Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mouse Guard Winter 1152 Vol. 2: Hardcover collected edition


Mouse Guard

From the University library, I selected the graphic novel Mouse Guard Vol. 2: Winter 1152 (the hardcover collected edition). What first attracted me to this book was the graphic image on the cover. The art is outstanding in this comic. The cover features a bird’s eye view of Celanawe and Lieam, two members of the mouse guard, trekking through the snow. The comic is a fantasy adventure and even though the comic is for young readers and adolescents, it is a comic that can be enjoyed by all ages. Petersen’s art involves an escape into an intense, dangerous and exciting world with a vision that is very different from our own.

 
The mouse guard are soldiers who provide safety and prosperity to their village of Lockhaven. They provide protection against intruders and set out on dangerous missions to help their village. In the Mouse Guard Winter 1152 collection the village is running low on food and medicine for the winter. The guard have been sent forth by Lady Gwendolyn who is the overseer of the village. The guard members sent forth are Celanawe, Sadie, Saxon, Kenzie and Lieam. Petersen uses a bold and extensive colour pallet in his art work. Almost every page in the book has a piece of artwork on it. The inside cover and first page show a map of the mouse territories, so the reader can reference where the mice are on their adventure and where they have been and how far they have travelled.

 
The above picture is a good example of what I love about Petersen’s art. The angle is a bird’s eye view but I love all the attention to detail. The glow of light from the lantern, the shadows of the tree branches on the snow as dusk sets in, the footprints in the snow and the depth that the picture has to relate height from the view point high up in the trees. This is a very sensory diegetic image because the reader can experience the image through visual perception, as the reader can imagine the cold temperature of the snow and hear the crunching of the snow beneath the paws of the mice as they walk. Petersen uses cartoon mice to depict representations of people, as this method is easier for readers to identify with than realistic drawings. Considering the age group attracted to mouse guard this choice makes sense. Cartoon character mice also make it easier for readers to imagine themselves in the fantasy world when the characters are contrasted with realistic looking surroundings.
 
Petersen has really done a good job of personifying the mice characters. Their snowshoes are upturned acorn caps and the shoulder guard that Celanawe wears is half of shell of a nut. Celanawe smoking a pipe adds a human activity to the mice further personifying their lifestyle as civil then animalistic. I think it requires a lot of creativity to personify an animal without losing the character as an animal. I feel that Petersen has mastered this in his characters.
 
The home of the mouse guard is the castle of Lockhaven.
 
The surrounding villages that the mouse guard travel to are all different with each village having distinguishing features that separate them from each other. One of the mouse territories that the mouse guard visit is Sprucetuck, a village inside a giant spruce tree. The Sprucetuck residents are scientists and apothecaries, which is where the mouse guard obtain the medicine they need for their village. Petersen’s imagination is really present within the interior design of Sprucetuck. The reader can imagine what a room looks like by piecing together the images that Petersen provides.
 
The mice are always kept in proportion to the wide gigantic world around them. Petersen uses a lot of long, tall narrow panels to bring the tiny stature of the mice into perspective, as seen in the first panel above. The mice can only be seen as the glow of their lantern before the massive tall spruce tree. As already seen above the artist also uses bird eye view illustrations to show the mice’s tiny size in relation to the world around them.
 
Petersen also provides the mouse world to the reader by the creative and imaginative interior and exterior shots of the mice villages. Even though these mice lead civilized lives, they still have not forgotten how to be animals. When Celanawe and Lieam are caught in a freezing rain storm, they dig beneath the snow to take shelter and wait out the storm. Petersen provides the reader with a cross-section view of the mice beneath the snow, which I find highly imaginative and interesting. I appreciate the artist’s talent in depicting water frozen on the mice clothes and fur because it provides a sensory diegetic experience for the reader.
 
One of the most outstanding artistic feats in this book is the battle with the owl. Petersen remains consistent with the ratio of mouse to owl. This is such a heroic shot to take in, with the huge down draft that the mouse would have to push through as the owl descended. The owl is armed with size, strength, and sharp beak and talons and Celanawe armed with the legendary black battle ax. There are no speech balloons or caption boxes to provide the reader. The reader must use the integrated perceptual experience the image provides to understand what is taking place. This image presents a non-sensory diegetic experience for the reader because the reader has to participate in acting out what Celanawe is thinking as he charges the owl. The reader creates the emotions and sensations that Celanawe feels, in other words the reader provides Celanawe’s psychological state based on their imagination and experience.
 
 








Saturday, November 29, 2014

Wytches #2

Similar to his previous issue, Scott Snyder ensures that his introduction to “Wytches #2” immediately captures readers’ attention. The first page of this issue is an excerpt of a children’s book that the father created. The story is illustrated in a completely different art style and colour scheme from the remainder of the issue to keep it separate from being a part of the character’s lives and make it clear that it is a different story. However, instead of simply showing the father sitting at a desk and working on creating a children’s book, Snyder actually dedicates a full page preview of the book for his readers to examine, and even includes legible text to confirm that the story should be read. This is how we know that this story is important to the remainder of the issue, and it certainly is. As the father explains what the story is about, the moral of his children’s book of being careful what you wish for connects to the similar message in “Wytches”. Placing it as the introduction to this issue also juxtaposes the lighthearted innocence of the story against the violent and evil plot of “Wytches”. Furthermore, it foreshadows the idea that Sailor needs to be constantly aware of herself and her surroundings, as things are not always as they appear to be.

Something that immediately stood out to me in this issue was the way Snyder constructed memories. Often times, when a character was speaking and reflecting back on a time, Snyder changes the scene back to the memory but still includes the voice over from the previous scene as if the character was narrating the memory. The way this was conducted reminded me of how it would be done in a film. I found it interesting to consider how Snyder does not include a narrator throughout the issue, but in this way, he has his character’s voices function as a narrator to report the occurrences of what I think he considers to be important scenes.

Aside from a complete change in colour scheme between scenes, another way that he includes a change of scene is at the end of the issue during two intense and action-filled scenes. Each turn of the page jumps back and forth between these two scenes to overwhelm the reader with an abundance of distorting chaos. It is also important to note that his choice of digitally constructing this comic made this technique very effective, as one simple click of the mouse can allow this transition to occur smoothly. A hard copy of this comic would have still allowed for a smooth transition in physically turning each page, but it would have still been a different experience.

I also noticed many ways Snyder emphasizes intensity in conversations. He includes many close ups and extreme close ups, which often makes the reader feel a little uncomfortable. 

He will also sometimes create one panel outside of a frame and make it a little larger than the other images on the page. While this technique certainly forces the reader’s eye primarily to that image, I noticed that this was often done to invoke a sense of sympathy with characters.

He also included more regularized paneling throughout the beginning of the comic, when more basic and simple conversations were taking place, and switched over to more irregular and chaotic paneling schemes as the story progressed in intensity.


Another common feature in this comic that also occurred in Snyder’s previous issue is his technique of placing all of the panels over one large image that acts as the background, as well as the gutter space for the other panels. I believe that this is used to give the reader an overall sense of what will be occurring on the page as they initially take it all in before reading, using Groensteen’s idea of spatio topia.

When considering the idea of world building in this new realm that includes witches, Snyder uses elements of Genette’s archetextuality concept to set up expectations for the reader. The reader is already expecting a horror comic, considering the elements of paratextuality in the title and cover page. Therefore, including the dark and ominous colour schemes adds to this idea as readers begin reading, and the horror tone is easily and immediately set.

As I began reading the second issue in this series, I immediately recognized the amount of braiding from the last issue and realized the importance of having to read the previous chapter. Similar strategies were implemented, such as paint splatters across pages to represent the presence of the witches and more hints about the mother’s accident. Although I have never read a comic series before, choosing to read two consecutive issues allowed me to notice the importance of starting from the beginning of a series.

Snyder includes many elements of reflexivity in the end of the comic, just like his previous issue. As he breaks down the production process and offers the reader an authorial awareness with an insight on his own personal life, it certainly adds a personal touch and builds a relationship between the reader and the creator. Furthermore, he includes a preview of the next issue to help build anticipation and leave the reader wanting to purchase the next chapter.


I did feel, however, that although it is only the second issue, Snyder still makes the second issue feel like an extended version of an introduction. It seemed like there were many stories being introduced in this issue but not enough answers or even things that kept the story moving. I believe that his intention is presumably to keep the reader wanting to learn more but I felt that there was not enough plot offered to keep me interested thus far. Although I do not think I will be continuing to purchase these issues, I really admired the way Snyder constructed “Wytches” and enjoyed analyzing his choices to discover how meaning was created. 

The Fade Out #3


The Cover:

The cover continues with the white lettered title contained in the hallmark signature red ink blot trailing down to bleed off the cover closely resembling blood. The cover background remains white with the image of the new character Maya Silver applying lipstick.

 
I think that Maya looks similar to 1940’s actress Veronica Lake. Maya is the new actress who takes over for Valeria Sommers.


Cast of Characters:
Some new faces have appeared in the cast of characters, building the ever growing number of people to the story. New characters include: Tom Greavey (Maya’s talent agent), Armando Lopez (Maya’s husband) and of course Maya herself. Maya’s headshot if the only picture that stands out from the rest of the cast of characters, it appears as if to have been drawn by a different artist. She looks more like a present day cartoon image of Barbie then the other cast characters. I find it amusing that Earl Rath’s caption beneath his headshot is always updated. This time it reads “always a charmer.”

 
Story and Theory:
The story begins with a flash back of Mr. Thursby, the founder of Victory Street Pictures. Thursby ditches his car in the Susana Mountains, strips off his clothes and wanders off to leave his life behind him. It was amusing that the fifth panel has a caption box that reads “…leaving everything behind.” and the image shows Thursby with his back to the reader, completely naked. This was a nice use of a pun tied into the image.
 
 
A turn of the page shows where Thursby has wandered off too; he’s joined the society of The Divine Order of the Great Eleven. Considering how consistent the first two comics were with what Hollywood would have looked like in the 1940’s and tying actual historical events into the comic story, I had to research the society to see if it really existed. According to an article from The Los Angeles Times, there was a cult group called The Divine Order of the Royal Arms of the Great Eleven. May Otis Blackburn and her daughter Ruth Rizzio started the cult after angels appeared before May Blackburn. The angels told May to close herself and her daughter off from the world for three years so they could write a book called “Great Six Seal,” and in reward for writing this book, they would be told by the angels the location of the world’s gold and oil deposits. The mother and daughter used this prophetic foretelling in combination with sex, religion and animal sacrifices to obtain money from their followers. I’m including a picture of May and her daughter Ruth. If you are interested in knowing more about The Divine Order of the Royal Arms of the Great Eleven, I have included the link to the newspaper article from The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1999/may/23/local/me-40217
 
Personally I enjoy literature that spends the time on researching historical aspects of the time period related to the story. For me these details make for a more engaging and interesting read. So far I’ve learned two things that I did not know that took place in history at this time, which enticed me to do the research to verify if these events actually took place or not. I enjoying being challenged and educated in this fashion by literature.
 
The panel below suggests an unsympathetic narrator, as the caption box refers to Valeria Sommers as “the other girl - the dead girl.” This adds so much suspense to the comic. Did Valeria first get the part, so that they could start filming the movie, but someone who wants the movie to flop murders Valeria in an attempt to sabotage the film? Did Maya’s jealous husband murder Valeria? Did Maya murder Valeria? Did Earl Rath murder Valeria? Suspicions could be made all over about who murdered Valeria because the plot only continues to thicken and as more people become involved it becomes more apparent that some people know more than they are saying because they may have played a part in the murder, whether they are aware of it or not. The caption box and speech balloons provide a temporal dimension of time and space. The time it takes to read the panel is the same amount of time it takes for the interaction to take place between characters. Comic readers have learned to read the caption box first because the caption box is not a diegetic component of the comic world. The caption box is between the reader and narrator only.
 
I find the below two panels psychologically fascinating. First being true to a comic noir, the majority of the panels are always dark, with low lighting and lots of shadows. The shadows and darkness add to the uncertainty of events, as a reader you do not know what will happen next, you only know that this story will not develop in an organized time sequenced manner. There will be flash backs, brief bits of information, and multiple stories taking place within the same story so as to build the story for the climactic finish when all is revealed.
Maya is in Valeria’s old dressing room, standing before Valeria’s wardrobe closet, to get dressed for filming. The caption box reads “and then she thinks it’s grim luck, more than good…” that she and Valeria share the same clothing sizes. The word grim is bolded, perhaps foreboding of dangers for Maya. Valeria and Maya sharing the same clothing size is also an example of synecdoche as the fact that they are the same size is grim luck, because the reality is that Valeria died and though the rest of the world thinks her death was a suicide, the reader knows it was murder. This panel is also a hermeneutic image because as stated above it is providing a visual metaphor. The reader can see Maya in an American knee up shot. With her back to the reader the darkness and low light from the window silhouettes Maya’s body. This metaphorically plays off Valeria and Maya being the same body size. The caption box also makes the image a psychological hermeneutic image because the caption box provides insight to Maya’s personality and thoughts.
 
In this panel Maya is thinking to herself “I guess it’s down to us then…” as indicated by the thought bubble. Maya is speaking in the plural sense, as if to suggest herself and someone else. Could this be a hint to Maya having a duel personality? Maya’s thought balloon also represents a non-sensory diegetic image because it illustrates an aspect of Maya’s psychological state. The panel occupies a small space in two ways. First, the panel represents the interior of the closet, which is a physical confined space, so the artist uses a narrower lens to focus only on a portion of Maya and the closet. This gives the reader the feeling of being a fly on the wall in a sense in the closet, being witness to Maya and her interior dialogue.


What would be a comic noir without some hissing between two divas? The below page was not only humorous but also provided character insight between Valeria and Maya. In the second panel it is evident that Maya is bitter and condescending. The conversation turns catty and ends with Valeria winning the upper hand in the brief cat fight. Maya’s facial expressions are exaggerated to a degree to really illustrate her personality; a good example of this is the raised eyebrow in the second panel. The raised eye brow is continued in the sixth panel where this time the image depicts Maya doubting Valeria being truly nice or concerning and thinking of Valeria almost as a joke, as if to suggest no one in Hollywoodland could be that nice and be real. This entire page is an example of hermeneutic images and encompassing all three types: psychological, visual metaphor and intertextual references. The whole page is an intertextual reference because any woman can admit to witnessing or being a part of this type of female cattiness. The images are also psychological because they represent Valeria’s and Maya’s personalities and points of view on each other. Lastly, the images are visual metaphors because they prompt reminders to Maya’s history and the challenges she’s faced in trying to become an actress, so that the reader can have a deeper insight as to why Maya may act the way she does and how it reflects in the story with other characters.


There is definitely a dark side to Maya as the below page illustrates. She takes pleasure in thinking of Brodsky hurting her husband. She acknowledges that her pleasure in his pain makes her an awful person and she acknowledges it. Maya’s awareness is present but she’s still able to put it out of her mind and sleep. Obviously Maya has a past and has done things that she is not proud of but feels it was necessary to get to where she wants to be. This page is another example of hermeneutic images which are very psychological and visual metaphors. It’s a cue to the reader for sure that the reader will learn more about Maya yet, that this issue has only scratched the surface to who she is and what she is about.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Oddly Normal #2

Odd, But Surprisingly Good 

The second issue of Otis Frampton’s Oddly Normal certainly does not pack the same punch as its predecessor, however does employ many comic techniques that are worth looking at. To begin with positives of this particular issue, I’d look no farther than the artwork that continues to amaze me. The use of splash pages offers a creative dimension to the narrative, and provides stunning visuals that demand to be looked at and noticed. While the narrative was very simple, I believe it was certainly effective in being a middle ground that binds the events prior to it, to the inevitable events that will succeed it. In that, we get an issue that, while moving the narrative along, does not work entirely well as a single contained issue. The story here is clearly fragmented, in that it’s overall significance must be further looked at in the grand schematic of the entire work. Reading this in serialized form, month-to-month is already providing to be a big challenge. The story is effective in making you want to read more, but it is incredibly frustrating that more does not come sooner. I suppose this is a good problem to have, as the particular story is keeping me engaged, and making me look forward to the next month, to keep adding to the narrative and completing the story. That being said, I will definitely pick up Oddly Normal when it is collected into a single graphic novel.

            I believe it is important to note that difference between the digital copies of the text, to the physical copy. For the first issue, I read the physical comic, which provided a much better reading experience for myself. As a subjective reader, I am open to the digital medium that comics can now be presented in, however, I greater appreciate the physical nature of the book, as it creates a concrete feeling, and a better engagement in the story. There is really no clear way to explain this, however, I had an infinitely better experience with the comic in its original physical form, rather than resorting to reading it online. In this sense, the medium does act as the message.

            One thing I would like to look further into is the following page below. While through a PDF reader, the page appears horizontally, it would be interesting to see how that reading of that page could change in the physical form. I can assume that the book would either need to be turned on its side, or that this page would act as a two page spread, with the spine of the page breaking the middle of it. I would argue that the horizontal page as one solid image would read a lot better than on a physical comic, just because it seems more unified and thus more effective as a “wow, look at this” page. The page is clearly made to represent a climax in this particular issue, and I am rather happy that I got to experience it through a crisp, and clear visual on the computer.
 
Digital Image. How would this translate to the physical text? 
   
Moving away from generalities, I noticed there is a lot in this text that can be applied to the many comic theories we have learned over the semester. For one, in comparison to the first issue, the use of color is almost identical. What I have noticed so far is that there is a heavy use of three main colors, which includes red, green, and bluish-purple. Green to me has been placed in the text to signify anything that is mystical or magical. So whenever something magical happens in the text, usually a character is surrounded by green “streaks” for lack of a better word. Red is often used at moments of climax, or big scenes with our main character, Oddly. In both the first two issues, scenes of climax have used red, and it signifies both a change of pace in the story, and moments of what seem to be both at times of anger and at times where extraordinary or explosive events are happening. Lastly, the use of blue and purple are used at times when the text gets more serious or somber. This color is used as backdrop over the entire text, to relate to the readers the sad or depressing state of our main character.

Issue #1
Issue #2
Issue #2
Issue #1








          
















In terms of the connection between the first two issues, there are a couple areas of braiding in which I’d like to touch on. The first, and more obvious one, is the beginning of each work, which uses the same layout to signify the start of the issue. Instead of jumping right into the story, we are given the title of the chapter, along with an image that takes up half the page. This is a unique touch that is added to bring unity between the two issues, and serves as a great starting point, should this issue be collected as one whole story. Additionally, on the last page of each comic, our main character Oddly reveals something, and is left looking at some type of scenery. This is consistent in the first two issues, and I fully expect it to be the same in issue #3. This is just another way to weave the stories together, and create some type of system for story telling. Each issue ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and we are left wondering what we are looking at, and what will happen next, much like the main character is doing so in her own mind.

Issue #1
Issue #2 

Issue #1
Issue #2

  





































             








Another thing I wanted to touch upon is the filling in of time that we have studied with Douglas Wolk. In his work Wolk explains that we as readers fill in the “lapse of time represented by the blankness of the gutter” (Wolk, 131). In this particular scene below, we are given a concrete gutter, but then we are provided with white space. At this time, it is the reader’s job to fill in that time lapse, which is much more open to interpretation without the gutter guiding or reading. Reading this version online, the “white” moment was revealed in two parts over the flip of a page, whereas I would assume that in physical form it would act as a two page spread, without needing to flip over the page ( I would like to read it in physical form as well). However, because I did read it online, time did in fact slow down quite a bit, as this white space transferred over onto another of a page. Like the character was disoriented in this particular scene, I too became disoriented, both in trying to figure out what was going on, and in trying to determine how much time was passing by.




            Overall, I did enjoy the second issue of Oddly Normal, despite it feeling like a fill-in for what is surely to be a much more exciting chain of events. I still give the book the benefit of the doubt, as I am enjoying the art work, and story telling process thus far. With all new comics, or even TV shows for that matter, they do take some time to really find their form, and formula for success. As a whole,  I will continue to read the series as I believe it has great potential to be a fun, and lighthearted comic that includes some really great story telling, and character development.


Grade : B+

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Fade Out #2


The Fade Out #2

 

The Cover:

Features a man smoking, motion of inhaling demonstrated by that famous universal symbol of the red burning tip of the cigarette. The man’s face is wrapped in bandages, similar to the invisible man. The red water colour ink blot that looks similar to blood as it runs down the cover is repeated from the inside cover of the first issue. Again the blood lines bleed off the cover page. Inside issue two of The Fade Out the reader discovers that the man in bandages is supposed to be Earl Rath’s character for the film he and Valeria Sommers were shooting before she was murdered. As the reader discovers, Earl did not like having his face wrapped in bandages. The scenes shot with the man in bandages is Earl’s double, Morty. What makes the cover interesting is that you cannot tell if the man on the cover is Morty or Earl, adding to the mystery of the invisible man.

 
Some comparison and tid bits on the actual movie The Invisible Man from 1933:
Here’s a movie advertisement from Universal Pictures for The Invisible Man from 1933.
The character on the cover of The Fade Out #2 does not look much like the invisible man from the movie, but the general similarity in the bandages is there. That’s a great thing about comic art, the images are representation of what the artist sees and wants to convey to the reader. In the 1933 movie The Invisible Man was played by actor Claude Rains. Claude plays the character of Dr. Jack Griffin and after his scientific misfortune becomes the invisible man. Claude looks nothing like the comic book lead actor Earl Rath.


Claude’s co-star was William Harrigan who played the character of Dr. Arthur Kemp, Claude’s laboratory assistant. Ironically, William Harrigan looks a lot like Earl Rath, in this picture from the movie The Invisible Man.




Cast of Characters:

On the cast of characters page new characters have been added: Jack “FlapJack” Jones (who knew Valeria as a kid), Melba Mason (Mel’s wife), Mr. Thursby (Founder of Victory Street Pictures), and Frank Schmitt (the director). An interesting point to note is that some of the character descriptions have been updated since the first issue, for example, Gil Mason is now listed as Charlie Parish’s best friend (because Charlie shared details of Valeria’s murder with Gil). What is great about more characters being added is that it builds the story, the reader does not get the whole list of characters from the start, as the characters enter and others die off as the series continues, it builds anticipation for what and who comes next. Brilliant!
 


What I liked and what I found interesting about The Fade Out #2:

To start with I really liked how much caption narration took place in this issue. Of the 144 panels, 49 of the panels are narration. Why I like the caption narration so much is because it increases the intertextuality between image and text. The narration does not necessarily have to speak about what is only depicted in the picture, because the picture is analyzed by the reader and based on the reader’s experience and knowledge. The reader’s involvement is what develops the image to say more about the story then the caption box can. The first page opens up to a panoramic blacked out panel with the title The Death of Me in white letters. The title is metaphoric because as the reader discovers, there are several characters who are having difficulty with the passing of Valeria Sommers. Charlie and Gil, who know that Valeria’s death was not a suicide, suffer greater difficulties as they know the truth behind the Hollywoodland studio cover-up. Perhaps this is a foreboding to the death of Gil who cannot handle the truth of knowing the secret behind the cover-up, or the death of Charlie who cannot live with himself for not going to the police and telling the truth
 
The caption narration begins with a panoramic panel depicting a cemetery with the Hollywood hills in the background. There are people dressed in funeral attire attending the burial of Valeria Sommers. The caption narration says in this panel “The funeral is a small affair, but it still feels fake to Charlie.” This line reminds the reader of the narration caption from the first issue that read “Something in the air made it easier to believe lies.” Charlie knows the truth and because he knows the truth he can’t tell who’s being truly sincere in the loss of Valeria and who’s just acting sympathetic; it would be difficult to tell in a world of actors and false reality. And this is what happens with hermeneutic text, the reader reads the caption box, looks over the image and between text and image, the reader creates meaning. This is what I liked so much about this second issue; as the reader you are constantly making associations between what is not said and what was said in the previous issue and by doing so developing an underlying story.
 
 


Now even though the reader knows that Gil knows about Charlie’s secret, Charlie also holds a secret of Gil’s. The reader knows from the first issue that Gil was a blacklisted writer in Hollywoodland. In the second issue the reader discovers that Gil was blacklisted as a communist. Charlie had shadowed under Gil as a writer before the war, and after the war Charlie could not bring himself to write, as if he had lost his craft. Gil was blacklisted so the two teamed up to write together. Gil dictated to Charlie what to write and Charlie took the credit for the writing as his own.  So even though Gil and Charlie are so opposed to fake realities and lies, they themselves are living lies and fake realities.

 

The fight scene between Charlie and Gil makes it worth discussing because it is rich with comic theory. The first thing to note is the background is now just a red colour with faded red slashes. The reader knows that the fight is taking place in the cemetery but the artist does not have to depict the cemetery background because the reader’s knowledge of the previous panels showing Charlie and Gil in the cemetery. Removing the background allows the eye to focus on the characters. The red background signifies Gil’s anger. According to the Urban Dictionary, seeing red refers to enraged anger that takes control of the individual. The sound effects are anomatopheia, which means that they are invented words that mimic sound. “Kraak” is a non-linguistic sound which can only take place in the sensory diegetic world of the story. The large capitalized letters of the sound effect display the volume and force of Gil’s fist making contact with Charlie’s face. Even though the reader does not get to see the fist make contact with Charlie’s face, the sound effect acts as the timer and point in which the contact between fist and face were made. As the reader reads the word Kraak each of those letters represent the fist and face in contact. As the reader reads the word and makes sense of the meaning, the visual movie player in the brain shows the fist making contact with the face. So even though the actual image of fist making contact with the face is not actually shown, it was seen by the reader in their own mind. When the reader has finished reading the word, making sense of the word in their head and looks to the speech balloon the fist has left the face as shown in the picture. Gil’s shouting is shown in a octagonal speech balloon, almost as if to say he can’t stop himself as he inflicts pain and curses on his only friend Charlie. The blood shown flying from Charlie’s lip is to depict that contact was made by Gil’s fist. Even if someone had never witnessed a fist fight before they could piece together the image to understand that Gil’s fist hit Charlie’s face. The blood from Charlie’s lip is an example of synecdoche because the blood represents more reality then is actually shown in the image. For example Charlie’s pain on contact of being hit by Gil’s fist cannot be illustrated, or the skin and blood vessels breaking as the fist makes contact. These ideas have to come from the readers own knowledge and experience. Personally I have never been in a fist fight before, but I can imagine what the pain would feel like from injuries I have incurred on my own.


 
 

 

The Fade Out #1





The Fade Out #1

 

Having not read comics since I was young, I was not sure what was currently on the comic market that would appeal to me. The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips is a comic noir which so far has appealed to my interest in murder mystery, character development and an appealing story line. The first edition’s cover was a major selling factor for me. I know they say you should never judge a book by its cover but in this case the comic has delivered what the cover image promised.
 

The Cover:

The cover of my copy is bright, blood red, which suggests murder, a major theme in comic noir. The title sits on top of a white substance that represents a plume of cigarette smoke. Smoking is an iconic common activity in comic noir among detectives, bad guys, washed up writers and mysterious sexy women. Running down from the plume of smoke, a white liquid residue runs down over the image of a black typewriter. The trail the liquid leaves behind becomes translucent with an eerie blue tinge, so that the details of the typewriter can be seen through the spill lines. The eerie blue transparency reminds me of looking through a ghost. One of the spill trails pours off the typewriter and onto the red cover and bleeds off the edge, leaving a stark white trail, as if the colour has been bleached out. This part of the image suggests wiping out evidence. A murderer may clean a murder scene with bleach so as not to leave behind any evidence. The keys of the typewriter being visibly clearer through the spill lines suggest that what someone tries to hide, correct or cover up cannot be hidden and most likely will be discovered. The white spill lines also remind me of white out, which is a common substance used by writers to correct or cover up mistakes. Covering up mistakes or a murder is another common theme in comic noir. It is obvious that there is paper in the typewriter, which should be bright white but instead the paper is the red of the cover. This symbolically ties the character writer in the story to the murder story. The typewriter appears as if it were submerged in water with a red light shining on the water. The typewriter being the center image on the cover suggests a dark, story that involves a writer. The title font is black narrow letters similar to the slim lettering popular with the art deco era, which fits the 1940’s time period of the comic story setting.


The Inside Cover:

The inside cover is a reverse of the cover page. A red blot on a white background. The red blot looks like water colour red paint or ink. Red ink is used in editing to make corrections, which suits the comic since the main character is a writer. As the red substance trails down the page it begins to look more like blood as it becomes darker in tone and collects in certain places adding to the darkness of colour and providing a textual aspect similar to blood. There are dark red dots spattered about the red blot which also provoke the image of drops of blood. There is an image of the Hollywood hills in tones of grey and white on the second page of the two page spread. Instead of the popular Hollywood sign saying HOLLYWOOD, the sign says HOLLYWOODLAND. This is metaphorical considering Hollywood is a real place, but Hollywoodland is not. The components of the movie industry are well known in Hollywood and generate a stereotype of Hollywood being fake because everything created and done is all just for the movies, none of it is real. Tying into the idea of Hollywoodland not being real, the word “land” also suggests a theme park, full of fake reality. The image being in tones of grey and white ties into Hollywood films being done in black and white during the time period when the story takes place.

 

The Characters:

The next page opens with a cast of characters. Six characters are listed with black and white headshots, including their name, profession and characteristics. Some of the character's profile pictures look stereotypical to their profession. Earl Rath is a movie star and womanizer. His picture shows him as a handsome, middle-aged playboy. Valeria Sommers is an up-and-coming starlet and in her profile picture her chin is tilted down appearing shy, innocent and naive. Lastly, Phil Brodsky is the Studio’s Head of Security and his profile picture shows him with a wide neck, strong chiselled jaw, army haircut, and tough guy appearance. I feel more can be seen and known in the pictures of the characters than is briefly stated in the character description.


Comic Theory:

The story begins with a blacked out panel with the title words The Wild Party in white font. This blackout panel ties in nicely to the preceding panel where the reader finds the character Charlie Parish fully dressed waking up in the bathtub after blacking out drunk. Text is not required to talk about Charlie’s blackout because of the intertextuality between the first two panels. A caption narrates a flashback Charlie recalls. The preceding panels have captions explaining the flashback. The third panel caption has the bolded word “blackout” adding to Charlie coming to after blacking out. Nine panels show different images related to Charlie’s flashback of the mandatory blackout that took place in Los Angeles after Pearl Harbour.
 
 
 
The second panel on page two shows Charlie’s ex-wife hiding in the closet and Charlie standing outside the closet not offering her comfort; instead he goes outside to smoke. This classifies as a hermeneutic image because it tells the reader something more about Charlie without having to be explained in narration, which classifies as a psychological and intertextual reference to Charlie’s past and personality. This sequence of panels represents non-sensory diegetic images. The red tip of Charlie’s cigarette glowing in the dark gives the reader the visual clue of Charlie inhaling. The motion of inhaling would be really difficult to illustrate and would require multiple panels so comics use the glowing red tip of a cigarette as a universally known symbol for a character inhaling.
 

Charlie is looking up at the night sky full of stars. An image of a starlit sky and a trail of smoke from Charlie’s cigarette complements the caption box saying “There were no planes up in those skies, just stars you normally couldn’t see”, metaphorically speaking of the celebrity stars that can always be seen in Hollywood, whereas the physical stars in the night sky cannot be seen because the city lights blinded the night sky from view. This is another use of an intertextual reference and visual metaphor provided by the use of a hermeneutic image. The last panel shows Charlie sitting up in the bathtub trying to get his bearing's, having pulled the shower curtain down in his attempt to get up. The caption box in this panel says “something in the air made it easier to believe lies,” suggesting that the false reality that Hollywood provides makes it easier to believe the lies that people believe are true. This panel contains an intertextual hermeneutic image that reminds the reader of junk newsstand publications that tell scandalous fake stories about celebrities to encourage people to buy the publication. Something making it easier to believe lies also suggests a cover-up, setting the readers awareness to be on the watch for clues and to read between the lines as the story progresses.
 
This is where I will cut out so as not to create a spoiler for those who have not read the comic. Enjoy! J