Monday, November 30, 2015

Braiding Reaching Across Eleven Years of "Archie"

Mark Waid made a great arthrological connections in Archie #3.  General arthrology was coined by Thierry Groensteen.  The characters have had a drastic makeover.  The lines of the illustrations are completely different.  The outfits are fashionable for today, and the secret communication happens via texting instead of passing notes.  One thing that has not changed is the look on Betty's face when she thinks Veronica has stolen Archie from her.  The image on the right is from "Love Showdown" which can be found in The Best of Archie Comics.  Image of the left is from Archie #3.  Even though 11 years have passed between these two comics, Waid knows Archie fans will be familiar with the friendly rivalry between Betty and Veronica.  The amazing part is Waid has taken the exact same shot from "Love Showdown."  The panel is even filled the same.  The expression on Betty's face is very similar in both photos with the one on the left looking a bit more like revenge.  A section of Betty's bangs even fill the middle of her forehead.  The panels play a different role in each comic.  The panel from "Love Showdown" is in the middle of chapter two.  It is placed as the second panel in a six-panel grid.  Betty is continuing the story.  In Archie #3 the panel is found on the final page and very last panel (#3 in the third tier) of the issue.  Betty is finishing the story...for now.  The panel shape and size has changed from a square common to the old style of comics to a rectangle familiar to the modern comics, but the call back to the right image is undeniable.  The braiding between the two comics allows the reader to guess what will happen in the next issue, but it is still a mystery.
Page 22                         Page 339

Yolanda Macfarlane

Text and Image Relationships: Adventure Time #46

Figure 1 (Adventure Time #46, p.3)

The relationship between text and images is an interesting facet of comics study, being that it is an essential linkage between two factors that to most definitions are required of a comic. Although Douglas Wolk disagrees with Scott McLeod on crucial factors of comic theory, he presents a similar idea that drawings and text work together to create meaning and that each communicate different things more effectively (Wolk 128). Generally we might assume then, that text and images are working in harmony to achieve their effect. However, this issue of Adventure Time is an excellent of example of the creation of tension in plot because of relationship between text and images, while also being an example of the complimentary relationship mentioned earlier. This harmony is shown on page 3 (figure 1), which is one large panel with many speech bubbles

The text boxes work with the image to indicate movement of the characters as they are diving downwards in the panel, this “visual short-hand”(Wolk 120) allows the reader to feel the passage of time and movement of the characters in one panel. While this could have been done in multiple panels, the use of one large panel and text to this effect develop a sense of the setting in a more effective manner. The use of text in this panel is also an example of Wolk’s idea of “language as a timer” (Wolk 129), in that the speech bubbles descend incrementally, allowing the reader to take in parts of the panel image at a regulated pace.

Figure 2 (Adventure Time #46, p. 5)

The tension is created on page 5 (figure 2), where instead of complimenting the events depicted, the hologram character is narrating a journey that does not take place, and yet attention and equal spacing in the panel is given to the speech bubbles. I first wondered why this speech did not take up less room as it seemed secondary to the “main action”. This disconnection between image and text is effective in creating tension between the characters inaction and the seemingly urgent task they are supposed to be accomplishing. This creates a type of irony that as David Carrier mentions arises because we expect that speech balloons feature text that is heard by the characters in the panel (Carrier 34), and yet they are not listening to the speaker. This also contributes to the foreshadowing of events, as with the typical “hubris” of a character, ignoring warnings or good advice usually ends badly. And indeed the final page of the comic leaves us with confirmation that bad things are about to happen because of Finn and Jake.

J. Steinhoff

Works Cited

Carrier, David.  “The Speech Balloon; Or, The Problem of Representing Other Minds.”  The

Aesthetics of Comics.  University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000.  


Wolk, Douglas.  “Pictures, Words, and the Space Between Them.”  Reading Comics.  New 

York: Da Capo Press, 2007.  118-34.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Under the Colour of Darkness

Colour plays a huge part in the second issue of the Plutona series.  The first 16 pages (page 10 exempted) are all set in the darkness of the forest.  In McCloud’s Understanding Comics, Kandinsky is noted for believing “that colors could have profound physical and emotional effects on people (185).  The darkness portrays the characters’ variety of emotions and the fights that ensue because of Plutona’s death.  The first panel on page six shows Teddy’s reaction to Ray wanting to film the dead superhero.  Teddy acts violently by slapping the phone out of Ray’s hands, and the reader can see the emotion of anger in Teddy’s face.  

The theme of death is heightened because of the dark background.  The characters are learning how to deal with death and specifically how to handle the secrecy and darkness Plutona’s death brings.  The mood the black background carries brings out the worst in all of the characters.  Diane, who up to this point has been one of the quiet characters, yells at the top of her lungs to stop the boys from fighting (7/2).  The green emanating from behind her adds to the loudness of her command.  The comic brightens when Teddy is talking  about the other superheroes.  The change in colours allows the reader to know that those panels are not in the same time or place as the main characters; Teddy is only telling a story. 

After the sequence of dark panels in the forest, the panels lighten up when the characters are in their home environment.  Apart from the far off looks in their eyes these environments are untouched by the death.  The brightness signifies a sense of normalcy.  In Ray’s case the panel is still dark which echoes the same darkness and death found in the forest (17/3).   

When all Mie and Diane have gone to bed, they are all alone, no longer surrounded by their families, and their dark thoughts from earlier that day are surrounding them in the darkness of the rooms (19/1-2).  Ray continues in the darkness of his own life while possibly still thinking about what went on in the forest (19/3).  The reader then expects to see a similar panel for Teddy, but instead he is gone which adds to the mystery (19/4).  

The darkness left me with an overall sense of dread by the end of the issue.

Yolanda Macfarlane

Storytelling in Black Canary

The Fletcher and Wu Black Canary picks up a character with a previous book (Birds of Prey volume 3 of the New 52 relaunch) of 3 years and starts virtually from scratch. Instead of continuing with the crime fighting crusade in a more practical superhero costume, Dinah Lance is set to front a band in the old fishnets.

The series, having only been in print for six issues, suggests more by overtly saying less. Despite being the protagonist, Dinah Lance says little and doesn’t even thought box an introduction along the lines of “My name is Dinah Lance... and [insert some sort of really short introduction here before the credits],” or throughout the comic. Unlike, say, Batman, whose thoughts are revealed to the reader as he investigates crimes by his lonesome, or virtually every other superhero out there who either intentionally or unintentionally narrates their experience, Dinah’s thoughts remain a mystery to the reader.

Instead, the comic alienates the reader by deviating from that standard form, and instead follows the story of Black Canary from the outside – as a fan, and not just a fan of the character or of comics, but as both that and a fan of Dinah – D.D. – as a musician. The book plays on the idea that Black Canary is a real.

Panels from the page are framed as articles, the first page being the most notable. Following that, there are no thought boxes, but instead, details about Dinah’s tour (as the story starts in medias res – in the middle of things) are provided through a blogger or even a video that catches the reader (that’s us!) up to speed, and provides a little bit of insight into what’s to come.

The comic, as a comic, does show the reader what goes on off-stage, but later blogger Tantoo la Biche and sometime narrator of Black Canary does manage to find information regarding Dinah, and publishes it in the form of an article, which is literally shoved into the comic. New readers may or may not have known about Dinah’s ex-husband and past (comic book characters rarely ever have one stable backstory as it is), and so the information comes out in an interesting but comfortable way – the narrative plays out and introduces him in the narrative world while la Biche’s article touches upon Dinah’s character’s history in her previous book, Birds of Prey in both the real world and comic world, blending the two together. The reader, grouped into being a fan of the book and the band, is suggested to know just as little as the press and fictitious fans in the series (even though the reader obviously knows more), but experiences the information as it unfolds in the narrative and comes out in implied blog posts and articles.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Page Layout and Colour in Toil and Trouble #2

After reading the first installment of Mairghread Scott’s “Toil and Trouble”, which tells the story of Macbeth from the point of view of the famous three witches, I was excited to see what #2 had in store. Despite previous familiarity with the story, “Toil and Trouble” adds another layer of meaning and makes the reader consider the characters and their world in new ways. While reading Toil and Touble #2, page 22 stood out beyond the rest. This page is the climax of this issue and presents a recognizable scene, the three witches seeing the prophecy as a stunned Macbeth and Banquo look on. The artistry of this page is stunning, and I will be discussing its elements in terms of colour and page layout.

Scott McCloud says differences between black-and-white and colour comics are “vast and profound, affecting every level of the reading experience” (192). So when the two styles are used simultaneously on the same page the reader recognizes differences in meaning. The section that is (nearly) black-and-white indicates the content of the prophesy and therefore the future. The lack of colour also suggests death and deterioration. McCloud also talks about the “intoxicating environment of sensations that only colour can give” (192). Throughout this comic the illustrators are creating sensations, not about reality but about myth and magic. Colour is also used in this comic to signify the number “3” which is important to the story. The iconic three witches are given distinct character traits, appearances, and clothing, all of which use colour to differentiate between them. We can also see this in the witches’ speech balloons, which are coloured depending on who is speaking.

Jesse Cohn describes different forms of page layout used in comics. "Toil and Trouble" would fit in what Cohn calls the “rhetorical mise-en-page” whereby “the shape of the page actively changes to accommodate the needs of the narrative” (Cohn 46). This is seen throughout this comic to convey action and emotion in a dynamic and visually pleasing way. Cohn says, "when comics layout ceases to obey the rule of a grid, the reader's eyes become free to move about in other directions” (52) This gives the reader the ability to choose their reading paths, and certainly on this page we see that even the witches’ eyes are glazed and illuminated, indicating that there is no set path for reading this page. Traditional borders are also modified in this comic, as we can see when tree branches are used to separate and frame panels. This relates to the witches’ association with nature. It almost seems that there are no visible panels, and yet different aspects of the page are separated to differentiate between different times and places. 

The use of colour and layout, particularly in this sequence, allow us to put aside our own reality and enter the world of these three witches, literally leaving us spellbound.

Lauren Farquhar

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.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics. New York: Harper Perennial, 1994.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Panel Layout and Colour in The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

The Sculptor is Scott McCloud’s first work of fiction in twenty-years and is a great display of the amount of thought that went into creating this book. It focuses on David Smith who is a young sculptor that lost his parents, has no money or job, and was recently dumped by his girlfriend. One day, Death, in the shape of his great Uncle Harry, makes a deal with David to give him his childhood dream: to sculpt anything with his bare hands. But now David has only 200 days to live his life and create his artwork.

McCloud uses the two colours of black and blue, and places his panels in a very unpredictable layout.

From the first chapter of the book, it is obvious that David is upset about something, but what exactly is causing the sadness is explained throughout the book. Using a blue hue from beginning to end only reinforces David's feelings and thoughts. In McCloud's other famous comic, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, he says, “the differences between black-and-white and colour comics are vast and profound, affecting every level of the reading experience” (192). Not only does the blue tone reinforce David's sadness, it forces the reader to have sympathy for him and makes him/her feel "blue". Also, McCloud uses the black to emphasize the characters he wants the reader to focus on and uses the blue to make everything else seem faded, like the example to the left.

McCloud rarely uses the strict 3X3 grid of panels in his comic; his layout is very unpredictable. He uses the sporadic layout that's on the right to give a feeling of uneasiness and confusion like David is feeling at the party; this panel arrangement also allows the reader to choose which reading path to take. According to Jess Cohn, "[w]hen comics layout ceases to obey the rule of a grid, the reader's eyes become free to move about in other directions ... Alternatively, some artists ... allow the reader to choose multiple reading paths" (52). In this example, it doesn't matter which direction your eyes go in because the panels don't tell the story in any sequence.

It is clear, however, that McCloud strategically places the panels on the page. In the example on the left, McCloud uses a bleeding panel, which is "...when a panel runs off the edge of the page..." (McCloud, Understanding Comics 103). If he didn't put the third panel where it is, the sensation of falling wouldn't be felt. A couple pages prior to this one, David was explaining a crazy dream he had where everyone on the streets of Manhattan was an aspiring artist like him; the ground was covered in ice and the city started tilting which caused everyone to slide into a void of nothingness. Since McCloud put the third panel at the bottom of the page and made it "bleed" off the edge, he created the effect of the cartoons literally falling into the void.

- Kylie Jamieson
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.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics. New York: Harper Perennial, 1994.