Thursday, October 30, 2014

Batman Hush vol. 1

Batman Hush
Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee & Scott Williams

            The comic I have chosen from Leddy is Batman Hush By DC Comics.  I have never read a comic prior to taking this class, but I am familiar with Manga.  Though I have always been interested in superheroes, I have never explicitly read about them in comic form.  It was an interesting experience to look at how the creators display the heroes who I have become familiar with mainly through film; it was a different experience entirely.  The creators are able to give more of a background and knowledge into the characters than they do in film. 

    Batman (Bruce Wayne) is a fictional superhero owned by DC Comics.  The character was created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, and first appeared in Detective Comics #27, May 1939.  He was originally named “the Bat-Man”, also referred to as “The Caped Crusader”, “the World’s Greatest Detective” or “the Dark Knight”.  I would like to mention that DC has depicted Batman in few different forms, including alter egos, and future depictions.  In this series Bruce Wayne is the focus.  The DC Multiverse features worlds outside of the DC’s main continuity, and so they are able to explore further paths for the characters.  This comic remains within the main continuity, featuring Gotham city as well as Metropolis. 
            The Hush series depicts a mysterious stalker called Hush, who is intent on sabotaging Batman from afar.  The series runs through the Batman monthly series and features guest appearance from many of the Batman villains. Having witnessed the murder of both of his parents as a child, he swore revenge on criminals, an oath stated with a sense of justice.  Unlike most superheroes he does not possess any superpowers, but has trained himself physically and intellectually, using detective skills, intellect, science and technology, wealth, physical prowess, marital art skills, fear and intimidation in order to complete his task.  The series opens with Batman rescuing a little boy from the villain Killer Croc and quickly introduces two other villains Poison Ivy and Catwoman.  Catwoman steals the ransom money from Killer Croc and delivers it to Poison Ivy, having been put under her spell.  Catwoman and Batman team up with Superman after tracing Poison Ivy to Metropolis.  Hush is not revealed in the first volume, though he is seen from afar, just not named as of yet.  Catwoman and Batman are intent on finding out who is responsible for the attacks from both villains.  The romantic relationship between Batman and Catwoman is something that is emphasized in this comic as well, featuring a series of kisses shared between the two.

            I would like to take a look at coloring, as it changes with the location of the story line, as well as the use of paneling and the multiframe.

            In regards to coloring, Scott McCloud points out in Understanding Comics that Superheroes were traditionally drawn in primary colors to grab the audiences’ attention.  Colors were iconic in costuming as well.  McCloud points out that the coloring has an affect on the readers experience on every level.  This is seen here in the depiction of Gotham, Metropolis, and Batman’s memories.  When Gotham is being featured the color scheme has more of a grey scale quality to it, whereas Metropilis is drawn mainly in primary and bright colors.  This could be representative of the fact that Batman is now a “boy scout” as he points out to Superman on various occasions throughout this comic.  Batman is depicted as being of the night, and so he is mainly shown at night in the comic, and therefore is drawn with a dark color scheme.  Batman himself says, “Does it ever get dark in this city? Even at night, it’s lit up like it’s important or something”.  Batman himself emphasizes 

 the fact that Metropolis is drawn so brightly. 

            Coloring also changes where when he is having a flashback, making the color scheme much brighter and hazier. This made it easier to tell what was a flashback, and what was a more current memory, or thought of Batman’s.

            The paneling within this series is mostly in keeping with Thierry Groensteen’s theory of quadrillage from his book The System of Comics, with strict multiframes. There are instances where he utilizes the full page spread, how the creators of Hush do this is interesting to me as it represents the theme of the “double page” also discussed by Groensteen. He states that the pages have to be aware of each other.  Though the left is the one seen first, it must be dependent on a “natural solidarity”.  Hush breaks this concept in many cases through the use of a single page layout, on the left, directly before a scene change on the right.  The two pages are aware of each other, but they use the single frame to create a natural end to the previous scene.  The reader’s eye is drawn to the single page more than the regular paneling sequence on the second page. Therefore creating more of a reveal on the second page, and keeping the element of surprise since the eye is busy taking in the full page. 
This page appears on the left, then the scene change is on the right

(p74-75 & 92-93 Are other examples)

            Moreover, Jesse Cohn’s Mise-en-Page: A Vocabulary for Page Layouts, discusses the use of the grid and the control of the gaze.   He states that without a grid the readers’ eyes become free to move over the whole page.  The instances with the single panel pages do not allow this; they cause the gaze to remain on the left side of the page to take in the whole picture, having the opposite effect that Cohn states, in my opinion. 

I enjoyed reading this comic, and found the story line interesting, even though reviewers have taken issue with the fact that Batman’s identity is well known by many people in this series. I enjoyed the focus on the relationship between Catwoman and Batman.  I think that the fact that so many characters knew of the identity of Batman simply adds to the humanistic characteristic behind an otherwise dark character.  The creators are able to build on the relationships has with other characters in the DC universe.  The layouts were easy to follow and creative.  I loved the use of narration throughout the comic, contrasted with the speech bubbles and action bubbles adding an outside voice to the story line, rather than simply watching it play out. 

Works Cited:
Groensteen, Thierry. The System of Comics. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2007.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics.  New York, NY: First HarperPerennial, 1994

Cohn, Jesse.  “Mise-en-Page: A Vocabulary of Page Layouts.”  Teaching the Graphic Novel.  Ed. Stephen E. Tabachnick.  New York: Modern Language Association, 2009.  44-57.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

'68: Homefront

Dana Carson 
'68: Homefront
Written by Mark Kidwell, ’68: Homefront issue two is a horror comic about a small town faced with a zombie pandemic. The artwork in this comic is filled with realistic and horrific images. The dark, dull colors work well to evoke a mysterious and unglamorous setting while the blurred lines evoke fear as the images take on a creepy distortion. Alongside the greys and blacks, hints of yellow and red depict gore and danger but also guide the eye to certain panels and parts of the panel. As Jesse Cohn discusses, controlling the gaze is always being thought of when producing any aspect of a comic. For instance, the red in the below image is immediately where your eye is drawn. The panel within the panel then quickly accounts for the blood with a lesser yellow blast that the eye draws towards. In this panel, meaning comes backward after seeing the effect and then following it to the cause. The bleeding out of the panel, in a literal and technical sense of the term, is largely for dramatic effect and creates some depth to the 2-D medium.

The font within the speech balloons, as well as color and shape, tell us something about who is speaking. The zombies have a black speech bubble with jagged letters and outline with all capitals whereas the humans have a beige simplified font. This puts the zombie in opposition, it makes it different on communication level and furthers the idea that they are to be feared. The background is black forcing the reader to move through the darkness to get to the next panel. The gutters are implied without being neatly squared off and there is much variation to the grid throughout the comic. The circular panels parallel the eyes of Bobby in the below panel. The fragmentation helps add onto the horror conventions by giving unclear and panicked images much like what is done in film. The arbitrary, hermeneutic image in the middle of the two circular panels acts to direct the eye towards the third panel with its angled motion. In our peripherals, we see a frightened gaze, which places us alongside the character. We identify with the character in the scene. Charles Hatfield describes this panel page relationship as sequence versus surface tension.

Multimodality is essential to understanding how this comic is functioning. For instance, we do not get a description of what Bobby has seen, we are told simply that, “Y-you… Don’t wanna get any closer”. We are visually shown the zombies. Moreover, the images show one thing, but it is not until we read the narrative that we find out Bobby is having a memory and that the images are not in present time. We are shown that the character is scared by gesture, as mentioned previously, the circular panels work spatially to further the comic understanding as does our understanding of a horror comic. Much of the emotion we get in this comic actually comes through essential choke shots depicting strong emotions such as fear or sadness. We know by conventions what is to be expected and felt in a horror narrative.

Repeated and transformed throughout the comic are the eyes. There is a mass emphasis on the eyes and gazing. If you look at the examples throughout this blog, almost all of them have a focus on eyes. This is what would be called braiding. It networks the panels together to weave a connection. How the eyes change is important to understanding the panel. In one part, eyes show sadness or fear, in another they show death or possession. Truly, eyes are used to tell something about the character connected to them. This is within multimodality but it also speaks to monstration. What the image is showing us as opposed to what is being narrated. We are getting the information across by other means than a literary narrative.

Colorama (from Black Cat #45, August 1953).

Huffington Post Piece on Why Comics are Important

A very useful piece by Bill Kartolopoulos on how and why to read comics, and the connections between reading comics and reading digital texts. Includes several ways to look at readers' eye movement in a page from Little Nemo.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Leddy Library Research Question Competition

An announcement from Leddy Library that you all might think about as you work on your final projects for class:

Next spring, the University of Windsor will bill launching its first annual undergraduate research conference called UWill Discover! This fall as a precursor to the conference we're holding the first Leddy Library Research Question Competition. Students can submit a research question that they're interested in for a chance to win a 50$ prize and to have their question prominently displayed on campus prior to the conference. More information can be found here:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Sound Effects" - Wally Wood (from Mad #20)

Take a look at Wally's Wood's ingenious comic, "Sound Effects!" the first page of which you can see below. A useful piece in considering ideas from Kannenberg, Carrier, and Groensteen. Thanks to Jeff Overturf for making the comic available.

Playing with Frames - Little Sammy Sneeze

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wonder Woman

Cover page for Sensation Comics featuring:

Wonder Woman (Issue No. 1)


The comic I've chosen is a DC Comic called "Sensation Comics featuring: Wonder Woman." I never read comics prior to taking this class so this has been a totally new learning experience for me. I figured I would start off my first blog entry with an action genre.

I’ll start by giving you guys some background knowledge about Wonder Woman. She is a fictional character created and based off of Greek mythology. She is a warrior princess of the Amazons. When outside of her own world she goes by the secret identity of Diana Prince to conceal her powers and true self. She is one of the few heroines in comics and therefore serves as a feministic icon. She possesses many combat and battle skills, but above all, she fights for justice, peace, love and gender equality.

This first issue has a lot of interesting aspects to it, I want to look at in particular the action that this comic creates, the colour schemes and art style; looking at the inclusion of realistic images within a fantasized narrative. Along with my own comments, I will be referencing Scott McCloud’s theoretical work Understanding Comics. Since we have treated his work as a basis for this course, I thought it fit to refer back to his points on various topics.


I want to start off with this strong image of Wonder Woman running away from an explosion. McCloud states that “these conspicuous action lines have the ability to depict action with drama” (McCloud 112).

The lines present that there is an explosion behind her and show the abrupt movement of rocks flying all over. These lines are working outwards and away from Wonder Woman which signify that it is overpowering.

The lines underneath her foot come out towards us and they show that she is running away from the explosion. She is running towards us, almost out of the panel and off of the page it might seem.

McCloud introduces us to the term ’polyptych’ and defines it as ‘a moving figure or figures is [are] imposed over a continuous background” (McCloud 115). This panel clearly depicts a polyptych as Wonder Woman’s figure is running away from the explosion as the explosion is occurring.
Next, I want to look at a tier of three panels on the third page of the comic book. These three panels side-by-side stood out the most to me because of their contrasting colours.
McCloud says that through the evolution of comics and the printing commerce, "colours were picked for strength and contrasted strongly with one another, but on most pages no one colour dominated" (McCloud 188).

Typically, a distinctive feature of action comics is the bright colour palette. In this example we see that there is a strong contrast with the primary and secondary colours of the superheroes. These three images force our eyes to take it all in at once. The colour in particular is really eye-catching.

In the first panel, we see Flash’s bright red suit contrasted by the yellow details, which in whole is contrasted by the light blue background.
The second panel shows Green Lantern with his typical green and black suit emphasized by the bright green outlining his character. The bright green outlining makes him stand out more from the different shades of blue in the background.
In the last panel Super Man’s iconic blue, red and yellow suit stands out against the enemy’s purple and green colour.

                       ART STYLE

My final point refers to the distinctive art style of this action comic. All characters are created in a realistic way which is juxtaposed to the fantasy diegetic world of the narrative. Wonder Woman’s muscle structure is very prominent, her facial structure and hair resembles a real human being.

This is the perfect example because it is contrasted by the fantasized narrative and background of this particular panel. We can tell by the twirling lines that are coming out of the movement of her arms that it implies she is flying off from this scene of action.

The whole scene is a part of the diegetic world because it works in sequence with the comic’s narrative. The overly dramatized background plays with the unreal image of Wonder Woman flying off. With this in mind, everything that is going on behind her, (including the lines of motion and background) contrast the realism of her physical characteristics.

Overall, this was a really cool comic to start off with and I’m excited to read the next issue. It has a lot of cool aspects to it and what I love about it most is that the colours really jump out at you. It helps to have some background knowledge on the superheroes in general because there is a lot of intertextuality throughout this comic. It always references back to other superheroes that we have no doubt heard of through the media and the film adaptations on screen. Looking forward to hear what you guys have to say!

Works Consulted:
McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics.


Monday, October 20, 2014

How First Second Books Chooses Format

A very interesting look at how format is chosen at one comics publisher. It's fascinating to see the discussion of both their perceived markets and the ways that the format needs to fit the material.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Copperhead #1: Layout, Style, and Colour in a Space Western Comic

Page 1 of Copperhead, Issue #1, Image Comics.
Writer: Jay Faerber     Artist: Scott Godlewski
Colorist: Ron Riley     Letterer: Thomas Maurer
The first issue of Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski’s Copperhead begins with a combination of haste and patience: a levitating train speeding through a the panoramic of an alien desert, with gloomy passengers sitting still beside empty seats, motion lines capturing the outdoors that whizzes past beyond the windows. Wide panels mimic the wide angles of old Western films, and a pastel colour pallet which alternates between gloomy, indoor blues and scorching, sunny oranges immediately suggests an atmosphere which is at once melancholy and brimming with the potential to burst into action. This contrast is weaved throughout the issue as the images which signify it - the whizzing motion lines next to still passengers, the alternating indoor/outdoor colour palettes, etc. - are repeated.

Any good space Western acknowledges the themes and devices that signify the western genre. The most obvious of these in Copperhead is the relation between the characters and their environment: artistic choices help to convey a sense of the frontier, capturing the characters inside of it and pinning them against it. The backgrounds - whether they are sunny desert landscapes or gloomy sci-fi interiors - have a rich watercolour texture, using colour to convey grainy, rocky, and cloudy details in the ground, buildings, and sky. The characters, however, are more simplified - with mostly solid colours and the occasional shadow or subtle gradient. This adheres to Scott McCloud’s concept of amplification through simplification; simple, iconic faces create relatable, identifiable characters. Placing these characters in a world more rich in detail, as McCloud indicates: “allows readers to mask themselves in a character and safely enter a sensually stimulating world” (43). In Copperhead this is especially significant, as Sheriff Bronson and her son are also entering a foreign new environment, full of dangerous potential. Off-kilter shots, wide, empty skies, and sharply-angled shadows (as seen on pages 6 and 7, for instance) add to the feeling of confusion and fear which accompany entering an alien environment.

Page 5
The first issue of Copperhead makes extensive use of wide establishing shots which bleed to the edges of the page, gradually fading behind a grid of closed panels. This allows us to get a sense of the environment before narrowing in on closer panels which reveal the action of each scene. These larger shots also convey a stillness which contrasts the smaller panels. To use McCloud’s language again, the larger panels serve for most scene-to-scene transitions, while the smaller panels contain more action and move at a faster pace, conveyed through action-to-action and moment-to-moment transitions.

This particular layout of the page is used throughout the issue. It provides a structure which the reader can identify as demarcating a particular scene, and it turns the desert landscape into almost an icon of its own, or at least a set of icons (i.e. the moons in the sky, the billowing clouds of dust, the alien birds) which is, to use Theirry Groensteen’s term, braided throughout the text. This repetition of both the page layouts and specific images in the scene solidify the atmosphere and setting of the text, and force a certain level of unilateral reading - considering each scene as it relates to the others, and as it references previous pages.

Pages 6 and 7

On page 23, we see what Groensteen might describe as a tension between synchronic and diachronic elements on the page - between the co-presence of panels spatially and the reading of the story sequentially. At first, we see a repetition of the gridding provided on previous pages: an establishing shot which bleeds to the edge of the page, with closed panels on top of it as it fades in a gradient toward the bottom. Yet, when we reach the bottom of the page this pattern is disrupted, as we see that the establishing shot continues past the closed panels, and in fact reveals a scene which occurs - in the story - after those panels. Here chronology in the story and spatial order are disrupted, as what was originally taken to be an establishing shot taking place prior to the enclosed panels is actually part of a larger panel which takes place afterwards. In this case, that tension between spatial and temporal order forces the reader to take in the page as a whole; it makes the environment of the establishing shot seem much larger than it was on first impression, and it slows down the pace of the story even more than a separate, wide establishing panel would. Instead of seeing five panels in order, we see three panels overtop of a larger panel, such that the inner panels become almost an afterthought or a flashback, indicating the events which led to the scene depicted in the larger one. The layout places the events of the scene clearly within an environment, so that they are diachronically and literally enclosed and surrounded by it. This lends itself beautifully to the western trope of vast, powerful environments, spaces whose impressive size provide space for action, and whose oppressive natural elements determine the conditions which those characters are subjected to.

Page 23

Copperhead’s first issue demonstrates clearly how the spatial layout of the page in combination with iconography and artistic style immerse the reader in a particular environment. If this attention to structural detail continues in future issues, it will prove to be an engrossing addition to the space western genre.

Works Cited:
Groensteen, Thierry. The System of Comics. Trans. Bart Beaty and Nick Nguyen. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. 2007.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperPerennial. 1994.

Guided View


           I had initially planned on focusing on Remender and Tocchini’s apocalyptic sci-fi series "Low," published by Image.  While I will reference the second issue of "Low" throughout this post, my attention will not be focused on the comic, but the digital medium in which I read it.
           I purchased a hardcopy of first issue of "Low" but could not find the second, and so I was forced to purchase a digital version from Comixology. I have only recently started using Comixology and I was unfamiliar with the Guided View feature available in their comic reader app, so I decided to give it a try. The Guided View feature presents panels one at a time “in a way that mimics the natural motion of the user's eye through the comic,” ( To gain a better understanding of how Guided View alters the reading process I read "Low" #2 twice, once with Guided View and once without – both were completely different experiences.
In his text The System of Comics, Thierry Groensteen writes “at each ‘step,’ the question is asked at least virtually: Where must I direct my gaze next? Which is the panel that follows, in the order assigned by the narrative?” (34). When reading comics in the traditional way (seeing the full page, whether digitally or on paper), artists and writers tend to rely on page design, artwork, gutters, and speech balloons to gently nudge the reader along in certain directions.  Below (figure 1), is the first page of the second issue of "Low." The dark blue arrow indicates where my eyes were drawn to (and led) by the text, while the light blue arrow indicates where my eyes were guided by the artwork.

While I cannot say with certainty that this was how Remender and Tocchini intended the page to be read by their readers, it is likely that some of the numerous elements that directed my gaze were intentional. However, with Guided View, this directing of the readers’ gaze is more heavy-handed, and readers are no longer free or able to assess the page as a whole. While I disliked Guided View, its restrictiveness completely altered the pacing of the issue. Below are the panels as they are presented in Guided View, which can be compared to the page in its entirety (figure 1), offering a taste of the differing experiences each reading presents.

Groensteen says that “the panel is a portion of the page and occupies, in the hyperframe, a precise position,” and that this precise position “determines its place in the reading protocol,” (34). Yet, in Guided View, the reading protocol is determined for us since we are never presented with the page in its entirety. In fact, it would not be a stretch to claim that each panel becomes a page of its own as you view it, and in turn loses its precise position in the initial page which is not available to the reader in Guided View. This also means that the tension between panels (one of the four types of tension within a comic, as discussed by Charles Hatfield in "The Art of Tension"), is significantly altered, if not absent entirely. Once each panel becomes a page onto itself, Jesse Cohn’s idea of mise-en-page (the meaning created by the layout of the page, found in "Mise-en-Page: A Vocabulary for Page Layouts") is undermined as well, and readers can no longer easily re-evaluate panels and their relationship to the panels that surround them.
Even gutters disappear, at least in the traditional sense. No longer are there physical spaces between panels; they have been replaced by the intervals of time it takes one panel to transform into the next. Groensteen describes the spatial gaps between panels (traditional gutters) as resembling musical pauses/beats (60), yet the gutters created by Guided View do not resemble these types of pauses and beats, they are pauses and beats.
With a comic like "Low," and indeed most comics in general (with the exception of those that were designed to be read in Guided View), this new medium has the potential to alter the meaning we create from these texts as readers. This is something we risk as the medium of comics, and more specifically digital comics, evolves. As Scott McCloud points out, this can be expected when “appropriating the shape of the previous technology as the content of the new technology” (TED Talk). While Guided View does not make "Low" unreadable (it is still interesting, just different), and it does not completely alter all meaning within the text, it is interesting and important to understand the effects it has on our experience as readers.

-Andrew Kovacevic