Monday, December 7, 2015

The Underlying Traits of an Autobiographical Comic

The Comic I chose to look at for this blog post is from the article “A perilous journey: Hasko’s flight to Europe from Syria- an illustrated account” and it tells the tale of a Syrian Refugee that flees Turkey in search of a better life. Stories of refugees fleeing their current circumstances are quite common in light of the recent migrant crisis taking place in Europe; however, most of these stories are told through photographs or mere words. To address this journey through comics has greatly heightened the severity of the journey itself and the struggle of refugees themselves in deciphering whether such a risk is worth it. This comic is also an example of a non-fiction, autobiographical comic, which adds to the importance of the narrative.

I read this comic via The Guardian website. The comic was illustrated by Lindsay Pollock, and depicts the life of Hasko, a refugee from Syria, who fled to Turkey, only to take a dangerous journey over the waters to find asylum in Italy. The entire comic is done in black and white, which holds a diegetic purpose in this comic.  The diegetic use of colour is a concept that McCloud supports in his view of colour and comics. The use of black and white embodies the black and white premise available to Hasko’s situation. Hasko must face adverse conditions for the possibility of finding a better life for his family. For this reason to use black and white in this comic comments on Hasko’s lack of other opportunities to survive in Turkey. His life itself is black and white, as he must choose one unsafe situation for another unsafe situation. The lack of option in Hasko’s life is reflective in the colours used to draw this comic.

It is unclear whether this comic was meant to be placed online or not because under some panels, textual captions are placed that continue the flow of the narrative. In other ways, the comic looks hand drawn, with trace marks and white paper outlines. Either way, the fact that is comic is most probably hand drawn adds to the personality embedded in the text and the factual content of the comic itself. It adds to the reality that the comic portrays to know that it is hand drawn.

The ways textual elements used vary drastically throughout the comic. The comic utilizes speech bubbles, caption boxes, and caption lines below the panels, to tell the narrative. The speech bubbles, caption boxes, and captions both have a narration function in this comic, as Baetmans would say, as the character is speaking directly to the reader. By directly speaking to the reader through many textual elements, the reader is able to always know that this is a reflexive story and that the speaker is always Hasko.

Upon beginning my reading of this comic, I did not realize that Hasko was the sole narrator until I read the text more carefully to realize Hasko gave every piece of textual communication. By having Hasko speak directly to the reader, the reader is able to connect more so to Hasko in an emotional sense because the reader is aware of whom this comic is about. The reader can also connect to the comic emotionally because of the simplicity in the drawings of Hasko’s life. The text fuels the imagery used to depict the journey as the artist merely portrays exactly what Hasko says, rather than adding any element of surprise or exaggeration to the story.

Panel sizes were also a very distinct element in this comic as the panels vary greatly throughout the comic. Bigger panels are contrasted by smaller panels, rectangle panels are placed next to square panels, and vertical images are contrasted by horizontal, landscape images. The imagery set in the bigger panels usually embody a close-up of facial expressions and showcase hardships on the journey. In the smaller panels, we see more portrait drawings of objects or just Hasko on his own. The purpose of making the bigger panels showcase facial expression serves to allow the reader to focus on the struggle of the refugees themselves and their thought process upon travelling such a journey. This is important for the comic and the readers because it serves to heighten the perspective from which this comic is told: it is told from the perspective of a refugee. Often from the media, we hear of the “difficulties” in the journey from the middle east to Europe or we see what happens upon the arrival of the refugees. Rarely are audiences provided with the perspective of the refugees upon their journey and what they witness and endure. Audiences are not exposed to this perspective, but through this comic, we see this perspective and the reality of these dangers. This should make those who are unaware of the severity of this crisis more aware and insightful about what risks are truly involved in undertaking such a task.

By: Kirthana Sasitharan

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