Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blankets by Josh McNeely

The illustration of Blankets is very artistic and cartoonish. Craig Thompson does something interesting with the illustration of people. The younger he is in the story, the more cartoonish the drawings become. The older Craig is the more realistic the art work becomes. This gives off the impression that as time moves further the more obscure the memories become. Though the pictures while he is in his high school career are more realistic in the portrayal of characters, the art work begins to become much more artistic. This is meant to add to the emotions Craig is feeling while he is with Raina. For example on page 306 he sees Raina in her nightgown and views her as an angel, in this atmosphere of beauty swirling around her.
What this story does is it tells you the story of how Craig feels and falls in love with Raina, and allows the artwork to compliment it in a manor with shows degree of a situation not just showing how the situation is unfolding, remember the example from page 306. This complimenting factor is not possible in a movie or novel format. You would miss out on Blankets ability to make you feel the emotions of the characters are experiencing, both the exaggerated emotions (when he is a kid), and the more artistic unique emotions he feels in high school.
The story has some interesting narration going on. This is a story that he narrates from a further point in time then when the story begins. At times we find him narrating as an adult about being in high school where he tells a story about when he was a kid. Also, due to the exaggeration of the artwork, Craig seems to be untrustworthy in what he see's, and say's. On page 16, His dad opens up a sleeping crate that has teeth; obviously, there were no teeth, but it shows that how he saw things as a child is not necessary how they happened.
The most significant scene, in my opinion, is on page 506. We see Craig walking through a field that has lost all of the snow, but he is remembering what the field looked like with snow. Right before this in the story we see him getting a call from Raina, telling him that she cant handle a commitment right now. Because of this he starts seeing the world change. The love he has for Raina is changing, she's changing, and there is nothing Craig can do about it. This scene on 506, shows that he is faced with a situation in nature that has now changed form what he thought of as beautiful. He wants things to stay the same, but he cannot keep things from changing. This scene is a metaphor for his relationship with his brother, his relationship with Raina, and his faith. It shows how time reveals the things we may not want to see but we will eventually see. Craig eventually grows apart from his brother, he eventually breaks up with Raina, and he eventually cant keep turning from the fact that the dogma of the christian faith is ridiculous. All of these things can be used as metaphors for this scene, which is why I think it is a really significant scene.

Tamara Drewe by Lisa Edge

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.  It is done cartoony but with realistic characters.  Some is done with full color, others more pastels, and some with more a black and white feel with shades of blue or almost shadowy.  The play with color I think adds to the feel of the story. 

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 has the possibility to be re-done multiple ways it has enough story content to be turned into a book I understand that there is a book and that this is based off of the book.  As stated before I also feel that this same story would fit well into a soap opera—that’s the feel I get from the story line.  In the beginning you think or get the feel that the story is going to center around the retreat but as the story unfold it centers more around the sorted affairs of Tamara Drewe. 

3.       Who narrates the story?  One person? More than one?  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 narration is done by who’s point of view is being told at the time.  There are moments when Beth the retreat keeper is guiding us through the story as she sees it and through her troubling marriage.  Through column clipping we see Tamara Drewe’s narration.  At one point it is glen in the bathroom who is overhearing a conversation/argument between Beth and her husband.  This Graphic novel allows us to see multiple points of view at a time allowing us to get to know each character.  It draws us in deeper into the story and allows us to empathize with all the characters even if we do not agree with what is going on or how they are handling the situation.

4.       Describe one scene in the novel; either a single frame or a single of frames that you feel is particularly significant.  Why is this moment 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 no page numbers but there is a scene where Glen is in the bathroom and overhears an conversation/argument between Beth and her husband where Glen struggle with the decision to make it known that he is there and cut and run or to just be quiet till it’s over.  For whatever reason he stays compelled to know what’s going on I assume After Beth and her husband’s conversation passes and Glen overhears a conversation between Nick (Beth’s husband) and his lover and learns quickly the truth of their split.  That Nick’s lover called it off and not Nick as Nick had told his wife.  This scene’s illustrations are brilliantly done depicting the goings on of the character’s.  I really felt for Glen all hid out in the bathroom wanting to bolt but compelled to stay.  I also felt for Beth because her husband is such a louse.  

Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Ammi Ross

1. This particular comic was illustrated by Gomez and I thought it looked sketchy and tight. There was also a realistic touch with the extreme likeliness of some of the comic characters to their tv counter parts. It looks and feels like a superhero comic which is great, because Buffy is a superhero. It even had the written exclamations like: ARGHH!! and B-KOOM. ---no seriously. It was spelled that way. Whatever happened to tried and true; KA-BOOM!!---  

2. It was written as a graphic novel simply, because BVS fans refuse to let the story die. This was a way to renew interest in the older episodes and movie while later allowing us to continue further than the final 7th season. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been revamped (lol i knew i could fit that in some where) time and time again. 1st as a movie, then a tv series, then a short silent film within the tv series---which won awards---, then a musical within the tv series, then graphic novels, and at last a series of books. All of these have made a hit within the BVS cult following. So I can't really say the comic version is the better one. I think the one thing that seeing it as a comic really did for its audience was paint Buffy as a superhero. And some of that had to do with the design as previously stated.  

3. This comic reads like a series of events with dialogue rather than a narration for the most part and some of that is due to BVS way of speech. Things happen quickly. But looking hard I would have to say there were 3 different narrations: Buffy's POV, then the Villain's and finally the supporting character's. ---if I'm wrong sue me :)---

4. Pg. 4&5 are the most important in my opinion, because it set up the villain's character. Buffy is at her menial job and her trainer---a girl about Buffy's age---starts telling Buffy about their weird boss who Buffy had yet to meet. She talks about the boss' obsession with the freezer. These scenes foreshadow what's to come and without them the story would seem like it jumped a frame. 

Nancy Drew: The Fake Heir by Karnesa McGaha


     How is the work illustrated?
Nancy Drew girl detective #5 The Fake Heir is illustrated in a cartoony style.  The illustrator used a technique similar to Japanese Anime to draw the characters.  The faces and eyes in particular are draw with harsh lines and sketchy strokes.  The artwork adds to the mystery of the book.  Most of the illustrations serve as support for the words, making the book very word specific.  The entire novel is illustrated in color but rely heavily on a blue grey color scheme to create mood. 

2.      Why was the story written as a graphic novel?
The original stories of Nancy Drew were published in novel form but the author tried to re-do the same stories in graphic novel form to encourage young readers to read.  This book is one in a series of seven other stories.  A new book was released every three months in order to create suspense and excitement as a ploy to get readers “hooked” to the series.

3.      Who narrates the story?
 The novel is narrated by the main character, Nancy Drew.  She appears as the child detective in each book.  In each story she seems to discover or uncover some sort of mystery or problem to solve.  She seems to keep her identity as a child while assisting the adults in the story to solve a mystery or crime.  The author keeps the story in chapters to transition from one thought to another.

4.      Describe one scene in the novel.
The frames that exhibit the overall style of the book can be found on page five.  The narration boxes highlight vocabulary words in bold print.  The second frame on the page has a magnified portion of a smaller detail the illustrator wants the reader to notice.  The illustrator continues to use this same type of magnification throughout the book.  I found this technique particularly interesting because the book is written for young readers so the illustration helps the reader figure out what is important in each frame.  This page is when the plot begins to thicken and you see the characters in a different light.  The story is about a lost treasure that is claimed by a false heir and page five starts to identify who might be suspects later in the story.  This page is also when the author introduces an obstacle for the characters to overcome.

Beautiful Creatures by Loren Dunnam


      Beautiful Creatures has cartoony and loose illustrations. This work of art is a combination of water color type of black, white, and gray tones, sharp unrealistic types of lines with an abundance drawings of sound and movement. Besides the first couple of pages the whole book is in black and white. Therefore, it gives me a feeling of seriousness and past actions. I feel as if the art work in this novel is not unique to the story. This type of drawing can be found in many other types of graphic novels. Plus, since this story was first written in novel form it would not have been rooted from drawings. The fact that the first couple of pages were in color takes away from the rest of the book in my opinion.

2.      I believe Beautiful Creatures was written as a graphic novel to appeal to a new audience and to make more money. Beautiful Creatures was a novel at first then became a film and then a graphic novel. They are trying to make this the new Twilight. This story did lose its detail going from novel to film and graphic novel because the novel gave it more imagination to be used plus the people who play the film part and the people who were drew were nothing that I had imagined. This made it very hard to like any of the new media because of how a character can be made an image. The whole book, almost every frame needed juxtaposition. This graphic novels did not tell a story with just the words and it sure did not tell a story with just frames. They needed each other to survive. This graphic novel took away something very important from the story because of the nonexistent color. Without the color I cannot tell who is a dark caster and who is a light caster which is one of the main parts of the story line. The only way I would know in this book is to have a character tell me. This graphic novel should have stayed a fiction novel.
3.      Ethan Wate narrates this story. Along with some give from the leading lady Ethan Wate comes out of nowhere at the start and we follow him throughout the story. This came about because this was how the story was told in the novel. To being anyone else in to the narrator part would mess the whole story up and cause readers to put the book down a.s.a.p. There are parts that I found interesting. The parts when the main character (Ethan) and the leading lady (Lena) are talking in each other’s mind one set of bubbles are gray and the others are black which stand for the thoughts thought by Ethan and the thoughts thought by Lena. I did worry about how the artist was going to make this happen in the frames. Some of the graphic novel was at times confusing because of how much was being said. I did not get a break from reading because every frame had words.

4.      One scene in Beautiful Creatures that said a lot was the 13th page of chapter four where Macon exists his bedroom and goes from a night gown to a perfectly tailor suit. Over the first of the book it is not said that Macon has “powers” but right here he lets it be known that he can do something “magic.”  This becomes a problem in the conclusion in the story. This happens to have a huge effect on the choice that Lena has to make.  This would be the one of a few frames that I admire in this graphic novel. Though this story has artwork that other people may like I do not care for it. I kind of makes me uneasy to read it. 

Gemma Bovery by Amria Norman

      The illustration has a lot of detail, it’s realistic but it’s also kind of cartoonish because some of the expressions are overdone. I enjoyed the artwork more than the book itself I feel like it’s fitting to the story. There are a few time when she shows the story better than the words tell it.
          This felt like more of a children’s book to me. It could’ve worked just as well as a short story. Although the images added to the story the story had a lot of words and wasn’t like the traditional graphic novel. I feel like the expressions on Gemma’s face had to be shown in images. Otherwise we probably wouldn’t picture her the same throughout the story.

3.      The narration is by one person, Raymond Joubert. He’s reading Gemma’s journals as he is also talking about his life parallel to what was happening in Gemma’s. There are a few times when we see her journal entries, the font changes and we know that it’s straight from her. With him doing the parallel thing it really shows his character and how much he was obsessed with Gemma. I found it creepy in some parts. There was a section of him thinking about her while she was being intimate and he made the comment that the idea pleased him, it was something along those lines. If he wasn’t telling the story we would just get her journals and that wouldn’t add anything to the story, readers would probably lose interest.

4.      The frames of Gemma’s face on pages 36 and 37 represent her very well. She is always making this face, because she is never happy unless she is with someone she is having an affair with. These two pictures of her are on pages right next to each other. The one on left was her expression whenever the house they lived in was old and they found a new leak she was unhappy with her life with her husband. The next one on the right side she was unhappy with some of her “friends” that she had. She was daydreaming about what she wanted at that time. The frame of her thinking back on her affair on page 54 makes her smile. She was thinking about it at the end of her dinner party, but the affair had happened for the first time earlier that day. She had been with her husband for years and when she thought about him he disgusted her and her memories were never nice, but her thinking about this guy she met only hours before made her happy. I just found that comical and the illustrations made it work well for me. The pictures of Charlie on page 40 described him very well as well. He was oblivious to his wife’s unhappiness and her affairs. He always had the dorky grin. This passage is when Gemma is griping about things she didn’t like in her life. Charlie was number 5 on the list. I thought the illustrations were interesting because she didn’t like him yet he still looked happy and didn’t care about anything his wife was going through. The picture at the bottom of page 44 of Raymond Joubert when he was watching her stood out to me as well. During this part he was reading about her day in her journal and he was remembering his own memories of her that day. He was seriously obsessed with her and everything she did. He was creepy throughout the story but at this point the audience got to see him looking at her walk through town. It made me think about everything else he might’ve done that he didn’t fess up about.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Final Paper due next Friday, January 3rd!

Remember that your final paper for the class is due next Friday: be sure to re-read the Paper Assignment post (on the left hand side) and be sure you choose ONE of the following options.  Try to have fun with it--be creative--but also do some research so you have a balanced conversation between you, the works in class, your 5th graphic novel, and a few secondary sources.  

If you run into problems, either e-mail me or respond to this post with a comment; feel free to ask other students in a class a question (and other students, feel free to respond to it!).  

When looking for secondary sources, remember the following tips:

Comics Websites: 
·         The Comics Reporter: www.comicsreporter.com
·         Grovel: Graphic Novel Reviews: www.grovel.org.uk
·         The Comics Journal: www.tcj.com
·         Sequart Research and Literary Organization: www.sequart.org
·         ComicsResearch.org
·         Lambiek Comiclopedia (an on-line encyclopedia of comics: http://lambiek.net/artists/index.htm)

·         On the library page, click on “Articles & More”
·         Choose “J” for “JSTOR,” one of the best academic search engines for journals in the Humanities

·         Search for a broad topic “graphic novels,” a specific one, “censorship and graphic novels” or even an author “Art Spiegelman”  

Good luck!  I look forward to reading your comic book conversations!  :) 

Arkham Asylum by Jared Alexander

               The illustration in Arkham Asylum has a realistic style. Even though the art style changes during the book it keeps the dark creepy vibe. It goes from a sketchy look to a blurred dream-like look to a almost photograph look.  It has a lot of detail in the faces but, the backgrounds in most panels are pretty much nonexistent. The background looks very foggy or blurry.  

                This story would not work as a movie or a novel because you can’t get the same feeling or the images of insanity and madness that you can through the graphic novel. In a movie you can’t have Amadeus Arkham narrate his journal through the movie.  Also the story switches back and forth from the pages of Amadeus Arkham’s journal and Batman. This could work just like the “Holes” movie where it switched back in forth from past and present through the movie, but you wouln’t be able to know Amadeus thoughts as he fell deeper into madness.

                There isn’t really any narration in the novel. The closest thing to narration is the readings from Amadeus Arkham’s journal. The story switches from Amadeus Arkham’s journal to Batman and sometimes the journal is also read during Batman’s part in the story. 

                The most significant part in the book is where the Joker first takes Batman into the Asylum and the bottom of the page says “Let the Feast of Fools begin!” The rest of the page has text scattered all over the pages with random phrases like “No room! No room!” “Who killed Bambi” or “Oranges?” In the room you can also see dead people and patients in the asylum.  With text and images that don’t seem to make sense or connect to the image. This is where you step outside of a rational world into a world of chaos and madness. This is where you see just what kind of mad world Arkham Asylum is.

Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atom Bomb, by Charlynn Estes


Trinity’s art fluctuates from realistic to cartoonish depending on the subject matter. The people are caricatures of people, but because many of them are public figures, they still hold a resemblance to their real life counterparts. The scientific and architectural illustrations are depicted much more realistically, many of which resemble images one would expect to find in a textbook. This creates an interesting contrast between the people and their settings, and illustrates the differences between the soft, human world and the cold, harsh reality of the scientific.

2.      Fetter-Von is quoted as saying that the graphic novel was uniquely suited to the type of story he wanted to tell. With a comic, he could “draw a picture of the Greek myth of Prometheus alongside Marie Curie in her laboratory, followed by a schematic diagram of sub-atomic particles, and already in the first few pages [I’ve] constructed a narrative about science, myth, and history.”

Trinity is a historical, philosophical, and scientific work. Through images, Fetter-Von is able to construct a narrative that includes all of these aspects at the same time, something almost impossible through a traditional novel. You do not have to be familiar with the myth of Prometheus, Marie Curie, Oppenheimer or physics to understand Trinity—the images and the ideas they represent are readily explained through illustration and narrative. This opens the story of the first atomic bomb up to a much larger audience than a traditional novel would have, and let’s face it, makes it much more interesting.

3.      Trinity’s narrator is omniscient—an all knowing, and largely neutral, third party that molds the information presented in the novel into a coherent narrative. Through the narrator, the audience is allowed a glimpse into many of the character’s inner thoughts and feelings, serving to make some of the characters—like Oppenheimer and General Groves—into more than just historical figures.

Omniscient narration also allows Fetter-Von to focus on the different levels of thought surrounding the Manhattan Project. Something as big as the Mutually Assured Destruction military strategy can be juxtaposed with the terror on a young Nagasaki boy’s face.

4.      Although Trinity has many terrifying and touching scenes, the one that truck me the most was the first test detonation of the bomb. In this scene we are able to see the blast from five different perspectives, that of the scientists, soldiers, bureaucrats, general population, and Oppenheimer.

In the left panel we have the now familiar mushroom shaped cloud of the bomb; its detonation radios is so great that it overlaps into the next page, almost consuming the other panels. To the right we are able to see the faces of the various bystanders, overlaid with the famous quote from Oppenheimer: “We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita: ’Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.’”

Because the first test took place at the early hours of the morning, earlier even than the sun, the surrounding blackness of the night creates an organic frame around both bystanders and the bomb. The contrast between the whiteness of their faces and the ash of the explosion is striking. As the air around them glows with the radioactive burn of plutonium, so hot that it turns the sand around it to glass, you can see that Oppenheimer’s description of the event was true—the world would never be the same.

The Killing Joke, by Molly Trimmer

1.         The illustrations in the 2008 recolored version of The Killing Joke are extremely detailed and expressive.  A mostly cool color palette creates an eerie, shadowy tone and it causes warm colors, like the yellow of Barbara's shirt and the red of the blood, to pop dramatically.  The flashbacks are illustrated in black and white, with one item in each sequence colored red.  The black and white flashbacks, which offer one explanation of Joker's psychosis, make the transition to his discoloration (coloration in the comic) especially striking.  The original 1988 version is ultra colorful and feels psychedelic and trippy.  Each coloration sets a completely different tone even though the illustrations and words are almost completely the same in both versions.

2.         Batman and Joker originated in comic books, so a graphic novel is the most legitimate form a Joker origin story could take.  In comic form, the reader is free to stay on the page as long as necessary to pick up on the details and really absorb the creepiness of the story.  Scenes like the carnival owner murder, Barbara's shooting, the Joker's accident, and the end of the duel with Batman require still frames for the total dramatic impact.  Joker's demented expressions and the flashback transitions would not narrate effectively in a traditional novel, and a film would bring too much focus to the gore as opposed to the psychological intricacies.

3.         The only words in this graphic novel are presented in dialogue.  There is no outside narration to transition between the flashback scenes, but the difference in the styles of illustration render further clarification unnecessary.  The perspectives of every character are present in the comic, and the honest expression of thoughts and feelings through dialogue and illustration are most effectual without extra narration.  Also, the lack of guiding narration leaves the reader to put the pieces together and attempt to understand the Joker's madness on his/her own.  It can be suggested that the Joker is the narrator as the flashbacks are from his memory, and the first words of the story are his joke at the end of the comic.  The story certainly feels like it is guided by Joker, but he's an unreliable narrator if there ever was one.

4.         The entire graphic novel is important to the history of Batman and Joker because of the rare revealing of Joker's origin, but the very last scene of The Killing Joke depicts a specific, significant interaction between Batman and Joker.  After a particularly aggressive psychological and physical battle, it seems that Batman has the upper-hand and could easily eliminate his nemesis.  However, Batman suggests rehabilitation for the Joker, who proceeds to tell him a joke regarding a lunatic asylum.  The final joke gets Batman to laugh and reach his hand to Joker, but the final frames make the conclusion ambiguous.  To reference the Grovel review of Batman: The Killing Joke, "It's hard hitting enough, but it's incapable of squeezing out of it's own shackels." (<http://www.grovel.org.uk/batman-the-killing-joke/>)  The lack of finality is disappointing to some, but one could argue that having the ending open to interpretation is favorable.  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

V for Vendetta by Jasmine Quinonez and Marcus May

1.)    The work in V for Vendetta is very real, and detailed. The people drawn in the book each have their own physical quality. There is no set silhouette that the characters share. The characters were drawn to be very life like, the color of skin, hair, eyes, etc. It really gives the reader a detailed feel of the characters and story. The detail and life like features go beyond the characters; the background objects are also very detailed. The unevenness of bricks on a wall, the books on a shelf, a control panel, everything is given in detail. This really gives the audience a feel for the story and its setting. Seeing all the lines on the old preachers face, the thin strands of hair, and his fragile, yet strong, frame, really give the reader a feel for how creepy this guy is. Eveys rosy cheeks really show her youthfulness; among other physical features she is given. Most importantly of all V’s mask, clothes, and physical features make him a frightening character, yet the reader gets a feel for his trustworthiness. The very real details of the book help the reader see the story happening and draws them in as part of the story. This kind of artwork sets a dark and solemn tone, yet when that white mask appears, there is a sense of security in the scene. As the scenes change with the setting, the background shadows change colors. At times the shadows are all black, other times, it is blue or grey, and sometimes it is even colored with neon streaks on the black shadows. This change in colors helps the reader really set the tone for action that is about to come, or lack of extreme action. The works illustration is very well suited to its story, it really helps set the tone with its details and color, and that is needed in a work that has the kind of storyline that V for Vendetta has. It helps the reader know that something is about to happen, yet as a reader you don’t know what is going to happen.

2.)    This story was written as a graphic novel because it allowed for narration, conversation, and illustrations through images, to happen all at once. This story at times is showing one thing, but the voices as speaking about another. However, the two correlate. For example at times V is reciting Shakespeare and the images in the frame are showing confrontation between two people. The two seemingly have nothing to do with each other; however the Shakespeare being recited is, in a way, narrating the confrontation. Other times the words in the frame are not what is happening in the frame, but instead what is happening in the gutters. For example in one scene V is approaching and killing off some member of FATE, but the words are a conversation of two guards outside the building, you see the scene of V and FATE, but you hear something else. Again the two seemingly don’t correlate, but they narrate each other. That is something that is pretty much impossible to do in a novel, and difficult to do in a film. In translation to a novel the work would lose the effect that the images give the story to the reader. As a novel, the work would also lose its structure. In order to work as a novel, things would have to be changed in presentation, and in the order they are in, thus the novel would give a completely different feel to the reader. It could work in a film however, and they have turned it in to a film. But even then the film has aspects of the work cut out, or rearranged, because otherwise the viewers would be left confused. This format works because the juxtaposition of the words and images allow for more than one or two scenes to be happening simultaneously, and not leave the reader confused or lost.

3.)    It is written in present tense, no one person narrates the story; instead there is this omniscient presence that takes the reader from place to place and scene to scene. Allowing the reader to be like an invisible bystander in more than one place at a time. Thus allowing the reader to see the whole picture of what is going on. This novel challenges the traditional novels way of telling a story, by giving the reader a point of view from multiple angels. Jumping from one scene to another, from what is happening at present in one place, to what is happening at present in another place. Traditional novels would not do that as effectively. The novel also gives dates; it takes the reader in the present from place to place, but also to the past from place to place. Again a traditional novel would not be able to narrate a story in that way. A graphic novel allows for it due to the juxtaposition of images and words which allow the author, writer, illustrator to push the bound of the narration, like they did in V for Vendetta.

4.)    The scene that is the most significant in the work happens in all of chapter 13, but the most important frames of this chapter are on page 171. V is telling Evey that she has been living in a cage, and that that “suffocating” feeling she is experiencing is freedom. The final frames on this page V says to her “No Evey, No more blindfolds. All the Blindfolds are gone.”  Those words on the last frames make the set of frames, the entire scene, and the most significant in the book. It sums up his story, his purpose, and what he wants for others, starting with Evey. His ways maybe unconventional and harsh, but he wants the cage doors to be opened, the blindfolds to be off, and for the people to sense freedom. Freedom in the way that he experienced it, in the way he made Evey experience it. This scene is significant for that reason, it is what V is all about, what he’s trying to accomplish. For the first time we get to really see what his purpose behind his actions is. I admire this scene for the words more than the images, but the images help give the words their strong edge. Seeing the mask, her face, and the freedom expressed in the words, show on her face and body, it makes the scene all the more powerful. Seeing Evey be “freed” makes the reader trust V. Up to that point he seems trustworthy but you’re uncertain. After seeing his actions and words towards Evey, and her freedom, the reader fully begins to trust in him. And that just makes this scene all that more significant. 

1.         V for Vendetta is illustrated in a way that brings realism together with the ornate. The characters are well defined and attention is given to the appropriate setting elements. The comic is done in color, and the heavy use of pastels, primarily yellows and greens, add to the ominous tone of the story. The illustrator, David Lloyd, uses contrasting yellow light and dark shadows to add to the setting and tone. While the frames are often filled with many characters, the frames also relate a sense of loneliness to the reader which works well with the story.

2.         The story was originally written in a series over a number of years during the 1980s and was compiled into a graphic novel in 1995. Although I have not seen the film, I believe that it would be difficult to relate all of the underlying themes which take place in the graphic novel form. A novel would lose its personal walk with V as the reader would be tempted to skim important aspects of the story that are significant to the work. A film version would also move too fast as there are many action frames. By using the graphic novel form, the reader is allowed to slow down and absorb all of who V is and his underlying idea of humanity.

3.       The story lacks a specific narrator, as it is told primarily through dialogue. The only narration that takes place is the setting and date tags that accompany new scenes. The story is followed in an omnipresent form as we get multiple points of view from many different characters. By taking this approach, the authors bring a sense of reality into this fantasy world. The lack of a formal narrator brings the reader in and allows the story to be told without the distraction of being pulled out of the storyline.  

4.         One scene that is significant to the characterization of V begins on page 70. Dr. Delia Surridge is asleep in her bed and wakes up to the scent of roses. The frames move slowly as she realizes what she smells and rises in her bed. She understands that V is in her room and calls out to him, “It’s you isn’t it? You’ve come…You’ve come to kill me.” She is answered by a single word, “Yes,” in which she responds, “Thank God.” This scene gives the reader a chance to see a human side of V. He has come to kill her, but he goes about the business in a completely different fashion than the other killings we see in the graphic novel. At this point, we have seen V blow up buildings, jump onto moving trains to murder people, as well as drive a man insane. Now we see him enter the room softly and genuine.
            He asks Dr. Surridge if she is scared. She replies no. She said that she is relieved. She goes on to talk to him about the way human are flawed. She believes that human do things that are wrong just because they are told to by someone in authority. She actually believed that she was doing good while she was working in the camp. She relates that she actually enjoyed it at the time. He assures her that there will not be any pain. A frame shows him holding up a syringe as he tells her that he killed her ten minutes ago while she slept. Before he goes, she asks him if she can see his face. The next frame is at V’s back as he unmasks himself for her and she tells him that he is beautiful. V leaves her room quietly in the next three frames. We see the doctor sitting in bed as she silently awaits death and V as he quietly closes her door and enters the hallway. We are left with V walking in the shadows as he pulls his hat down over his face. This seems to depict that he is hiding some sort of emotion which allows the reader to see him as an empathetic human who sometimes finds it difficult to do what he thinks is right.

Ultimate Iron Man, Vols. 1 & 2 by Cody Soden

            The illustrations for Ultimate Iron Man are done by two different artists. Volume 1 is done primarily by Andy Kubert while Volume 2 is done by Pasqual Ferry. I was very impressed by the cohesiveness of the work and you really can't tell that it is done by two different artists. The art work has the feel of a classic Super Hero comic but with a more modern feel. Each page feels very finished and represents a polished, complete piece. The real give away from the artist switch is Andy Kubert uses black gutters and empty space where Pasqual Ferry uses primarily white gutter space.

Style of Writing
            One different thing in this novel is there is not much narration. Most all of the information you receive from the words is through dialog. I flipped through the novel again and found only a few frames that had narration which were just the classic location and date that helped you understand where the story was taking place. Each person in the story has a unique voice which helps the reader really hear the voices of each character. The story is exceptionally well put together and flows extremely well. Another difference I saw was with the lettering, most of the lettering was done in lower case, not the complete capital letters we are used to with Super Hero comics.

            As suggested above, the narration of this story is entirely told through dialog. The only true narrative given from a narrator is when the scene changes and it tells you where this event is taking place. In a way this helped the story, in a way it hurt the story. It helped the story because you relate and understand the story through the characters points of view. I felt it limited the story because it really put a hindrance on the extra information that only a narrator could provide.

Significant Scene
            My favorite scene from this graphic novel is when Tony Stark is born. This scene is signicant because it really takes the reader out of the element of “super hero stuff” for the first time. Initially the story starts very typically, you see Howard Stark inventing stuff and being a boss running a mega corporation. Now however you see a very different version of Howard Stark, a father trying to save his son. It also presents a lot of sadness because Tony's mother dies during child birth because the pain of having Tony was too much for her to handle. When you read the comic you will understand why, it doesn't have anything to do with not wanting Tony but a series of events that lead up to it. This scene really impacted me because you seen Howard, holding Tony and saying “When you grow up and ask me, kid, I'll tell you: you saw your mother … and she held you. He's perfect Maria, you did good.” It just shows the humility and compassion of a Howard Stark we don't commonly know. From this scene you can tell how very different the concept of Iron Man will be in this graphic novel.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, by Macy McDonald

1. The illustrations in this book are not exactly visually pleasing. The style is gritty and the colors are contrasting, but not vibrant. The illustrations are more focused on creating a certain effect, one I find both eerie and disturbing. It’s also one that’s not focused on reality. The characters are frequently drawn in shades that reflect their moods, for example, on page 22 Batman is brooding and he is cast in the light of a television yet he appears slightly blue for some reason. This reflects the depressing nature of his reflection. In one of the many television flashes we see a reporter who is frequently blind to the real issues in Gotham and she is depicted without eyes. This kind of symbolism is emphasized over realism and the illustrations add a level of complexity to the rhetoric.

2. This story is one that would be extremely difficult to tell in any form other than a graphic novel. The frequent interruptions from the newscasters would be irritating in a film and awkward in a traditional novel. The shifting viewpoints would be difficult to handle films and novels as well. The fact that the Batman gets beat up several times and only manages to win when he fights intelligently instead of flashy and young would also be hard to sell in a film. Having the story told in a graphic novel allows a number of different perspectives.

3. There really isn’t a clear central narrator in the story, although there is narration. There is a limited third person narrator that appears woven into the story, but the narrator frequently speaks from the perspective of whichever character is featured at that point. This is not to be confused with the characters voice however, which appears inside the frames in boxes. The newscasters themselves operate as a form of narration by keeping the reader up to date on public opinion and the crimes currently levied against Batman.

4. One of the most pivotal segments of this novel for me is when Superman averts the bomb set to detonate in a highly populated area. He allows it to detonate in a dessert, but then he seems completely disgusted with himself and absolutely impressed (not in a good way) with the destruction that humans can cause. He speaks directly to the earth and calls her “mother” he begs her to let him reach the sun. In the illustration we can see him shriveling like a prune in the electromagnetic storm and fire that have resulted from the detonation. He suit is starting to bag from the muscle loss and even the boxes that his speak appear in have faded to a very light blue, showing his loss in power and making it seem as if he is whispering. This occurs on page 177 and 178. On 178 we see Superman acknowledge earth as his home his “mother” and his begging proves her superiority. Superman is such a great hero that the general populace isn’t even allowed to know that he exists anymore, he is the greatest hero on the planet and with the help of the sun is virtually indestructible. In these frames he acknowledges the power of earth as greater than himself and it sends the message that if Superman respects the planet then mankind should do so as well. 

Vampire Hunter D, by Melissa Williams

1    The artwork of Takaki obviously screams sketchy since it is drawn in pen and is so dark that it makes the reader begin to fear for the safety of the characters the moment he or she picks up any of the books. Part of the sketchiness stems from the need to make the book feel like it is set in a wild and untamed place. Sometimes, the characters will have hair that is hard for them to control, that flows where ever that it wants to flow rather than look like it had just been recently brushed. Many of the characters have dark rims under their eyes to make them look as if they are overworked and on the verge of death. Often, if a character is creepy enough in attitude, they will be drawn in a way that makes them seem less human than the various monsters that D will face throughout the series.

2.      Before Vampire Hunter D was a manga, it was originally a set of novels. It made it even more amazing to see it as a manga after reading the novel. While the novel was deep and gave more insight into D’s thoughts and character, with the manga we get a deeper sense of dread and fear. We can see the pain that Doris suffers when realizing the only thing she can offer D as payment is her own body. Also, the fights become more engaging as we get to see how D would have to keep perfect concentration during his fights. At one point, D is even dies, but getting to see the motionless body lay there makes the reader realize he really did die where in the novel there is that feeling he could be faking it.

3.      Although written in a way that it sounds like a third person character narrating the story, everything constantly focuses on D. They talk about his thoughts, actions, and emotions throughout the entire series. Basically, the reader gets to go on the journey with D as if they were a character themselves, but in a way that they are never mentioned. It gives them the separation of not being there to suffer what the characters do, but allows them a close enough look to know what they are going through.

4.      My favorite scene throughout the entire series is when D confronts Dan for crying. While D is also trying to comfort him too, he does not want Dan crying because it would hurt Doris to see it happening as well. So, he tells him to not make his sister cry because he is a man, and thus men should not make women cry. Without the artwork from the manga, you do not really get to see just how much bigger D is from the nine year old Dan. Thanks to D finally sitting down on one knee, you get to see that should he stand up next to Dan that the boy would only come to D’s thighs. The cape flowing behind D along with the large black hat makes the reader realize that D could be just as dangerous to Dan as he could be comforting. This scene really allows a glimpse into D’s values since he openly states them. Sure, there is the prize of getting to sleep with a woman that D admitted to being quite beautiful, but despite that awesome flaw that proves he is not perfect, that inside he still cares about people 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Final Paper Assignment, due Friday, Jan.3rd by 5pm

Graphic Novels/Comic Research Paper

For your final project in this class, you will write a 6-8 page paper that discusses one of the following conversations about graphic novels/comics, using at least 2 books in class, your 5th graphic novel, and a few secondary sources (we’ll discuss the best places to find them in class).

Here are the 3 options, or conversations, to choose from (choose ONE):

1.) Imagine you are a writer/artist who has just written a graphic novel on a very controversial subject (your choice—but you should explain what it is): what objections would certain people have to your work?  Why would a comic seem inappropriate for this subject/theme?  How would you defend your intentions using other graphic novels that have come before you?  Discuss why the form itself is a truly literary one, and why it might even be ideally suited to your approach.  Again, the trick is to use existing graphic novels/comics to show how it can be done sensitively, effectively, and thought-provokingly. 

2.) Choose either one of the graphic novels from our class or your fifth graphic novel: imagine that the Ada Public Library has decided to ban it from its collections on charges of pornography or some related literary ‘sin.’  Write a paper defending the work and the form of comics from these charges.  Discuss what you think pornography (or whatever) truly is, and explain how the work avoids this definition through its use of literary themes and devices.  Bring in other works to show how your work relates more to them, and uses provocative themes or images to make a larger point—one that any library should be happy to promote.

3.) In the third scenario, you are a high school teacher who hopes to implement one of the graphic novels in your class—or your fifth one—into a small unit on comics.  You meet with stern resistance from the principal, who feels that comics are “trash” and unsuited to the demands of the curriculum—especially since it won’t translate to higher scores on the language/literature portion of a standardized test.  Write a paper where you defend the work—and the form of comics in general—as a crucial part of the education of high school students.  What can they learn from them?  How can they promote reading, critical thinking, and the students’ own writing?  Consider all the arguments and prejudices against using them in the classroom—and persuade them otherwise. 


·         6-8 pages, double spaced of course
·         Must use 2 works from class, as well as your outside work
·         Use a few secondary sources on comics, your author, your work, education, censorship, definitions of pornography, etc, etc.  In short, anything that helps you make your argument or showcase the ideas of the naysayers
·         DUE VIA E-MAIL FRIDAY, JANUARY 3rd  BY 5pm 

Presentation Assignment for Friday, Dec.27th

Graphic Novel Presentation: Friday, December 27th
For our final day of class, I want you to present a shortish, 5-15 minute presentation on your fifth (outside) graphic novel.  The purpose of this presentation is twofold: one, it’s a way to introduce the class to over a dozen new graphic novels, and two, it helps me see how you’ve learned to discuss graphic novels based on our class discussions and assignments.  BEFORE you do the presentation, answer questions 1-4 from the Template and e-mail it to me.  Doing it first will help you consider how to approach your presentation; the more you write/think about it before hand, the more prepared you will be to present.  I will post your questions on the blog for future students/browsers to read and enjoy. 

The presentation should have 3 basic parts, which you can expand, contract, blend, or re-arrange however you see fit.  These are:

I.                 Brief Biography and Background: tell us a little about the author and illustrator (if they’re different people) and the origin and basic story of the work.  Help us appreciate what kind of work this is—what genre within graphic novels/comics—and why it was written.  How might it relate to other works the author(s) have written or other works in class? 

II.              A Discussion of the work that discusses some of its main features: this could be the characters, the narration, the style, its uniqueness, its themes, its controversy, and/or its contribution to the field in general. Consider questions 1-3 from the Template and try to help us appreciate what the work does and why you find it significant or interesting.

III.           A Close Reading of a focused passage—a few frames, a page, etc.  Help us really ‘read’ and understand what’s going on here, how it relates to the work as a whole, the characters, the underlying themes, etc.  You must discuss the artwork as well as the words/story.  Consider how it uses word + image combinations and transitions between frames.  The more you can help us see/appreciate this passage, the better. 

I expect everyone to do wonderfully on this assignment, so I am only grading on (a) the amount of time/thought invested in it, (b) your ability to connect to some of the ideas and themes of the class, and (c) if your discussion can make it at least past the 5 minute mark.  You can come with a written paper and simply read it to the class, you can use brief notes, or you can just narrate off the top-of-your head.  I would strongly encourage you to use some kind of visual aid: Powerpoint, Prezi, handouts, or even the book itself, passed around to the class.  We need to see the book to really appreciate your discussion. 

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns, and I will be glad to help you, even on Christmas day.  This is worth 30% of your grade (30 points out of a 100), but it’s not designed to trick you—it’s a very easy, straightforward assignment.  Good luck and I look forward to learning about your book!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

For Friday: Bechdel's Fun Home: The Demand of Autobiography

For tomorrow, read as much as you can of Fun Home, but I'm happy to let this spill over into Monday if need be.  That said, you can do the Fun Home response for Thursday's class--you don't need to finish the book to do it--or, you can turn in the response as late as Monday.  I'll accept questions posted on the blog as late as Monday as well. 

Fun Home is the first novel by Bechdel, who became known through her 'strip', Dykes to Watch Out For, which is a humorous, yet very insightful comic that documents the lifes, loves, and social drama of a small community of friends.  She worked on this strip for well over a decade (and might still be drawing it, I'm not sure), and her style advanced considerably until she arrived at the approachable, yet somewhat edgy style she employed in Fun Home.  Bechdel is also known for being quite 'literary' in her references and overall approach to the form--unlike Stitches, it is very word-oriented.  Her most recent book, Are You My Mother?, explores her relationship with her mother while weaving in other figures from the realms of literature and psychiatry. 

Here's a link to an excellent interview with Bechdel from The Comics Journal, where she claims,

"I always felt like there was something inherently autobiographical about cartooning, and that’s why there was so much of it. I still believe that. I haven’t exactly worked out my theory of why, but it does feel like it almost demands people to write autobiographies." 

This certainly seems to be true of the works in our class!  Why is this, I wonder...? 

Link: http://www.tcj.com/the-alison-bechdel-interview/

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

For Thursday: Small's Stitches: "Drawing Well Is The Best Revenge"

For Thursday, be sure to read and respond to Small's Stitches (2009), a relatively recent work that shows how well-suited the graphic novel medium is to the genres of memoir and autobiography.  Note also how visual the work is, using words very economically.  It's a very 'moody' work, much darker than Maus (despite its subject matter!), though similar in its depiction of the family dynamic and one boy's struggle to understand who he is in relation to where he comes from.  Stitches also explores family history, and how the past continues to linger into the present, despite the rapid changes of the 20th century.

I've pasted the link to an interview with Small below, where he states, quite interestingly, that "I wrote out almost every scene in Stitches before I drew it. It was the only way I could begin. Only language brings order to the chaos of memory. I have boxes full of manuscript—embarrassingly bad, I’m sure—which helped me grope my way toward a coherent shape for my book."  So despite the visual nature of the book, it began as words--he had to write it before he could 'see' it.  Read more here:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

For Wednesday: Spiegelman's Maus I: My Father Bleeds History

For Wednesday's class, be sure to read as much of Maus I as possible, and bring your Comics Template Response to class.  Post one of the questions as a comment below--this is part of your overall participation grade. 

Maus (parts I and II) is widely considered one of the greatest graphic novels/comics ever written, and indeed, one of the great works of late 20th century American literature--it even appears in some anthologies of American literature (as the lone example of a comic).  It is a complex, endlessly rewarding work that combines history, memoir, biography, politics, and satire in one convenient, accessible package.  The metaphor of cats and mice has been exhaustively discussed, and during its initial stages, was much derided or criticized.  Indeed, Spiegelman had tremendous difficulty finding a publisher for Maus since many editors found it offensive, objectionable, or too "frivolous" to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust.  Spiegelman had the last laugh, though other countries continue to weigh in on the debate, and Maus is actually banned in Poland (perhaps they don't appreciate the metaphor's satirical intent about racism in general?). 

As a bonus, here is a slide show documenting the history of Maus including narration by Spiegelman himself.  It might give you some insight on the ideas/concerns that led him to produce the work, not just as a testament to his father, but as a graphic novel instead of a traditional novel (and why he refuses to adapt it into a film or animated movie):

LINK: http://www.pbs.org/pov/inheritance/photo_gallery_special_maus.php#.UrCLmGzna71

Monday, December 16, 2013

For Tuesday: Millar, Superman: Red Son

For tomorrow's class, be sure to read as much of Superman: Red Son as possible, but try to read meaningfully (and slowly) rather than superficially (and fast).  Comic books may look like easy eye-candy, but they repay careful attention--consider how both words and images are telling the story.

Remember: be sure to post one of your 4 questions as a 'comment' to this post.  Thanks!

For those interested, here's a brief interview with Mark Millar, the Scottish writer of Superman: Red Son, who has also done work on The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, and most notably Kick-Ass, which was made into 2 films (which the interview partially addresses).  However, in the interview he discusses the genesis for his idea of Superman's 'Russian' origin, and why he could never adapt it into a movie.  As an interesting side note, Millar is an MBE, which stands for "Member (of the) British Empire."  Not bad for a comic book writer!

Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1zkY7VY1h8.

The Comics Response Template

Respond to each new novel (and your outside novel) using the following template.  Though the questions are the same, your answers will be completely different with each new work and author.  The responses are due on the day we discuss a given work; for example, on Tuesday we will discuss Superman: Red Son, so bring your responses to class with you on Tuesday AND post one of the questions (any of the 4 below) as a “comment” on the blog.  I’ll show you how to do this in class. 


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

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. 

3.          Who narrates the story?  One person? More than one?  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. 

4.            Describe one scene in the novel, either a single frame or a single of frames, that you feel is particularly significant.  Why is this moment 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.