Friday, December 30, 2011

Second Response to Gaiman's Coraline (by Hailey Wansick)


1.  Coraline is illustrated in a very cartoony way, which makes it even more creepy at times.  The other mother is drawn so that she looks even more grotesque than when you just read the book.  The artwork creates a tone that is supposed to scare the reader, and it gets darker as the book progresses. 
2.  This story was probably remade into a graphic novel to help the reader imagine everything that Coraline goes through better.  When reading the book, everything is so strange and hard to imagine, and seeing everything laid out in a graphic novel makes it seem a little more realistic.  Since this story was translated from a book, into a movie, and then into a graphic novel, we can see what it lost or gained.  In my opinion, Coraline was a better book than graphic novel, and it didn’t seem as complex as the other graphic novels we’ve read.  I haven’t seen the movie, but if it’s anything like the book or graphic novel it would probably scare younger children.  Being made into a Tim Burton-like movie makes it seem childish and like it’s for young kids, when in reality it is kind of scary.
3.  Coraline narrates the story with her thoughts, actions, and dialogue with other characters.  It is easier to follow what is happening in comic book format than it was as a novel because you can tell just by the shape of the bubbles if they are thoughts or something that is spoken.  And with the comic book format we are also able to see things that aren’t in Coraline’s field of vision but are drawn in the background.
4.  The scene that stood out to me is when Coraline’s other parents tell her that she can stay with them forever and always, if only she does on tiny little thing: let them sew buttons into her eyes.  They promise her that it won’t even hurt, that they want what’s best for her.  This scene shows that her other parents don’t really love her, mostly that they want to collect her like a doll, and that they don’t care if she has to go through pain.  This is the point when Coraline realizes that her other parents want something from her, and that it probably isn’t good.  I like the way the artwork in this scene focuses around the buttons so much, and how the other parents ignore what Coraline wants.

Response to Kishimoto's Naruto (by Denton Easton)


1. How is the work illustrated?  Be specific: would you characterize it as sketchy, realistic, cartoony, artistic, ornate, spare, expressionistic, tight, loose, etc.?  What is the overall feel of the artwork, and what kind of tone does it create for the reader?  Do you feel it is the uniquely suited to the story being told?
I think that Naruto offers some amazing illustrations. Some may say it is cartoony; however, in my opinion, it is very ornate and realistic. Masashi Kishimoto puts so much detail into the background and the characters themselves that it seems like I am standing within the story itself. For example, the very first frame of the entire story shows the Village Hidden in the Leaves. This is where Naruto lives. Kishimoto shows a town full of buildings with trees all around and even a mountain range in the background. The buildings are detailed to each plank of wood that structures them. We can see power lines going to and from each building along with drainage pipes on the sides of them. The mountain range had faces of the old village leaders carved into them almost looking identical to our Mount Rushmore. Each face is detailed and had graffiti on it where Naruto has painted in one of his pranks. There is even a stairway climbing up to the top of the range where some other buildings are. Everything is in black and white. There is not coloring in the art.
The characters are also drawn very well. Lord Hokage, the village leader, has very finely drawn wrinkles all over his face showing his age. Iruka, Naruto’s main teacher, has a fine scar drawn over his nose along with several other features.  Each character is given a specific set of features. The face expressions look like those that a real person would make. They are not overdone. The clothes that each character wears are very detailed. The vests of some of the shinobi have buttons drawn along with several pockets all over them for their ninja tools. There is a clear distinction in each character’s clothes that show who they are. It almost looks real.
I think the overall tone of the artwork is a mixture of light and dark. There are times that the art seems light-hearted and cheery. However, there are other times when Kishimoto uses a lot of dark shading to show when someone I dying or something scary is happening. Also, he uses the darkness to show when something sad is occurring like when Naruto feels the hate from the rest of the village. He darkens everything around Naruto to show his depression and his loneliness. Most of the scenes, however, are usually done in light shades. This story has a lot of comedy, especially toward the beginning of the story. The tone needs to seem cheery in a way for these scenes or it would be contradicting. Overall, I think Kishimoto does a great job in setting his tone for the story and making the artwork fit the overall story. I don’t think it could have been done any other way.
2. Why was this story written as a graphic novel?  What might this story lose if translated to a novel, short story, or even a film?  What elements of the story almost require the juxtaposition of words and images? In other words, what does the comic format allow us to see and experience that a traditional novel wouldn’t?  Again, be as specific as possible.
I think this story was written as a graphic novel to give us the entire story of Naruto. Kishimoto could not give his readers the full experience if he had translated the story into a regular novel, short story, or film. If he had translated this story into a novel or short story we would miss some hidden information. A graphic novel has more than words. It offers pictures. In Naruto, we would not be able to guess that Mizuke was necessarily lying to Naruto to get an important scroll just from words. We needed the pictures to see that there were evil intentions behind him helping Naruto. Also, we would not grasp the fights that take place in the story. There is a lot of action in Naruto. We could only imagine what a fight is like when it is written, but to see if right in front of us gives us the whole picture. Naruto is an amazing story that needs both its pictures and its words combined to make it whole.
If this story were translated into a movie it would lose a lot as well. First, this story offers a very amazing story and has some realistic images; however, I feel like it would not be taken seriously if it was a film. People would just think it was a childish show and would overlook the meaning of the story: fighting your demons, striving to be the best you can be, and protecting those important to you. We all face similar feats in our lives. We have the struggle of morality, confidence, and maintaining our relationships. People see the movie as trivial and miss its important messages. Also, the story could not be fully grasped in a movie. There are a lot of times when the characters are thinking to themselves in the story. They flashback or they are thinking about something in the present. Inner thoughts cannot be applied easily to a movie and if they were if would seem cheesy at times and would not be realistic to the viewers. Again, they would see it as trivial and miss the story. A lot of times there are several thoughts occurring at the same time in Naruto. A movie could not grasp all of them. Lastly, Naruto is a very long story. Every detail is important in the story. By translating it to film, it would be condensed into something totally different for time purposes. We would get only a glimpse of the story and not its entirety. This story has been translated into a cartoon format which is regarded as childish by people whom don’t understand.
3. Who narrates the story?  How do they do this?  Traditionally, narration is told from either a third-person or first-person perspective; how does a graphic novel challenge this approach?  Consider how the form of comics ‘tells’ a story and allows us to see multiple points of view within a single narrative frame.
There is not really a narrator in Naruto. There is an unknown person that says something in the very beginning of some chapters and the end of some chapters. It is almost like someone teaching a history lesson or reading the story to people. This only happens a few times. Other than that there is no narrating taking place. We can see the story move through the dialogue of the characters and the scene changes. There really is no need for a narrator in this story because the characters speak for themselves. Several of the characters have flashbacks that last for maybe a page or two. They are not really narrating, but just thinking back. This just adds some information to the story so we can see why the characters are acting the way they are. We can see multiple points-of-view through the use of conversation bubbles. Unlike the graphic novels we have discussed in class, there are not any big distinctions between conversation bubbles in Naruto. The only thing that expresses who is talking is the little arrow on the bottom of the bubble that points in the direction of the character speaking. It can seem hard at times, but Kishimoto does a good job of keeping no more than 2 or 3 characters in a frame at a time. He does this not just to make it easier but to put focus on what the one character is saying in a frame. The story moves along through dialogue, which I found very interesting.
4. Describe one scene in the novel, either a single frame, or a series of frames, that you feel is particularly significant.  Why is this sequence so important?  Do you admire this passage more for its narrative (the words) or its art (the images)—or both?  Make sure we can not only see what’s going on here, but we see how it relates to the story at large.
            There are several scenes in the first volume of Naruto that I find significant; however, there were two that hit me the most. The first occurs on page 21. Naruto has just failed a test that would make him a full-fledge shinobi or ninja. He is sitting on a swing watching the rest of the children celebrating with their parents. Two woman look at him in disgust while he sits there depressed. This scene is very sad and important to the story because 1) Naruto is considered a plague to the rest of the village and 2) Naruto does not have any parents to support him. Naruto is pushed away because the demon within him wreaked havoc on the village when he was born. His parents died during this event. The demon was placed inside of him to save the people. Now the adults of the village take out their hatred on him and shield their children from him. Naruto has no friends and just wants to be accepted by others. He looks at these kids and wishes that he could have passed his test, he could be accepted by them, and he could have parents to support him. It really breaks the readers’ hearts to see this character have to suffer for something he does not understand. The whole point of the story of Naruto is his drive to be accepted by everyone in the village so this really fits with the story.
            The second scene occurs on page 38 and part of page 40. Mizuke, one of Naruto’s teachers, tries to kill Naruto by throwing a giant ninja weapon at him. Iruka, Naruto’s main teacher, jumps in front of it and gets stab in the back. What makes this so significant is that Iruka’s parents were killed by the demon fox living within Naruto. He has been among those that have acknowledged Naruto as a nuisance. He finally realizes how much Naruto has suffered and that it is not his fault. He becomes the first person to really care about Naruto. Naruto can’t believe that his teacher would be willing to sacrifice himself for him. Then, Iruka apologizes to Naruto for being so hard on him. This causes a deep impact in Naruto. He becomes confident and strives even more to be accepted by others. Without Iruka, Naruto might have never gained the confidence to become a great shinobi. Again, this scene really fits the story because someone finally acknowledges Naruto for his qualities not the demon living within him.
            I admire both scenes for their art and words. Kishimoto wanted his readers to see both the very great drawings as well as the things being said. In the first scene, Kishimoto draws Naruto under a tree on a swing. This art is so emotional because Kishimoto places Naruto on the swing with the entire background colored black. He also shades parts or Naruto to show the leaves above him. It really expresses how depressed Naruto is and how hard he is taking the situation. The words are impacting because he is hearing these women talk about him as well as hearing children celebrating with their families. He is all alone with no one to tell him “good try” or anything.
On the second scene, I love the first frame. It takes up half of page 38. It shows Iruka laying over Naruto with the weapon in his back and blood splattered everywhere. It is very detailed and really expressed the moment that of Iruka’s sacrifice. Then, on page 40, Kishimoto draws a close up of Iruka. We can see the weapon in his back and a Kunai knife in his stomach. He has blood dripping from the knife and his lips. Then, we see tears coming from his eyes. The picture is so detailed it feels like I am really looking up at Iruka. Then, he says, “I know that, Naruto. I was so hard on you, yelling, scolding… it must have hurt… Forgive me. If I’d been a better teacher… a better self… maybe neither of us would have come to this.” This moment is very powerful because it is when someone finally acknowledges Naruto and cares for him. Iruka got rid of his hate for the boy by taking the blade.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Response to Satrapi's Persepolis I (by Jaime Worden)


1.         How is the work illustrated?  Be specific: would you characterize it as sketchy, realistic, cartoony, artistic, ornate, spare, expressionistic, tight, loose, etc.?  What is the overall feel of the artwork, and what kind of tone does it create for the reader?  Do you feel it is the uniquely suited to the story being told?  Consider the differences between Crumb and Cavey’s illustrations for Pekar’s American Splendor

Persepolis is illustrated in a more cartoony way, but it definitely has some expressionistic qualities. The illustrations have artistic qualities on some pages, but many of the pages seem to almost have a child-like look to them. This way of illustrating works well for this graphic novel due to its ability to tone down the seriousness of the main focus of the book. It also works because the story is following a child, Marjane (Marji) Satrapi, through some of her childhood, more specifically from the ages of ten to fourteen. If this had been drawn in a more realistic way, the intensity of the events that are read as well as having pictures to go along with them would have been overpowering, such as in the torturing of Ahmadi on page 51. If the lashings and iron burning had been more realistic, this scene would’ve been almost intolerable. Illustrating this story in the more childish way also works as a reminder that this story is told through the eyes of someone who was only a “tween” at the time of these horrible events.

2.         Why was this story written as a graphic novel?  What might this story lose if translated to a novel, short story, or even a film?  What elements of the story almost require the juxtaposition of words and images? In other words, what does the comic format allow us to see and experience that a traditional novel wouldn’t?  Again, be as specific as possible. 

This story had so much to tell in such little time, so writing it in the way of a graphic novel was an excellent choice. With the illustrations, the reader can see what happens to personal identity when fundamentalism comes into Iran. A person could get an idea through film or fiction, but to see all of the women looking identical, like on page 95, it adds something that film and novels couldn’t. One could imagine it through the novel, and one can see similarity through film, but the illustration of it just intensifies the idea. Making this story into a graphic novel also draws in the reader without overdoing it. Like mentioned in the previous question, there are intense scenes, and if these scenes were made into live-action film, they could almost be unbearable to watch. This way of telling the story also works better than putting it in novel form because the reader gets to know all of the characters better as opposed to just mainly knowing one character.


3.          Who narrates the story?  How do they do this?  Traditionally, narration is told from either a third-person or first-person perspective; how does a graphic novel challenge this approach?  Consider how the form of comics ‘tells’ a story and allows us to see multiple points of view within a single narrative frame. 

The story has the typical third-person “camera” perspective, but is also told in first-person through Marji.  The third-person perspective is seen in each frame through illustrations and through text bubbles.  Marji’s first-person perspective is boxed off in the frames both above and below the action taking place in the frame. This way of telling the story (in both third and first-person) gives the reader two different ways to view the story: through the eyes of Marji and through the eyes of a bystander. Many times in the story, both perspectives could be seen on a single frame, like on page 20. The last frame has text bubbles and Marji’s narration. In this particular frame, the reader would be lost with only one perspective, but both perspectives work to clarify what is trying to be told.

4.         Describe one scene in the novel, either a single frame or a series of frames, that you feel is particularly significant.  Why is this sequence so important?  Do you admire this passage more for its narrative (the words) or its art (the images)—or both?  Make sure we can not only see what’s going on here, but we see how it relates to the story at large. 

Page 102 in Persepolis was a very significant page for me. On this page, in the first (and larger) frame, you see shadows of young children with keys around their necks being blown up by mines. The frame below it has children dancing at a party.  The words are important on this page, but the pictures do most of the talking. The larger frame shows the fate of the poor children; the smaller frame shows the children who are in the upper social classes. This single page can almost summarize the entire graphic novel. The fighting during the Islamic revolution in Iran was based on freedom and equality. When the war began with Iraq, poor children were sent to fight, being duped into thinking that if they die, it’s a much better fate than what there was for them on Earth at the time. The upper social class kids are laughing and having a good time at a party. It was hard for me to see how different lives of these children were up until this point in the story, and how unfairly and unequally these children were being treated. So much was being thrown at me on this page; it took me twice to read it before I could truly fathom what was going on. This page is emotional, controversial, and it shows how life was on opposite ends of the social spectrum.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Response to Powell's Chimichanga (by Josh McNeeley)

1.         How is the work illustrated?  Be specific: would you characterize it as sketchy, realistic, cartoony, artistic, ornate, spare, expressionistic, tight, loose, etc.?  What is the overall feel of the artwork, and what kind of tone does it create for the reader?  Do you feel it is the uniquely suited to the story being told?  Consider the differences between Crumb and Cavey’s illustrations for Pekar’s American Splendor.
Chimichanga is drawn in a more cartoon fashion then comics like Batman: Year One. This style helps the reader swallow some of the few darker scenes in the book, like when Lola is taken away by Dinderly Pharmaceuticals (50-51). Yet, this artwork goes perfectly with Chimichanga. The story deals with a traveling circus which has performers like Lola the bearded girl, Randy the man with the strength of a slightly larger man, and Heratio the boy faced fish. The artwork adds that humorous tone to these characters which would have been lost if drawn in a more realistic fashion.

2.         Why was this story written as a graphic novel?  What might this story lose if translated to a novel, short story, or even a film?  What elements of the story almost require the juxtaposition of words and images? In other words, what does the comic format allow us to see and experience that a traditional novel wouldn’t?  Again, be as specific as possible.
It’s important to note that Chimichanga was originally made for a children’s TV show (89). So this story seems easily adaptable to film. Yet, the humorous spice that Chimichanga has would be lost if transferred to a novel format. For example, Sweetbread is a peg-legged Dog who has a goofy eye. He tells stories of his travels around the country, and plays the harmonica. You couldn’t get the same ridiculous, but humorous, look to Sweetbread and still give appropriate credit to his old man, traveler dialog.

3.          Who narrates the story?  How do they do this?  Traditionally, narration is told from either a third-person or first-person perspective; how does a graphic novel challenge this approach?  Consider how the form of comics ‘tells’ a story and allows us to see multiple points of view within a single narrative frame.
Unlike many Comics, or Graphic Novels, Chimichanga doesn’t show any characters thoughts except for one time. This one time was a scene in which the creature Chimichanga is thinking of Lola crying (72). Because of this lack of inner thoughts, or obvious narrations, the narration seems to be in third person narrator but not omniscient because he doesn’t know what every character is thinking.  Chimichanga  goes against the normal narration forms, and because of this gives the comic a more cartoon-sitcom feel.

4.         Describe one scene in the novel, either a single frame or a series of frames, that you feel is particularly significant.  Why is this sequence so important?  Do you admire this passage more for its narrative (the words) or its art (the images)—or both?  Make sure we can not only see what’s going on here, but we see how it relates to the story at large.
The scene that stood out to me the most was the very first frame on page 13. You see Lola the bearded girl shaking her finger a t Dagmar the witch, and she says “Whoa Nelly! I’m not going in that house! It looks like Vietnam!” This one particular scene really sums up who Lola is. It can be seen that she holds herself to a higher standard for she won’t go into just anyone’s house. She’s smart because she won’t go, into just anyone’s house. At the same time it shows how independent, and mature, she really is. She is not the average little girl who listens to every order given by an adult, and she takes in the whole situation before she makes her judgment. She’s not the normal girl who walks up to the stranger out of curiosity. SO in this scene you really see her full personality, and it could be argued that is really sums up the feel for the entire book.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Reminders and the Toy & Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, OK

Hope everyone is progressing well on their papers...or at least contemplating starting them soon!  Remember, the Paper Assignment is due this Friday by midnight; after that, I may have trouble accepting your paper for a grade.  Please let me know if you run into difficulties before the deadline so we can discuss it.  Remember that you have many resources on this page alone, as well as links on the syllabus to graphic novels related websites.  When searching on JSTOR for articles, don't look for the author and/or work alone; consider terms such as "graphic novels and high school," "comics and genre" or "graphic novels and literacy" to find a wide range of relevant articles.  Also, don't forget to e-mail your 6th graphic novel response template to me...the first four are already up on the blog.

Also, on a slightly related note, if you're in or around Pauls Valley over the break, make time to visit the wonderful Toy and Action Figure Museum downtown.  Though it specializes mostly in toys and action figures (including a magnificent Bat Cave full of Batman paraphenalia), the museum also has a display dedicated to Oklahoma Cartoonists, including the creator of Dick Tracy, among others.  You might find some inspiration here and your kids are guaranteed to love it!  Some pictures of our recent trip there are posted below...

Response to Gaiman's Coraline (by Erin Black)

1.         How is the work illustrated?  Be specific: would you characterize it as sketchy, realistic, cartoony, artistic, ornate, spare, expressionistic, tight, loose, etc.?  What is the overall feel of the artwork, and what kind of tone does it create for the reader?  Do you feel it is the uniquely suited to the story being told?   
Coraline is illustrated in a more realistic cartoon style. It does look cartoon but it’s detailed. The book is very colorful so I think that makes there be more of contrast in Coraline’s world and her other mother’s world. When Coraline gets sucked into her other mother’s world the deeper she gets in, the darker and darker it gets. We even see how there’s part of her other mother’s world where there is nothing. At first Coraline thinks it’s just fog but then she realizes it’s different and finds out she’s in a part of her others mother’s world where nothing exists. The detail in this cartoon also helps show us how while the house is supposed to be the same in her other mother’s world you can see that it’s not in as good of shape. In Coraline’s other mother’s world there are cobwebs and the wall paper is starting to come off the walls.

2.         Why was this story written as a graphic novel?  What might this story lose if translated to a novel, short story, or even a film?  What elements of the story almost require the juxtaposition of words and images? In other words, what does the comic format allow us to see and experience that a traditional novel wouldn’t?  Again, be as specific as possible.
Coraline has been done in all three ways. I have only read the graphic novel. We are able to read a little of Coraline’s thoughts as we go through the book and that would be lost in a movie but other than that I feel like Coraline would probably transfer well to a movie.  In a book I feel like a lot explanation would be necessary for us to see some of the contrast between worlds and how weird the other world is. In the graphic novel we’re able to see it for ourselves without there being too much explanation. There are also a lot of conversations in this book. For me it’s easier to just see their conversations in a graphic novel then having the he said and she said there would be in a novel. 

3.          Who narrates the story?  How do they do this?  Traditionally, narration is told from either a third-person or first-person perspective; how does a graphic novel challenge this approach?  Consider how the form of comics ‘tells’ a story and allows us to see multiple points of view within a single narrative frame.
Coraline is narrated by a third party. Sometimes the narration is in its own little speech box and other times it is written in the frame. This was different from the other graphic novels we read in class. The ones we read in class were all narrated by a character in the book.  Like the other books though we are also able to read Coraline’s thoughts, read conversations and see the pictures to know other things that may be going on or see facial expressions.  One thing I thought was interesting in this book with conversations was that, in the other world, when they talk their speech bubbles have a wispy look to them. Just seeing this showed me that the people in the other world talk in a creepy, almost whisper-like tone.
4.         Describe one scene in the novel, either a single frame, or a series of frames, that you feel is particularly significant.  Why is this sequence so important?  Do you admire this passage more for its narrative (the words) or its art (the images)—or both?  Make sure we can not only see what’s going on here, but we see how it relates to the story at large.
One scene that stood out to me is a scene where Coraline goes down into the basement. In this scene Coraline is looking for her real parents. When she goes down there though all she finds is her other father. He normally looks mostly like her real father but now he’s decomposing. She discovers that her other mother put him down there because he said too much to Coraline about the other world. In this scene he tries to warn Coraline to run because the other mother wants him to hurt her. I think this scene shows us how the other mother is really in charge of this world. When she doesn’t need you anymore she throws you out and they began to decompose like maybe they are slowly disappearing. Then maybe they will slowly become the mist of the world and go back to places in her other mother’s world where nothing yet exists.

Gabaldon's The Exile (by Karmen Sellers)


1.       How is the work illustrated?  Be specific: would you characterize it as sketchy, realistic, cartoony, artistic, ornate, spare, expressionistic, tight, loose, etc.?  What is the overall feel of the artwork, and what kind of tone does it create for the reader?  Do you feel it is the uniquely suited to the story being told?  Consider the differences between Crumb and Cavey’s illustrations for Pekar’s American Splendor

I would say The Exile is illustrated in a realistic way. The characters are realistic and the colors are vibrant and shows the colors the clans wore in the 1700s were a beautiful and magnificent red. This gives the illustrations a movie-like feel. There is a frame where a man comes through the stones and the light that radiates from the stones is so bright, it feels as if it will jump right off the page. The people are drawn in such detail that you see the intricate lines on their faces and the scars and marks of Jaime. This is a great compliment to the Outlander series; it allows fans to see Jaime as the author sees him. When he marries Claire to keep her safe, you see him dressed in the clans’ colors and it’s almost breathtaking, he is strong and masculine in a kilt. I think the artwork created a realism that made one think of it being almost like a part soap opera and part movie. I think this was uniquely suited to the story being told because it allowed the reader to see the characters in a realistic fashion and not just fantasy. This is about time-travel but it’s also historical fiction and romance so the author wanted to look as real as possible in order for time-travel to plausible.

2.         Why was this story written as a graphic novel?  What might this story lose if translated to a novel, short story, or even a film?  What elements of the story almost require the juxtaposition of words and images? In other words, what does the comic format allow us to see and experience that a traditional novel wouldn’t?  Again, be as specific as possible. 
            This story was turned into a graphic novel because the author as a fan of Walt Disney comics as a child and she grew up later writing a few Walt Disney comics. After that, she pursued other venues and when the opportunity to write a graphic novel became available, she jumped at the chance. This story began as a novel and when translated into a graphic novel, she realized she could spin it in a whole new way. That is how this book was born; she told the story from a different point of view and allowed the readers to see a glimpse of Jaime from someone other than Claire’s point of view. This book being made into a graphic novel also allows the reader to see the sarcastic looks and the eavesdropping that goes on in the novel but we can’t really see. Therefore, the author has to take time to write in where everyone is eavesdropping, which takes up a lot space and here, the author is allowed to get on with the story. I think I liked this better as a graphic novel because there were some confusing parts in the novel that were cleared up for me in the graphic novel. For example, we see what the other men in the room are thinking when we see Claire tending to Jaime in a house. In the novel, it just said, to paraphrase, “the men thought of her as childbearing.” In the graphic novel, you can see in their thought bubbles, Claire breastfeeding a baby. Another example is after the men had saved Claire from Captain Randall and they were back at the pub, having dinner, you can see on their faces they are upset and waiting for Jaime to do his husbandly duty and whip her. After the whipping, when Jaime comes back down with a bite mark, some scratches and soon-to-be bruises, the men look sympathetic and almost sheepish. I think this was a great set of frames because there is not much to say here, you can tell the men were upset, whereas in the novel, she described each man being upset and there was grumbling towards Jaime. Afterwards, they offered to buy him dinner, which he politely refused and they went back to being normal. It’s more uncomfortable to see it in a graphic novel where men know something had to happen but don’t like it anyhow and they have to live with the knowledge of what went on upstairs. In a way, it’s almost comical.

3.          Who narrates the story?  How do they do this?  Traditionally, narration is told from either a third-person or first-person perspective; how does a graphic novel challenge this approach?  Consider how the form of comics ‘tells’ a story and allows us to see multiple points of view within a single narrative frame. 

            Murtagh, Jaime’s godfather, narrates the story from his perspective. Sometimes the reader sees things he doesn’t but for the most part, the story is told through his eyes or what he has heard. In the novel, Claire is the main character and the reader gets her perspective, landing in a different time period; allowing Murtagh to narrate the story brings a different life to it and a different tone. There is much more sarcastic conversations going on and a lot of action mixed in with a lot of romance and seduction. Murtagh saw someone come through the stones before Claire (which we don’t find out until later in the series) and decides to follow him. Later on in the graphic novel, Murtagh sees Dougal in cahoots with Geille from the beginning (which if you read the series, you will not learn that until later either). During some parts of the graphic novel, you get a voyeuristic point of view with Claire and Jaime in their honeymoon suite and later in Geille’s house.

4.         Describe one scene in the novel, either a single frame or a series of frames, that you feel is particularly significant.  Why is this sequence so important?  Do you admire this passage more for its narrative (the words) or its art (the images)—or both?  Make sure we can not only see what’s going on here, but we see how it relates to the story at large. 

            The most significant series of frames to me is toward the end where Jaime has been told by Claire that she is not of that time and he takes her back to the stones so she can decide whether to stay with him or go back to Frank, her husband in her present time of 1947. She thinks about the husband she left behind with the thought bubble of her husband, Frank but she longs for Jaime by thinking “I can’t go….I can’t” and she starts running down the hill toward the place where Jaime said he would wait until dark. In a sequence of frames you see her running closer to the frame, then a full bottom frame of Murtagh, (who killed the first guy to come out of the stones) and he says “Wha!...” The next frame shows a close-up of Claire’s face chanting “don’t be gone” and she is on top of Jaime in the next frame as she startles him awake. The last frame that is significant to me is ¾ of the page and it’s Claire and Jaime hugging and you see them from the chest up in a close shot with the sun setting in the mountains behind them. Her head is tucked under his chin and she has her eyes closed. She made her decision to stay and be with Jaime. I knew this would happen from reading the novel and I still shouted “yes!” This frame is so breathtaking and romantic that it almost makes you want to cry. The art is sensational and makes it so much more inspiring than the book. I hope you will read both The Exile and the Outlander series.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Response to The Pride of Baghdad (by Corey Scott)

The “Pride of Baghdad” strives for a realistic feel with its artwork.  Compared to the other reads of the class, mission accomplished.  The artwork adds to the exotic feel of the location. Niko Henrichon’s ability to humanize these animals is amazing for a sophomore graphic novel artist.  Looking at his panels of a war-torn Baghdad is almost eerily identical to the television coverage we were all witness to.  The art truly gives us an outsider’s perspective of the Iraq War.
            This graphic novel reminds me of novels like Animal House and Watership Down.  Like Maus, they use animals to deal with a serious story.  The tag line states fact, “in 2003 a pride of starving lions escaped the Baghdad Zoo.”  This story however is more than it seems.  It seems to parallel what the newly Iraqi people had to be feeling, “Who’s going to feed us?  Who’s going to protect us?”  Why does this piece work in this format?  Magic!  The perfect story mixed with amazing visuals.  Can this be translated to film, perhaps as an animated movie?  Maybe, but as an animated film there is something lost when it is to a medium that has become synonymous with children’s entertainment.
            This is a story narrated by the four main characters.  Throughout the story the pride separates and reunites after facing their tribulations.  We cannot be everywhere all the time, but the fact this is a comic book allows us to without breaking the emotional attachment we have with the characters.
            I do not wish to spoil the ending of this piece, because I truly hope you will read it.  Therefore, I have chosen a different scene to write about.  Sofa is the scarred jaded lioness.  Her life before the zoo was difficult to say the least.  She remembers an event from that time when she was raped by “foreign” lions, which is profound moment in the book.  The art and the words work together harmoniously to humanize this “woman.”  It makes her situation relatable to us the reader.  The dark sparse savannah setting helps show us the solitude of this woman during the ordeal.  This experience lets us know her motivations once the zoo became collateral damage in the Iraq War.
       

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Response to Bechdel's Fun Home (by Erin Roberson)


1.         How is the work illustrated?  Be specific: would you characterize it as sketchy, realistic, cartoony, artistic, ornate, spare, expressionistic, tight, loose, etc.?  What is the overall feel of the artwork, and what kind of tone does it create for the reader?  Do you feel it is the uniquely suited to the story being told?  Consider the differences between Crumb and Cavey’s illustrations for Pekar’s American Splendor
            Fun Home is a mix between cartoony and realistic. Nothing in the comic would be considered unrealistic, but, for example, the characters don’t look exactly like real people either. The part of a character that looks completely realistic is their genitalia, when it is exposed.  The illustrator hardly ever allows the characters to show expression; almost all of the characters have a straight or no mouth and small, plain black eyes. Honestly, everything and everyone just looks miserable and burdened the entire time. This artwork perfectly suites the story it is trying to convey because the story is also heavy and miserable.

2.         Why was this story written as a graphic novel?  What might this story lose if translated to a novel, short story, or even a film?  What elements of the story almost require the juxtaposition of words and images? In other words, what does the comic format allow us to see and experience that a traditional novel wouldn’t?  Again, be as specific as possible. 
            This story definitely was utilized most effectively in a graphic novel. The narrator switches between times, places, and ideas so quickly that a graphic novel just suites the style best. Films would be too confusing and a traditional novel format would just get mundane with all of the descriptions. Also, being able to flip between pages to reread or back up is almost necessary with this story. It is very complicated and the reader might miss something along the way, so the ability to reread it important. With this complicated of a story, having artwork to show the readers part of the story is a lot easier than trying to spell it out for them, especially with the father. This story as a book or a film would probably be pretty explicate, but a graphic novel can take a sensitive subject and make it less graphic through the use of art (that sounds contradictory but it works).

3.          Who narrates the story?  How do they do this?  Traditionally, narration is told from either a third-person or first-person perspective; how does a graphic novel challenge this approach?  Consider how the form of comics ‘tells’ a story and allows us to see multiple points of view within a single narrative frame. 
            The story is told from a first person point-of-view by Allison. She tells the story of her family, specifically her father and herself and their journeys. The narration sometimes things in the art that Allison couldn’t possibly have known without being told it by someone else, so that might be considered omniscient, but the graphic novel is mostly told through Allison’s point-of-view. The use of artwork to tell the stories of her father and mother actually add depth to the story that wouldn’t otherwise be possible through Allison’s perspective.

4.         Describe one scene in the novel, either a single frame or a series of frames, that you feel is particularly significant.  Why is this sequence so important?  Do you admire this passage more for its narrative (the words) or its art (the images)—or both?  Make sure we can not only see what’s going on here, but we see how it relates to the story at large. 

            A pivotal scene in the story is page 80-81 where Allison gets together with her first partner. Up until this point, any homosexuality (which is a major theme in the novel) has only been theoretical, but this is the first time that there has actually been an action. I actually think this passage is important for both the words and the artwork. The artwork shows the women honestly and does show them in the act of sex, but it is done without being more graphic than necessary. The words also make the scene artistic instead of trashy because it tells about Allison’s partner and their love affair without spelling out their actions.

For Wednesday: Maus II and Wrap-Up

We'll finish disussing Maus tomorrow, focusing specifically on Maus II.  If you haven't posted a comment response on the blog yet, please do so here (for Maus II), or on the Maus I post below.  Here are a few other things to remember:

1. Don't forget the template response for your sixth graphic novel (your choice); this must be e-mailed to me by December 30th. 

2. The blog is full of links to comic content and interviews with writers from the class.  Use these to your advantage when writing your paper.  Also, I've updated the post from last week on Comic Terms to include the Seven Word/Image relationships.  These are good terms to use when discussing comic techniques and how artists/writers tell stories. 

3. Remember that this blog will remain up for years, ideally.  You can check back next semester or next year and find the posts from our class as well as new reviews and links.  If you want to add a post, please e-mail me and I can post it for you (or if you're really interested in contributing to the blog, I can add you as an author). 

See you on tomorrow for our last class! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

For Tuesday: Speigelman's Maus I (we'll discuss II on Wednesday)


Art Spiegelman started experimenting with ideas for Maus in his comic Raw (which we will see in our documentary, Comic Book Confidential on Tuesday), an experimental work which broke the boundaries of traditional comic books.  Originally a short strip, Maus expanded into a novel-length work that spanned several years, and was based on actual taped interviews with his father, Vladek Speigelman (as documented in Maus I and II).  The first book came out to considerable acclaim and pushed him to finish the second work quickly, though not without taking an emotional toll--again, as documented in Maus II.  Today, the two parts of Maus are considered the high water mark of the graphic novel medium, and inspired/challenged every subsequent comic book artist, notably Marjane Satrapi, whose on work, Persepolis I and II owes a considerable debt to his technique.  Spiegelman continues to be very active in comics, and recently wrote a book confronting the 9/11 tragedy called In The Shadow of No Towers.  He has also published a retrospective about Maus entitled Meta Maus, available from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/MetaMaus-Inside-Modern-Classic-DVD-R/dp/037542394X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1324324150&sr=1-1

Here is an except from an interview with Spieglman about Maus and comic book form:

Spiegelman: "MAUS was done in comics form because I make comics and so it was the natural language for me to speak. Comics have to do with art like Yiddish has to do with language; it's a kind of vernacular. And so MAUS was essentially a natural means for me. The reason I mentioned these precedents before, by the time I was working on MAUS it seemed like a rather natural thing to do. It wasn't like ... do it in comics, that will get really a rise out of somebody. And I know that the responses to MAUS when it came out were first great suspicion. And then as they got closer, people who were serious about the issues that lie at the heart of MAUS weren't offended by its form; they just found that that could work. And that's essentially what's interesting to me. What's less interesting in this show is when you talk about these Legos: it's cute, it's about Legos. It's not about Auschwitz. So maybe that piece would have been better off in a different context than finding various ways of looking at events 50 years removed ... from the present through "inappropriate" media." 

You can find the entire interview here: http://www.thirteen.org/nyvoices/transcripts/spiegelman.html

Basics for MLA Citation (for the paper)

MLA Citation: The Basics

MLA format is simply a system of citing works (giving credit to your sources) in your paper and then listing them in alphabetical order at the end of your paper in a "Works Cited" page.  The in-text citations are links to your Works Cited page, so the information below will make sure they function this way. 

I. Citing a work in your paper:

As Joel Achenbach writes, “In the 1960’s, paleoecologist Paul Martin developed what became known as the blitzkrieg hypothesis.  Modern humans, Martin said, created havoc as they spread through the Americas, wielding spears tipped with stone points to annihilate animals that had never faced a technological predator” (“Lost Giants,” 94). 

(Follow this basic format: Introductory Tag + quote + citation.  Place either the author’s name, or the article title, or the website in the parenthesis followed by the page number(s) if applicable). 

I.a. Citing an article in your Works Cited Page:

Achenbach, Joel.  “Lost Giants.”  National Geographic.  October 2010, Vol. 218, No.4.  pp. 91-109. 

(Be sure to include all the information you have, in this case the author + the article title + the journal it appears in + publication information + page numbers).

IIa. Citing a Graphic Novel in your paper:

In a pivotal scene, we see two frames of Beth reading over her husband's draft of a novel, the second frame showing a thought bubble which says "It's me."  The work then shows the handwritten note (on lined notebook paper) by Nicholas which outlines his despair at being trapped in his marriage and in the village; this allows us to see both perspectives, rather than have Beth summarize the gist of the note to us (Simmonds, Tamara Drewe).  Throughout the work, Simmonds tries to scatter clues to her characters' fears and desires so we can piece them together as we read the novel, rather than relying one one limited or omniscient author to explain it to us.

(Whenever possible, cite the page number as well...however, Tamara Drewe has no page numbers, so just cite the author and title.  Also note how I tried to describe the scene and the dialogue, and not just tell what happened.  Describe scenes so we can see them). 

IIb. Citing a Graphic Novel in your Works Cited Page:

Simmonds, Posy.  Tamara Drewe.  Boston: Marriner Books, 2007. 

Paper Assignment

Having read at least six graphic novels (including your extra one, that is), you are now well-equipped to tackle the following paper, which asks you to take an argumentative stance on one of the following issues.  Choose ONE of the following as a basis for your final researched paper…

Option#1: Neither graphic novels nor comics are a particularly suitable name for this diverse and unique art form.  Each one has connotations that are juvenile, lurid, or simplistic.  Coin a new term for this art form that you feel adequately describes its characteristics and defend it using examples from at least two graphic novels.  Explain how the novels can be read and seen as ‘X’ rather than as ‘comics,’ ‘graphic novels,’ or ‘funny books.’  In addition, if you read and enjoy manga (Japanese comics), you might consider the limitations of that word, which most Americans don’t understand and/or find meaningless. 

Option #2: Literacy rates are falling in public schools as students seem more and more resistant to reading.  Many teachers and scholars believe that graphic novels are an ideal way to reach students, as even the least prepared reader can ‘read’ comics and become engaged in the text.  Why else might comics/graphic novels become an important component of the curriculum in its own right?  Use at least two graphic novels to support your argument, and show how they function as accessible yet complex works of art.  Also consider how you might use them in the classroom: what would they help you teach, and what would you want students to see and understand about your particular texts? 

Option #3: What do you think distinguishes a ‘graphic novel’ from a ‘comic book’?  While some might say length, many graphic novels (such as Batman: Year One, Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and even Tamara Drewe) once started out as comic books or newspaper installments and only later became novels.  What unique qualities made them suitable to be called novels—or should we even distinguish between the two terms?  Use at least two graphic novels to explain how they tell stories in a unique way which demands its own genre or category.  You might also consider whether any comic book (or comic strip) could become a ‘graphic novel.’  What is the essential ingredient(s) that makes comic book frames into novels?   

REQUIREMENTS
  • Should be at least 5 pages, but more is certainly welcome
  • Use at least 2 graphic novels, one from class and one outside work (preferably your 6th graphic novel for the Blog Assignment)
  • Use at least 2 outside sources: these can be websites, journal articles, books, interviews, etc.  These should either help support your argument or offer ideas to argue against or somehow incorporate into your discussion.
  • Be sure to quote passages (words and illustrations) from your novels as support.  Don’t merely summarize what happens in the books: show us what happens and how the books tell their story.  The more you summarize, the less persuasive your argument. 
  • Final paper due via e-mail by Friday, December 30th by .  Late papers may not be accepted (depending on how late!). 

Friday, December 16, 2011

For Monday: Simmonds' Tamara Drewe

Starting in the late 70’s, Simmonds worked as a cartoonist for The Guardian, introducing a weekly strip called The Silent Three of St. Botolph’s.  This led to other strips and a full-fledged book in 1981, True Love, which can be seen as her first attempt at a graphic novel.  Her penchant for satire and literary adaptation led naturally to her most celebrated work, Gemma Bovery, which, in the tradition of the nineteenth-century novel, appeared serialized in The Guardian every Monday through Saturday in 1999.  The success of the series prompted its publication in book form the same year.  The book quickly garnered critical interest and attention, even being nominated for the celebrated Prix de la critique award (best comic published in France, organized by the Association des Critiques et des Journalistes de Bande DessinĂ©e).  Though Alan Moore’s From Hell took the award, the resulting critical interest helped Gemma Bovery jump the pond and find an American publisher in 2004.  Her most recent book, Tamara Drewe, was published in 2008 and was recently adapted into a 2010 film directed by Stephen Frears (which got mixed reviews, mostly because the film could only tell the story--and the richness of the book derives from her unique approach to the graphic novel). 

Here's a sample from an interview with Simmonds by Paul Gravett, an authority on graphic novels:

You’ve got, very cleverly, in this book the different voices and the different ways of getting across those voices, not just in typeset prose. Or you have Gemma’s diaries, letters or handwritten things. You’ve used the graphic and typographic voices of the book.

Yes. I realized, once I started doing it, that you have an extra voice. You could give the characters their voices in whatever way, whether it be in reported speech, in balloons or it could be diaries or their own voice-over, but then the actual drawings could be another voice as well. The drawing could also do things like films do where you could have things going on in the background.

Counterpointing on what else goes on.

Yes. I didn’t have enough room to put it in but I planned that if you went back through Gemma Bovery you could see that her husband Charlie actually had an affair with Martine, Madame Joubert, the narrator’s wife. Just maybe in the background or they would be talking where you’d see them. So you saw how Charlie got lonely and fed up when Gemma had her affair.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

For Friday: Thompson's Good-Bye, Chunky Rice

About the Book:

The genesis of Good-Bye, Chunky Rice was in a series of short, autobiographical sketches that Thompson wrote to relieve his own homesickness after moving to Portland.  As he explains, “Interesperced between those stories was a cute little adventure story of a turtle. When I moved to Portland, Brett Warnock, who eventually became my publisher, said, “those autobiographical strips are just for you and your friends, and aren’t publishable, per se, but if you ever want to do a book about this turtle character, I’ll gladly publish it.” I guess it was that prompting that inspired me to do a full book about Chunky Rice” (The Daily Cross Hatch). 

Thompson worked on what would become his first book while doing illustrations for Dark Horse Comics and Top Shelf Productions, among others.  The final work, strongly influenced by his childhood love for Jim Henson and Dr. Seuss, was published by Top Shelf in 1999, quickly earning him critical if not commercial success.  Despite a Harvey Award and an Ignatz Award Nomination, Thompson struggled to make ends meet as a graphic artist, working so hard he developed tendonitis.  According to his blog, when he received his printer’s comps of the third edition of Chunky Rice, he sold them all to Powell’s Books simply for food and rent money (Doot Doot Garden)

Other works by Thompson:
Carnet de Voyage (2004)
Blankets (2005)
Habibi (2011)

Link to Thompson's website, the Doot-Doot Garden: http://www.blog.dootdootgarden.com/

Comic Book Terms: Closure, the Gutter, and Transitions

From Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, Harper Collins, 1994:


Closure: "the phenomenon of observing the parts but percieving the whole...in our daily lives, we often commit closure, mentally completing that which is incomplete based on past experience (such as seeing images in clouds, faces in cars, or patterns in unexpected places)...in recognizing and relating to other people, we all depend heavily on our learned ability of closure...Comics panels fracture both time and space, offering a jagged, staccato rhythm of unconnected moments.  But closure allows us to connect these moments and mentally construct a continuous, unified reality." 


The Gutter: The space between two panels, which requires an imaginative leap to connect.  Depending on the transition style (see below), it might require greater leaps of closure to connect the storyline. 


The Six Types of Frame Transitions (according to McCloud, that is):


Moment to Moment: a slow, second-by-second movement of time

Action to Action: Simple cause and effect, usually involving short spans of time


Subject to Subject: Similar to Action to Action, but the perspective changes. We see another ‘subject’ in the story, which might involve a different ‘camera’  shot. 

Scene to Scene: Very common in comics and films, where we leave one setting for another one, removed either in space or time.

 Aspect-to-Aspect: “wandering eye” effect, where time is arrested but the frame moves along different perspectives in the same moment or moments.

Non-Sequitur: literally, “it does not follow”; the images have no obvious sequential relationship.  The comics asks us to provide the missing link in the ‘gutter.’ 

The Six Types of Word/Image Relationships:

Word Specific: words tell the story, pictures  illustrate

Picture Specific: pictures tell the story, words illustrate

Duo-Specific: each one seems to be telling the exact same story, without adding or subtracitng anything (to the point where one might be superfluous)

Additive: where either the words or pictures add something specific that is not "in" the words or the picture.  However, in this technique, either words or pictures dominate. 

Parallel: where the words and pictures tell different stories that only make sense within the context of the comic (or by using our imaginations!); neither one supports or follows the other

Montage: where words become images or images become words (for example, having the words "mortgage" floating over a character's head, or having a happy face become the letter "A" in the word happy)

Interdependent: similar to additive, but here both words and images add something specific to the experience; losing one would totally change the story of the frame.  They have an equal relationship.