Tuesday, June 6, 2017

For Thursday: Batman, Year One + Template Response

Read Batman: Year One and respond to the 4 questions of the Comic Template Response (see below). Frank Miller, who wrote the comic, is one of the influential comics writers of the present era, having basically reinvented Batman in this comic and in his iconic The Dark Knight Returns, which is about a middle-aged Batman who returns to fight crime after retirement. Miller is also famous for his Sin City series, and has been involved in adapting many comics for the screen. Along with Alan Moore, he is perhaps the man most responsible for the way superheroes are portrayed in movies today--as tortured, complex, dark, and dangerous. Here is a recent interview with Miller for those interested in learning more about his ideas about Batman: http://www.ew.com/article/2016/10/07/frank-miller-batman-new-york-comic-con

THE COMICS RESPONSE TEMPLATE (use this for all the graphic novels in class)

Q1: How is the novel 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?  Or is supposed to go against the grain of the story?

Q2: Why do you think this story written as a graphic novel/comic book?  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. 

Q3: How does this comic discuss the ethics of being a superhero—someone who has powers and abilities beyond that of normal men/women, and is thus able to influence the world based on a hero’s specific notions of good and evil? According to this comic, what does it mean to be a “hero” and a “villain”? Do the heroes ever cross ethical boundaries in his/her quest to save humanity? Also, does a superhero always play by the same rules, or does one’s age, sex, race, or religion also play a role?

Q4: Examine a single passage in the novel, either a frame or a series of frames (but no more than 1-2 pages) that you feel is particularly significant to understanding the book.  Help us appreciate what this passage helps you (and others) see and why. Choose the passage more for the theme/characters than the technique (though you can mention how the technique helps underline the larger thematic concerns).  Make sure we can not only see what’s going on here, but we see how it relates to the story at large. 

1 comment:

  1. 1
    Overall I believe the novel is illustrated realistically. I think the author made that choice because the storyline is intertwined in our reality and history, therefore the realistic art makes it more believable. The over all feeling I have for the art work is informative. In the previous novel the frames showed less of the setting. In this one, setting is illustrated as much as the characters and action. I feel like this is one feature that makes it so suited for the story being told. The illustrations are propaganda, similar to that in Nazi Germany and currently China and North Korea. The author wanted the reader to see the propaganda that is displayed everywhere for the soviet civilians, as a reminder that there are being watched.
    Continuing with theme from my previous answer, I think the novel was written as a graphic novel because without the illustrations the reader cannot appreciate how alike our worlds are to one another. Also with out the illustrations, the reader would be deceived by Superman’s influence, and not immediately recognize the abuse of civil liberties. I do think a film adaption could show this element of the novel, but the original art of the novel would be lost. Pages 55-56 are a great example of how the illustrations and text work together to convey an idea. From the text we know that Superman has decided he must take over power so he can prevent the people from starving to death, while the illustrations depict Superman displaying what can be viewed as Nazi symbolism while declaring he will save them from hunger just as Hitler did.

    I am pretty sure this whole novel is devoted to the concept of the ethics of being a super hero. Superman does seem like he wants to do the right thing for the people, I just think his attempt is misguided. He sees civil disobedience as evil and so he fixes it, by making them “good” again. Obviously Luthor is the classic villain in this novel, he has all the characteristics of the villain out to destroy the hero. However like I mentioned before, Superman makes his choices on his perception of what it means to be right, often times leading him to act immorally. In this novel I will say that the super heros do not play by the same rules, but they each seem to have equal opportunity to pick their stance on conflicts they meet. Superman makes up his own rules as he goes, Batman made his bed and got to lay in it, and Wonder Woman was able to be a bold and powerful presence till the end.

    I think its pretty clear that the most profound pages in this novel are 135-136, the letter. Luthors comment, “ what am I doing? Well, they say a pen is mightier than the sword, Lois, so I’m distilling everything Superman hates and fears about himself into a single sentence”, and his note that says “why don’t you just put the whole world in a bottle Superman”, wrap up everything I’ve been saying about Superman’s flawed view of good and evil. In that moment he had to face the fact that while trying to protect the citizens he stole their freedom. He took away their ability to make their own decisions even the decision to do what’s right, because that was the standard and no longer a choice.