case. As such, I would challenge us to why/how the text speaks to Western audiences, and whether in doing so it inadvertently reinforces some of the same cultural models that Satrapi aims to complicate.

I look forward to seeing you and exploring these and other questions when we meet for class on Monday. I hope you had a good spring break.

References

Adichie, C. (2009). The danger of a single story. Retrieved from,

Satrapi, M. (2003, 2004). The Complete Persepolis. New York: Pantheon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Variety in Visual Representation in Coraline

by Macie P. and Katherine M.

Neil Gaiman is an English author who started his career as a journalist to try to get connections within the publishing world. However, Gaiman soon found himself tired with the politics of journalism and pursued a career in writing. Gaiman’s most famous works include The Sandman, Coraline, and Stardust to name a few (Neil Gaiman).

Craig Russell is an artist who exclusively works in comics, doing mostly adaptations of other source material and some original work with DC comics such as Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, Hellboy, and Fables. His artistic style is best known for its realistic look, taking inspiration from the real world people and places. When needed he even posed models and photographed them for the realistic feel for which he is known (The Art of P. Craig Russell).

Neil Gaiman began a partnership with P. Craig Russell many years ago with Russell drawing issue #50 of The Sandman. Since then, they have collaborated on many other projects. Thanks to this foundation of friendship, Gaiman fully trusted Russell to adapt Coraline without input from Gaiman regarding the graphic novel’s design.

Coraline is a piece of art that has been through many different styles of interpretation. It Image 1started as a novella by Neil Gaiman that included illustrations by Dave McKean. It was then adapted in 2008 into a graphic novel illustrated by P. Craig Russell. A stop motion film followed, directed by Henry Selick (director of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas). A video game and a musical have also been adapted, showing the love people have for this story.

This brings up some interesting details about how form works in relationship to content and what role visual representation plays in that relationship. Neil Gaiman stated in one interview that he was “so pleased that [the movie] didn’t happen in live action” (Neil Gaiman on Coraline).

Image 2What does Gaiman’s reaction say about the difference between live action realism verses cartoon realism?

There is also a resource linked in our graphic that allows you to hear Gaiman read chapter one of Coraline. It’s interesting to read along in your graphic novel to observe what parts of the narrative Russell was able to cut out, or to re-tell in image form. Do you think that adapting from a novella made this text word-heavy? Or do you think that the narrative load is carried equally with pictures and words?

Craig Russell pointed out in one of his interviews that he viewed each page as a stanza as Image 3in poetry (P. Craig Russell Interview). This is an interesting comparison since we just finished talking about his relationship. As a result, it raises some questions about the poetic nature of Coraline. Do you find this graphic novel particularly poetic? Do you think since it did originate as prose, it lost some of the poetic potential?

The above two questions lead into the contemplation of trying to adapt a work of prose into a graphic novel. What do you think some of P. Craig Russell’s greatest challenges were in this project?

There has not been much dispute over placing this graphic novel in the children’s genre. Most can agree that this is a piece of dark fantasy written for young people. What do you make of Gaiman stating that “children like to be scared”? (Neil Gaiman on the Origins of Coraline) It brings up an interesting point that children’s imaginations are not limited to what makes them comfortable. Furthermore, as a reader of this graphic novel, did you find that it was too easy to read? What value can young adults and adults glean from reading children’s literature?

References:

“About.” The Art of P Craig Russell. 2015. Web. 8 Mar. 2016. Retrieved from:                        <http://www.artofpcraigrussell.com/about>.

“Celebrate 10 Years of Coraline.” Neil Gaiman’s MouseCircus.com. Web. 6 Mar. 2016.         Retrieved from: <http://mousecircus.com/coraline-videos.aspx?VideoID=24>.

“Coraline the Graphic Novel.” WKSU News. Web. 9 Mar. 2016. Retrieved from: <http://wksu.org/news/story/23043>.

“Neil Gaiman on Coraline.” Interview by Empire Magazine. Print. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gviEbYj8sZU

“Neil Gaiman on the Origins of Coraline.” Interview by Harper Collins Publishers. Television. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sd4w6I9F–k

“P. Craig Russell – Adapting Coraline and More.” Newsarama.com. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.        <http://www.newsarama.com/818-p-craig-russell-adapting-coraline-and-more.html>.

“P. CRAIG RUSSELL Interview.” • Sardinian Connection •. Web. 6 Mar. 2016.                      <http://sardinianconnection.blogspot.com/2011/10/p-craig-russell-interview.html>.

Russell, P. Craig., and Neil Gaiman. Coraline:. London: Bloomsbury Children’s, 2008. Print.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seeing is Believing: Visual Style and Representation of Experience and Place in Night Fisher

by Aaron H. and Rachel H.

Kikuo Johnson’s 2005 debut, Night Fisher explores coming of age in Hawaii with dramatic illustrations that are tied together, but not bound by, stark realism. Johnson’s Hawaii is very different from the Hawaii of American pop culture. There are no luaus, grass skirts, coconut tops, pineapples, surfing, Elvis, etc. What we have instead is a beautiful Hawaii populated with real people, rather than stereotypes from our films and cartoons.

NF 1Johnson grew up in Hawaii and his adolescence is put on display rather candidly in Night Fisher. We see him grow up over the course of several months in high school as he tries to reconnect with his old best friend and come to terms with a relationship that didn’t fully materialize. The book begins with topographical maps of Hawaii’s development over millions of years. In his interview with Honolulu Weekly, Johnson responds to a question about his non-traditional portrayal of Hawaii by saying:

“Art often employs archetypes to convey abstract ideas without exposition. Hawaii equals paradise is a pretty pervasive one and something that I was definitely working against. Comics is great at using archetypes because of its simple, paired down visual language of symbols and icons . . . [It] can also convey the specific, something more and more new graphic novels are showing.” (Harold, Honolulu Weekly)

We see other images follow this trend, like the plant species shown in the market scene near the end of the book. Johnson uses these symbols to connect the development of Hawaii to his personal development during adolescence. Are his symbols effective? Is he able to break away from cliches in the bildungsroman to the same extent?

It’s clear that Johnson aimed to demystify Hawaii with Night Fisher, and the starkness of the art coupled with the drug content does this well. Johnson’s inking is intense and black greatly outweighs white. The art is heavy, mirroring the consequences of Loren and Shane’s actions. Some have noted his work’s lack sentimentality, and wondered if this could cause readers to be less willing to relate to the narrative behind the art.

In the same interview, journalist Joel Harold asked Johnson: Part of Night Fisher‘s power comes from its brutal lack of sentimentality. Its characters live, work and play in an existential void. Does your visual style purposefully reflect this? He answered:

“I don’t think so, no. I actually think of the style in which I drew Night Fisher as relatively warm and inviting despite the book’s often stark content. I wanted a very handmade feel to the whole book to emphasize the elements of memoir, so I made every mark with the same tool and never ruled a straight line. It’s dark and raw but also loose and painterly. In the end, I think the contrast between its intimate appearance and its unsentimental voice adds to its impact.” (Harold, Honolulu Weekly)

While the art is obviously beautiful, it conveys a feeling of enclosure that Loren and his friends feel as teens in Hawaii. This is reinforced by the school lesson on evolution in NF 2Hawaii; the teacher mentions in their lecture that one new species arrived to the island every 50,000 years. Did you feel that his art was too stark and overwhelmed the already bleak narrative? Or did you feel like it contributed well to the overall feel of the novella? Additionally, as a reader, how much does an artist’s style affect your opinion of the story? Can “good” art save a story that is lacking? Can “bad” art ruin an otherwise effective narrative?

Like many coming of age stories, Night Fisher involves its main characters experimenting with drugs. While this is often a recipe for disaster in terms of driving a story straight into cliché territory, Johnson handles the subject exceedingly well, and uses creative visual design to put us into Loren’s position both in the nerve wracking experience of finding and buying the meth and the process of using and enjoying it. Johnson uses the image of bees when his characters are using crystal meth in an attempt to describe the characters’ feelings without using words. Did you feel that this use of symbol helped you gain a greater undNF 3erstanding of the experience, or did it fail to communicate physical sensation? Is this more direct approach to describing physical sensation a tool that is unique to comics? How do readers interact with a symbol/words when an author is describing something as abstract as physical sensation?

The Poetry Foundation’s essay series “The Poem as Comic Strip” argues that comics work towards the same goals of poetry by producing heightened language through specific designs. They compare the two genres by saying, “the ratio of printed words to blank space plays a role in whether a poem or strip succeeds” (Poetry Foundation). Johnson’s adaptation of A. E. Stallings’ poem “Recitative” offers a good chance to analyze his approach to designing his comics. Night Fisher employs a great deal of poetic design in its page layouts, specifically its quiet scenes, which are controlled by the time the reader spends with each image, rather than the time spent reading words. During your reading, did you feel that certain pages utilized more “poetic” design than others? Is the comparison between poetry and comics appropriate? What effect does Johnson’s visual design in these more poetic passages have on you as a reader, and what does this say about comics compared to other mediums like film and prose?

References:

Honolulu Weekly – http://honoluluweekly.com/story-continued/2005/11/unsentimental-journey/

Poetry Foundation – http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/181161

All pictures from Johnson, R. Kikuo. Night Fisher. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2005. Print.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dennis the Menace Has an Evil British Twin

DennisThey were born simultaneously, in March 1951, two entirely independent and wildly contrasting Dennis the Menaces. One was the creation of Hank Ketcham, a former Disney animator in California. The other was the brainchild of the British cartoonist David “Davey” Law. Neither had any knowledge of the other’s Dennis until both debuted in the same week—Ketcham’s in the funny pages of 16 U.S. newspapers and Law’s in the venerable and anarchic British weekly The Beano. Each Dennis would carry on for decades, spawning TV shows and theme-park attractions.

Mischief was the common concept: Both Dennises were rowdy boys, running amok, turning the grown-up world on its head. American Dennis was a little tearaway in dungarees, an adorable scamp pestering poor Mr. Wilson next door. He did and said the darnedest things; you couldn’t stay mad at American Dennis. British Dennis was much further along the mischief spectrum—a disturbed maverick of pre­pubescence, a bully, a nemesis, a persecutor of “softies” (in particular the unfortunately recurring Walter), a mean-minded vandal with whom the authorities were in a permanent and justified rage. [Read more]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Words and Pictures (2013)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment