Monday, December 17, 2012

For Tuesday: Miller's Batman: Year One

Read Miller/Mazzucchelli's Batman: Year One for Thursday's class and complete the "response template" for Thursday's class.  Feel free to post any of your responses as a 'comment' to this blog (you must post at least one response for one of the four books this semester--see syllabus for details). 

"For me, Batman was never funny.  I was eight years old when I picked up an 80-page annual from the shelf of a local supermarket.  The artwork on one story looked good and scary...Glistening wet, black against the blackened sky, a monster, a giant, winged gargoyle hunched forward, pausing at a building's ledge, and cocked its head...Moonlight glanced across its back, across its massive shoulders, down its craned, cabled neck, across its skull, striking a triangle at one pointed bat's ear.  It rose into space, its wings spread wide, then fell, its wings now a fluttering cape wrapped tight about the body of a man...the 80-page giant comic cost 25 cents, but I bought it anyway."  --Frank Miller


  1. 1) The graphics in this book are very loose and sktchy. Although the pictures are in color, they give the impression of being very dark because they are more undefined which goes well with they storyline.
    2) The novel moves quickly from one scene to another--from the commissioner's office in one frame, to Bruce Wayne's manor in the next, to Lt. Gordon's first day on the Gotham City police force. In either written or cinematic form these rapid transitions would be confusing whereas in a graphic form one can see the transition and setup for the coming plot.
    3) At times Batman is the narrator, at other times Lt. Gordon is the narrator, and again in other places there is an outside third-person narrator. movies do not have narrators, you have to just watch and see what happens without being told (unlike American sports which you get told three times what you just saw); non-graphic novels tend to stay with one narrator throughout the story.
    4) On pg. 22 Bruce Wayne tells about a frightening thing that crashes through the window of his father's study. It is a bat. He then says that he will become a bat. This leaves the reader wondering whether this is a family curse/ability or some type of formula one of his many enterprises has developed. How exactly does he become Batman? It is obviously more than just changing into a cape and a pair of tights while sliding down a fireman's pole as Adam West did in the TV show.

  2. 1) I would consider this as having a realistic and tight look. It is also very dark, despite the wide use of colors. The ink lines are perfect, the colors blending very flawlessly in most panels. It is very colorful and the outlines are tight. Every person has their own details, and that starts to make some panels look very busy when there are multiple people in it. The panels are also very busy action wise. I do believe this is the best way to tell the story, you could change the art style but if you do you would lose something.
    2) Because it is Batman! Batman is an iconic graphic novel/comic character. I think it would play well turned into a film, this is well proven by the multiple Batman movies that already use variations of some of these scenes. A novel would lose the dark shadow feeling as well as the cluttered scenes; it would not do well to try to describe this to the readers. Without the image/text mix you would not be able to properly describe the clutter if scene while still keeping the audience interest.
    3) There are duel narrators. For the Bruce Wayne/Batman panels Bruce is the narrator. For The rest Gordon is the narrator. They do this will individually colored blocked off speech with distinct text style. Bruce’s boxes are white with handwriting and Gordon’s are yellow with typed text, so it is clear when it switches. A graphic novel allows for there to be a narrator while still being able to see inside the thoughts of other minor characters.
    4) Starting on Page 20 and ending on 22, Bruce, having been shot pulls himself into a chair in the manor. He has a bell and could easily ring for Alfred, or he can sit and bleed to death. During this he is talking to his father in the afterlife saying without a sign he will let himself die. He has waited 18 years for this sign. As he was nearing death, a bat flies through the window of the room. A bat, his sign, something that frightened him as a boy. This is the moment he know he would become Batman. Without the bat coming through the window he would have let himself die and there never would have been a Batman. I admire the art, it is very the main colors being the little bit of blood and the yellow. It is the iconic yellow used in many batman scenes.

  3. 1. I find that the artwork in Batman Year One to be a very realistic style with dark tones. It shows real depictions of characters with lots of detail. The story has a more serious tone, and to fit the theme, the artwork is very dark and does not have a lot of color. I believe that the artwork is very suiting to this story. It gives the reader a sense of realism, as it shows that all the events that are happening could be possible in the real world. The graphics are very well drawn and fit the story wonderfully.
    2. Batman has been associated with “comics” for a very long time. Batman Year One shouldn't be an exception. I believe this work was made into a comic because of tradition, but not tradition alone. Making a story about Batman has always been entertaining because he is a superhero. Making a novel about Batman would take away from it being entertaining, for the fact that the reader would not have the luxury of viewing action scenes. Batman, and all superhero comics, rely on depicting extraordinary feats that normal humans are not able to perform to show that the are in fact, well, super. With out the pictures to show us what they can do, it would not be as believable, and therefore lose it's luster.
    3. The story is narrated through more than one person. There are times where the narrator is Bruce Wayne (Batman), Gordon, or Selina, (Catwoman). Basically, whoever is in the panel at the time is the narrator. Because of this, we get the same story from several angles. This is the one thing that comics have over traditionally stories, we get more than story for the price of one! Having different perspectives adds depth to the overall story, which is needed in a comic because they are usually shorter than other works. A traditional novel leaves some parts to the imagination, but comic are more straight forward because they have pictures. This is where the extra perspectives come into play, to give the reader more to think about, so the story is not just surface material.
    4. The series of frames at the start of chapter three where Batman is fighting the swat team in the building was the most intriguing part. This section of the story shows how Batman is starting to learn how to get out of situations. It also shows that the city will stop at nothing to capture the Batman. It gives the story a feeling of suspense and intense tension. The artwork in this “battle” scene is the best series of graphics in the comic.

  4. 1. The first thing that struck me about the illustrations in “Batman: Year One” is the gratuitous use of black. The entire piece is very dark, which was a pleasant surprise to me. While I knew that the Batman franchise wasn’t exactly cheery, I wasn’t expecting the tone to be what it was. If I had to be more specific, I would say that it had an almost noir feel to it, especially the scenes in which Lieutenant Gordon played the protagonist. Despite the obvious ties as a story based on crime and justice, Mr. Gordon is dealing with some serious demons. The illustrations really help to establish that. In several frames, we see Gordon surrounded by nothing but black, often left with only his thoughts in yellow boxes.

    2. It seems to me that Batman couldn’t be more suited for the format. As a graphic novel, the author and illustrator have the unique opportunity to provide some of the light-heartedness and childhood nostalgia of the iconic “Batman” in the illustrations, while still allowing for some heavy subject material (infidelity, murder) that make the story so gripping. Use of characterized onomatopoeia is paramount to a good comic fight scene. At the same time, the imagery and subject material is certainly geared towards a more mature audience.

    The format also allows for wonderful transitions between perspectives. This could be achieved through many other forms, but I really enjoyed the way it worked in the graphic novel.

    3. The work is narrated from three different perspectives, potentially four: Batman, Lieutenant Gordon, the media, and although Catwoman never narrates, her perspective is revealed a few times. As far as I can tell, the story is all first-person, but the actual narrators switches often. The author and illustrator use a number of different methods to alternate between narrators. Batman and Lieutenant Gordon each have their own font, and Gordon’s thoughts are shown in a yellow box as opposed to white. Furthermore, many of the scenes end abruptly, signifying the shift in perspective. Finally, alternating from Batman to Gordon is often accompanied by a change in the border color from white to black. I didn’t pick up on this in my first read-through, but on my second try I couldn’t miss it. Finally, the media’s perspective is always portrayed in a neat box above a TV screen depicting a news anchor.

    Graphic novels allow the perception of multiple points of view from being able to depict every important aspect simultaneously: the image, the dialogue, and the thoughts of the characters. By putting all of this in one frame, we can get a very complete understanding of the scene that may not be possible in other mediums.

    4. The scene that I felt was most compelling occurs on the final few pages of the first chapter. Bruce Wayne has just returned from an evening of vigilante crime fighting. He has been shot by a police officer and has narrowly escaped prison. Moreover, the officers that arrested him will likely die due to his actions. He returns to Wayne Manor, and has a conversation with his late father that begins with, “Father… I’m afraid I may have to die tonight.” That certainly sets the tone. The illustrations on these pages are possibly the darkest of the entire novel. You can hardly make out some of the faces due to the overwhelming blackness. Mr. Wayne has a flashback to the night that his parents died. Once again, almost entirely black images depicting the murder of his family. A bat crashes through the window of his study. The bat is familiar to him, and he recognizes it as a sign from his father. In the next frame, he is the Batman.

  5. 1) I would describe the work in Batman: Year One to be expressionistically illustrated. In this novel I believe the artwork gives the story a dark and dramatic tone. It does this by expressing the story using dark colors, and making the characters appear realistic. I believe the tone set by these illustrations accurately expresses the dark and dramatic struggles of Gotham City.
    2) I believe this story was written as a graphic novel because a graphic novel allows the reader to jump between several characters, and several subplots rather easily. This graphic novel also allows the reader to see background details of the story that would be lost if this story were told in another form. The format of this novel also allows the reader to know the thoughts of its main characters, and also exposes the reader to personal areas of several characters’ lives.
    3) This novel has several narrators. At times Batman is the narrator, and at other times Lt. Gorden is the narrator. There is even sometimes a third narrator. Graphic novels make it much easier to have multiple narrators throughout the story because each has their own style of illustrations for their narrations. This combination of narrators allows the reader to view the story from multiple angles, and through the eyes of multiple characters.
    4) I think a significant frame is the frame showing Bruce arriving at the Wayne manor. In this frame Bruce narrates about the manor, “Built as a fortress, generations past, to protect a fading royalty from an age of Equals.” I see this frame as significant because it shows that the Wane family is a powerful family, and that Bruce is a very powerful and rich man.

  6. Time for my post-class comments... I'm trying to avoid posting late like this, really. Not this time though.

    1. Illustration Style
    I would characterize Year: One's art style as being a mix of 40s and 50s era comics, with tight, deliberate lines and shading. The coloration is sparse and simple in some parts, busy and smeary and blended such as in the red light district scenes and the showdown at the abandoned building. The feel is dark and brooding, either like overcast skies or with vivid colors in the earthy tones. Even the bright parts have a washed out look to them, as though there are no bright cheery colors in this Gotham. Is it uniquely suited? I think it might be possible to tell the same story with a different artist and colorist, but it would run the risk of coming out as a very different story.

    2. Why Graphic Novel?
    I think this story was uniquely suited to a graphic novel for a couple reasons, the main being that it is a story of Batman, a superhero who is deeply involved in the comic book / graphic novel medium. It is difficult to capture the seemingly ridiculous exploits of skulking around in spandex and a cape in film and have it still remain dark, brooding, and believable. The comics art form allows for some great effect that would not necessary translate well into film. Pages 26 and 27 have a really unique look to them, almost like the bleak rain is causing the colors in the world to run; I have difficulty imagining this in film or novel form.

    3. Narrator?
    Both Gordon and Bruce narrate the novel. This is most keenly apparent in the style of their narration boxes, Gordon yellow like sticky notes and print text, Bruce/Batman as white with cursive text. Catwoman / Silena Kyle portions of the story are almost like a third person addition, she does not have any narration herself, but she does form the focus of portions of the story even when she is not interacting with Bruce or Gordon.

    4. Analyze a Scene
    Page 64 is such a great page. On one hand, you have a juxtaposition of 'aftereffects' from the showdown, Batman escaping, the pursuit, so on, all in black and white like pages on a report, with little yellow boxes and Gordon's narration and interpretation of events. It's washed out like a report or memory, and it nicely tidies up the showdown, illustrating not only Batman getting away (along with how) and adding more dimension with the detail of him buying a suit instead of just stealing it. It also forms one of the most stark pages, but it doesn't feel washed out or dark, just plain and matter of fact, with the biting ironies pointed out by Gordon for us.

  7. 1. I'd describe Batman: Year One as being both realistic, artistic, and expressionistic. It's more artistic and expressionistic than it is realistic, because of the colors used on each page, but overall it's drawn in a realistic manner. The characters are drawn in such a way that they look like real people. The artwork is consistent and frenetic as it changes from page to page to convey a new scene. When Bruce is in the bad part of town the pages become very neon pink in color to pull the reader in. The detail in the novel is wonderfully shown on page 4 when Gordon is in Loeb's office. Loeb's office is filled with nice details such as a Charlie Brown lampshade, small statuesque figure of a man sitting on a toilet, and another figure that reads “world's worst golfer,” I believe. His little figure is also similar to Gordon's “World's Greatest Dad” mug he is seen using later on on page 26. Another nice detail is his wife's shirt on page 28.
    2. The graphic novel allows for the reader to get into the point of view character's head and see what he/she is thinking. It also allows for an incredibly stylistic illustration that could never be found in a movie. Before the graphic novel even begins the reader is shown a page that has young Bruce Wayne broken among his two dead parents. The background is simple with only a small change in color from the top to the bottom, but the scene stands out because the focus is put solely onto Bruce's situation. The blood coming from his parents help even more to show this.
    3. Batman is narrated primarily by Bruce, Gordon, and Selina. As the novel goes on,each scene that revolves around the different characters has the characters' thoughts shown to the reader, so that they can get into the person's head. The transition from scene to scene is handled very well. On page 29, it has Gordon shooting at a firing range, and the first thought the reader gets from Gordon his him thinking “it kicks.” Below, in a different scene that takes place a day later, Gordon is with his pregnant wife and is rubbing her belly when he feels the baby kick. It's a simple parallel between two scenes, but it works quite well, and I can't see how it would work in a movie, because the movie would be jumping back and forth between each character and each scene so much it would probably confuse or disorient the viewer. The viewpoints tie in together to create a very cohesive and tight story.
    4. One of the most important scenes in the novel – maybe even the most important - is when Bruce is dying in Wayne Manor after nearly being killed following his adventure in the shadiest part of town. It's a pivotal scene because it's the moment when Bruce learns and understands what he can use to put fear in criminals. The entire page is beautifully colored in yellow, from the light streaming in through the window onto Bruce, to the bell in his hand. I feel like if the bat hadn't have broken through the window Bruce might have let himself die. It's also important to realize that both Bruce and Gordon use bats to put the fear into their enemies, and that bats were once used against them as well. Another nice parallel.