Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Response to Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist (by Erica Hollingsworth)

1       The artwork very well reflects the idea behind this manga. Every line has a purpose, but they are not sinister in that way. It flows very well from frame to frame as well, making it an easy read, at least visually. Everything is there for you to see. The backgrounds are not always complex, sometimes merely being a single tone or parallel lines going in the same direction as those in the frame. Because you don't always have to focus on what is happening in the frame, you can instead look more into what the author wants you to see: the characters and what they are saying. However, this is not always the case. There are still many frames that give clues or back-story without a word being mentioned about those things.

2       As I have seen this in both manga and anime forms, I can safely say that it is best shown as a manga. The music and voice actors are very distracting from the overall feel of the story. It takes away instead of adding to it. Also, because of techniques used in the manga like to monotone backgrounds, there is a slight problem with translation that can never really be overcome without looking silly. There are also instances like on page 166, during the train heist, where the characters interact with the onomatopoeia of the frames. In one, the sound “floop” is used as an onomatopoeia, but in the next, one of the hijackers looks back toward the sound in confusion, asking “floop?” Something like this could not be well translated into a film or book setting, but it does
add to the story in manga form.

3       In all, there is a third person camera following all the
characters around, but the main focus is always on Edward Elric. Since I
am staying strictly focused on volume one of this series, I can only go
so in depth with this, but there are several times when the reader knows
more than Edward does himself. That being said, he does not always
reveal to the reader what he has planned until the other people in the
story know it too. There are no narration boxes like what can be found
in Batman: Year One, and truth be told, the story is being told as it
happens, with the exception of the few flashbacks. It also differs from
how Watson told the adventures of Holmes in that, even though Ed and Al
are always together, and a good deal of the story does have to do with
just Al, he is in no way a narrator by himself. None of the characters
are, again, with the exception of when they relay tales of their past.

4       I could write pages over events all throughout the series that
strike me as important. Since I've already read them all, I will focus
on a scene that will not spoil anything for new readers. On page 126,
after the town inn has been burned down, the miners and Edward get into
an argument. The miners want Ed to make them gold so that they can pay
to repair their shop. Edward insists that he can't do this, it being
against the law. Not only that, it goes against the foundation of
Alchemy, equivalent exchange. As Edward says himself, “Why should I give
you money for free?” But, I digress. Ed continues on by saying that the
miners should move if they hate it there so much. We find out later that
Ed and Al are constantly on the move (which is revealed why later in the
series), so when the owner of the inn tells Ed “The mines are our homes
and our graves,” it strikes a chord with the boy. It takes reading the
book through twice to really get the message, but that was one of the m
ore important moments I've found in this volume without it being very
obvious or spoiling a later revealed plot element.

Response to Persepolis (by Jana Cawthon)

1.      The illustrations are simple and bold, there is very little detail. The simple illustrations are appropriate for the story being told because they are from a child’s perspective. No color is used but the illustrations don’t seem dreary or dull at all. The black and white drawings seem to magnify the simple way the girl saw things she didn’t understand.

2.      Presenting this story as a graphic novel really does an excellent job of telling the story through the eyes of a child. We see things as she saw them and feel the confusion, fear, passion and anger she felt over the things happening in her world and family. This story might lose the uniqueness being told by a child if it were a film. As a text novel this story would be difficult to read since most of it is told through dialogue.

3.      Marji, the little girl narrates the story and tells us her personal thoughts about the things she is hearing and seeing.

4.      On page 70 depicts Marji telling God to get out of her life. I think this scene is really significant because throughout the entire book Marji is hearing many different voices and seeing so much controversy that she has no control over. At this point in the story her friend has just died and she feels her world spinning out of control as the war starts; Marji feels God has failed her, she is angry and hurt. This would have been a very confusing time to be a child and it just solidifies the feeling that Marji feels like no one can understand how she feels and no one can make it better.

Response to V for Vendetta (by Derek Reed)

1) The art work is dark.  The lines are harsh, but the colors bleed over and aren't constrained
by the lines.  I feel it is unique to the story due to the oppression the people feel from the
government.  The artwork is pleasing and suits.  Things have a lot of color, but somewhat

2) This story was a movie, but not as good as this novel.  The novel is intense dealing with
many themes.  To fully understand the work, we have to make sure we understand the
mindset of Britain in the 1980's.  The book promotes more anarchy than it does anything.  It
promotes anarchy against a very oppressive facist government.  The movie lost the complex
ideals, and the complexities of the many different political ideas in Britain.  The movie was
more about liberal vs conservative than anything, which for me loses the mindset that Moore
had against Thatcher.

3)  There are a few narrators, but if I had to choose one, it would be Evey, a girl that is saved
by the masked vigilante V. Evey tells of V and what she experiences living with him.  This
causes us to want to know more about the masked man.

4)  This Vicious Cabaret, at the beginning of book 2 is my favorite scene.  V describes,
through song, the viciousness of what is going on around him.  He uses the word cabaret,
which would insinuate that what they're dealing with is just a simple performance.  The best
part about this scene is while he plays and sings, his descriptions are depicted by the artist.
Even better, there is a score beneath the frames that give us the opportunity to know what
the piece of music sounds like. There are some decent recordings of it on youtube. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

I am behind...more soon!

In preparing for the Spring 2012 semester (in 5 days!) I have fallen behind updates for this site.  Several students' responses still await posting, and I hope to finish this over the weekend.  I am still sporadically grading final papers, and these will be returned to you (if you don't have them already) over the next 5 days via e-mail.  I apologize for the delay!  I will also post my own responses to some recent novels, and include other interesting updates and notes as things come up.  Be sure to drop by occassionally throughout the semester!

Response to Sandman, Vol. 1 (by Allan Adams)

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.
The Sandman’s illustrations were artistic to say the least.  It certainly wasn’t realistic, but more stylistic.  It reminded me of the artwork in Batman: Year One, only harsher and darker.  The art definitely complimented the dreamy nature of the story and the main character Dream/Morpheus/ the Sandman.  The Sandman story is dark and twisted and full of symbolism, and the artwork uses this tone to amplify the atmosphere created by the plot and characters than inhabit this universe where Dream and Death are anthropomorphized into living, breathing (though still not real) incarnations.
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 would be next to impossible to present in any other form.  While technically it could be done as a book or film, it would lose too much, in my opinion, to have the same confused yet still understandable feeling that the graphic novel approach provides.  As a book, you’d lose most of the visual symbolism that in the graphic novel.  While an author could describe these scenes that are presented visually, I think the impact of actually seeing the images would be lessened too much to justify.  And while a film could theoretically show you these images on screen, it would be very difficult for the audience to follow along without getting completely lost.  Too often I had to go back and look at the artwork to really understand what was happening in the story.  Not to mention, with the graphic novel approach I was able to study the drawings at my own pace and appreciate the images and understand the images better because to that.
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 are multiple narrators throughout the story.  Sometimes it’s the main character himself doing the narrating, other times its some omniscient third person perspective, and in several cases we see the story unfold through other characters (like John Constantine) that show up for a short period and are then gone for the rest of the novel.  This goes back to question two, as this would be almost impossible to pull off in another medium without confusing the audience. 
4.         Describe one scene in the novel, either a single frame or a series of frames, which 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 two parts in the novel that really jumped out at me more than anything else.  The first is when Dream calls upon Hecateae (or Hecate from Greco-Roman mythology).  I loved this part because of its mythological significance and background (I always love it when stories reference or incorporate classical mythology).  I thought the scene was creatively done and it really is the jumping off point for the adventure Dream is embarking on for the bulk of the novel. The second part that I really enjoyed and thought was significant is when Dream is battling a demon for his helmet (that’s more of a mask really).  Instead of a typical physical battle, they have a battle of wits.  The demon will say that he is a thing or creature of some sort, and then Dream will say that he something else that will destroy the demon and it will go back and forth until one of them can’t respond.  It was an interesting part because it would have been easier to have them battle like you would imagine a comic book normally would—through some physical or magical confrontation—but it doesn’t.  In the end, Dream defeats the demon by saying that he is the one thing that can’t be destroyed . . . “I am hope,” Dream says.

Response to The Killing Joke (by Karri Wheat)

  1. I would say that the artwork for The Killing Joke is realistic and “grungy” at the same time. Unlike Batman Year One, this book’s artwork feels more recent – the artwork gives a feel that this could have happened in the present time, whereas the for Batman Year One gives more of a retro vibe. The dark shadowy colors contrast with the reds, greens, and purple of the carnival and the Joker.
  2. If this story was translated to a novel, you would lose the color contrasts and the scenes where the Joker is being reminded of his “past”. The flashbacks are in black and white, except for the occasional objects that are in red and the chemicals in the water that are green. As a movie, I feel this would be a little too comedic, and may not be taken seriously. Many things would also be held back in a film. For example, when Gordon is naked on the carnival “ghost train” ride, the Joker flashes images of Barbara (his daughter), naked and bleeding on the floor. The images of her are as the “HA HA HA” of the Joker’s laugh. As a novel or a film, this image would be lost and you would lose that sense of insanity.
  3. The book allows the reader to see the story through three perspectives: the Joker’s, Batman’s, and Commissioner Gordon’s. When you see things through the Joker’s eyes, you also see his “tragic past” and you also see how it mirrors his actions in the present. When it switches to Batma, we not only see how badly he wants to keep the Joker locked up, but also how he has slight sympathy for him. When looking through Gordon’s perspective, we see how he is horrifically tortured and humiliated in attempts to drive him insane, but we also see that even in one of his most darkest hours, he is strong and able to still do things “by the book”.
  4. I think there are two scenes in this novel that stands out the most. The first is when James Gordon is being held captive and is forced to ride the ‘ghost train’. The first frame we see is him going through a corridor of pictures on huge screens of a woman, naked and bleeding. The third frame shows Gordon screaming out his daughter’s name when he realized what the Joker has done with her. The images of Barbara are scattered in the frame. There is even one positioned in the “gutter”. They look as though someone just kept taking picture after picture, like a Polaroid camera, and jut let them fall to the ground. The hues of the pictures are red, but the actual blood is black. This image of Gordon and the pictures is the center of the page. The last frame, which takes the complete bottom, is the Joker, obviously on a screen just like the photos. He has interrupted the red pictures. Now the most noticeable colors are purple, green, red, and white. The Joker’s chine, bow tie, and the curls of his hair are overlapping off the frame and into the gutter, just like the pictures of Barbara. Also, the teeth of Gordon, Barbara, and the Joker. Even though they are all open mouths, they are to different emotions: fear, pain, and insanity. Yet, they look almost all the same. The second is of Batman and the Joker after the Joker’s defeat. They are both laughing at the Joker’s joke. Of course, the Joker has lot it, laughing hysterically, but even Batman let’s out a laugh and chuckle. The fourth frame of the last page is of them both smiling and chuckling. They both almost look like two madmen, which is an argument that Batman can become just as crazy and chaotic as the Joker. But they also look like two friends laughing together. The fifth frame, Batman has the Joker by the jacket, they are silhouetted, the only visible features are Batman’s eyes and smile, and the Joker’s face. The famous “HA HA HA” all around the Joker, in different spots in the frame. They spill over into the sixth frame. Showing that in a moment of sanity, he has let go of it. The other thing leaking across the other frames is the “VWEEEE” of the police cars approaching with their sirens on. I think these three frames show how the law sees Batman and the Joker. They are pulling up on the two as they laugh. To us, we see them both dark in the light (or, the “eyes”) of the law, except Gordon. They are both nearly the same. But the Joker’s face is in the light. I think the reason for this is because we know why Batman, or Bruce Wayne, does the things he does. But, despite the memories we were shown, we still know nothing of the Joker. He is still more of a mystery to us.