Sunday, December 6, 2015

Multimodality in Paper Girls

In his article “More Than Words: Comics as a Means of Teaching Multiple Literacies,” Dr, Jacobs discusses how readers derive narrative meaning from the audio, linguistic, gestural, and visual elements of comics. In the second issue of Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s Paper Girls, the reader is provided with an abundance of these elements. The following double-page spread includes these elements so that the reader may make inferences about the situation.


The first panel on the first page features an extreme close-up of a subject whose eyes seem to be nervously scanning the premises for something, as though he or she is being chased. His or her furrowed brows indicate that he or she is stressed. The subject is acting as though he or she is being pursued by something. The first panel on the second tier cuts to a full shot, switching perspectives so that the reader is situated behind the subject. It’s as though the reader adopts the view of the potential pursuer. The first panel on the final tier is larger than the other panels, and its frame extends past the alignment of the other panels on the left so that, with regard to synecdoche, the reader might wonder if there is something waiting around the corner for the subject. To augment this suspicion, the subject is situated in the top right hand corner of a wide-angle shot that seems to be an establishing shot, setting the reader up for some event. The subject does not take up much of the shot, providing a sense of asymmetry for the reader because of the lack of a subject on the left; although, the corner of the house can be considered a second subject, drawing the reader’s attention to the possibility of something farther along the side of the house, past the frame. This works because all of the panels up until this one feature the subject in the center of each frame. The reader’s expectations are nearly fulfilled in the last panel of the page in which a Dutch tilt is used to show the subject who dons a horrified expression while looking up at something that is emitting an eerie pink light. The narrowness of the frame emphasizes the event’s suddenness and the character’s surprise. From the visual depiction of the onomatopoeia, the reader is able to infer that the sound is associated with whatever is emitting the pink light because the words are outlined in pink. The jagged appearance of the words suggests it is a harsh sound, like that of an engine.

The first panel on the last page shows the source of the sound and light in the perspective of the subject who is looking up at the spectacle, shown through a low-angle shot. The last panel makes use of the Dutch tilt once more to emphasize the subject’s horror at the creature looming above him or her, despite the reader not being able to understand what the subject is saying in some alien language (the reader is able to infer that the subject is probably an alien because of this). In terms of synecdoche, the reader is able to imagine that the creature is massive, considering its leg is at least two times larger than the entirety of the alien’s body. The reader views the alien from a kind of high-angle shot, sharing perspectives with the creature and making the alien seem helpless. The alien’s demise is suggested through this.

- Tara Yousif

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