14 July 2010

Maus Tail

In Maus: A Survival's Tale, creator, Art Spiegelman writes the biography of his father, Vladek's experiences before and during World War II.
In chapter 5, Vladek and his wife Anja (along with his in-laws) are relocated from their luxurious home in Sosnowiek to a small cottage in Srodula, a ghetto for Jews. During their time in the ghetto, they work for Germans, have coupons for their ration of food, and are in constant fear as news of the Auschwitz concentration camps came to their attention. As a result of their fear and distrust of the Germans, Vladek makes bunkers, hiding places for his family. While German influence gets worse, Vladek's family is slowly disbanded... Vladek sends his child with his brother and sister in law, their baby, and another child (the sister in-law later poisons herself and the children to save them from a fate at Auschwitz) and the father and mother in laws are left behind, unable to be snuck out of the ghetto. Vladek and Anja rely on their cousins to save them (even though they had to pay in jewelery) and later leave the ghetto disguised as Poles.
Art Spiegelman creates a world where nationality is distinct, as it was during German occupation... Polish are Pigs, Jews are mice, Germans are cats, and Americans are dogs. Although this kinda reminds me of "An American Tail," I still feel the purpose of making these distinctions... it was a different world for Jews then, and they were considered the small, lowly creatures that would be exterminated by the Germans. The biography is a powerful story of survival and shows that in times of desperate need, no friend or even family will watch out for you.

Maus: Serious, Innovative, Fuzzy Animals.

Before the introduction to Maus: A Survivors Tale, by Art Spiegelman, the following quote of Adolf Hitler appears “The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human.” How appropriate then that Spiegelman portrays all of his characters as separate species based on their race. The Jews are mice, the Germans are cats, the Americans are dogs, and the Poles are pigs. Its as if Spiegelman includes this quote to say “this is not necessarily the way I see it, but the way ‘they’ see it.” It also serves as an effective way of telling the story of his parents’ experience during the Holocaust.

Maus is the biography of Spiegelman's father Vladek Spiegelman. In Chapter 5, “Mouse Holes” the book portrays the author and his father discussing the father's experiences in German occupied Poland during the second world war. The experiences Vladek recounts to his son are illustrated in the book as flashbacks. Vladek tells his son about life in the ghettos. He describes sending his first son, Richieu, to live with his aunt in another ghetto that was supposed to be safer. Later Vladek and his wife Anja, Art's mother, find out that the aunt had poisoned herself, her child, and Richieu in order to spare them from going to the concentration camps. Vladek also describes hiding out in secret bunkers to avoid the Germans, and eventually leaving the ghettos in disguise.

Maus is a very powerful comic. The way the characters are portrayed, how they talk,is in some ways very realistic, apart from the fact that everyone is depicted as furry animals. In a way its kind of funny to think of a comic written about the Holocaust, especially one in which all of the characters are talking animals, but it works perfectly the way Spiegelman implements it. The use of animals adds to the story, and does not take away from it or make it seem any less serious.

Its great to read a comic that does something really different, and I can see why this particular comic won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. I think Spiegelman was very brave to write Maus. Not only for being a pioneer in the field of comics, and doing something creative and innovative with comics, but also for opening up his family's history for everyone to see.

12 July 2010

Maus Trap!!!

Basically the book "Maus" by Art Spiegelman is about these mice, who are Jews, and live in this town called Czestochowa which was in Germany. Artie started going out with this mouse named Vladek. They were going out for about 3 to 4 years and then Artie found another mouse named Anja. When Vladek first got married to Anja, they both lived a luxurious life is Sosnowiec altogether with his in-laws. Of course, when the war came, they suffered a 180 degree spin in their lives as all the comforts they were used to where taken away from them and had to manage with what little was available. Throughout these hostile situations, Vladek acted like a very strong and clever man, and he even established important relations that helped him in his way to salvation. His survival skills and his instinct were at their utmost, as he was one of the few who made it to the end.
In chapter 5, Mouse Holes, In Srodula, the Germans begin to round up Jews at random. To protect himself and his family, Vladek builds a shelter under a coal bin, in which they hide during the Nazi searches. Soon, though, they are moved to a different house. Again, Vladek builds a shelter, this time in the attic and accessible only through a chandelier in the ceiling. One evening, as they are leaving the shelter, they see a stranger below. It is a Jew, who tells them he was only looking for food for his starving child. They think about killing him to be sure that he will not report them, but they take pity on him and give him some food. That afternoon, the Gestapo arrives and takes Vladek and his family into a secure compound in the middle of the ghetto.
The compound is a waiting area for transport to Auschwitz. Vladek enlists his cousin, Haskel, who is chief of the Jewish Police, to help. In exchange for a diamond ring, Haskel arranges for the release of Vladek and Anja. Anja's parents also send valuables to Haskel, but in the end he chooses not to help them. At this point in the Holocaust, family loyalties have largely eroded, and it is every man for himself.
The first, Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus, can work very well as an introduction to the Holocaust. Because the story is told through the medium of “the comics,” students find it very accessible. I myself find it to be very overwhelming, it relates to Anne Frank and I took that story very personal. But there is little that is “comic” about the story of Vladek Spiegeleman, the author’s father, and his mother, both of whom manage to survive by combination of extraordinary resourcefulness on the part of Vladek and sheer luck. The story continues after the the Holocaust to show how for many survivors, there really is no end to the suffering and horror. Speigelman takes great care to set the historical context for his father’s experiences, so that even students without much direct knowledge of the Holocaust can understand the story.

The Interpretations of Batman

By watching “Gotham Knight,” a series of interpretations of the Batman, I was able to see this superhero in many different perspectives. In the first segment, Batman is shown through the eyes of four children. Batman is a “living shadow” by one witness account. Batman’s ghostly ability to melt into the darkness keeps his assailant from ending him. By another witness, the Batman is a Bat-monster. Like a humanoid-bat, this version can fly and shrieks like the animal of his namesake when fighting. But that report is also challenged by another observer who claims Batman is not a man at all. In this testimony, the Batman is a robot—a machine that fights and uses sophisticated technology (think: crazy explosives and rocket launchers) to fight off bad-guys. The stories are proven to be nothing more than the figments of the active imaginations of the children at the end when the real Batman comes crashing through the window. Fighting the same type of villain as in the first stories, this Batman is definitely human, hurt and exhausted from fighting. Batman even has a moment of weakness that his attacker tries to take advantage of… but his young fan (and the only child who has no other experiences to draw on) steps in and has Batman’s back. The attacker is down, Batman prevails with the help of the child. Batman thanks the kid, then, is on his way. The other kids want the story… “Man, do I have a story for you!”

This first segment was the most memorable of the series for me because it shows how a legend is made… through hearsay. ;) These children tell their stories with conviction and even participate in the events surrounding their story… they weren’t just there, they were in the action. Batman becomes what they want him to be… a shadowy ghost with the ability to disappear into the darkness, a monster, a robot! Batman is anything but human to these children because he’s a superhero. The children can’t explain who Batman is without making him more than human.

The rest of short series explains how a man can do such extraordinary things. He trains hard, works through his pain, and uses his riches to attain special weapons and machinery. How he is seen through the eyes of children, the cops he aids to apprehend bad guys, Commissioner Gordon, the woman who trains him, Alfred the butler all vary. Who is Batman?? The question is an ongoing debate in the series.

I enjoyed these interpretations of Batman. Seeing the different segments gave me more background on the hero… I have seen the movies but only read the comics assigned in this class so my exposure is very limited. I feel that viewing these short films also gave me another perspective on “the look” of Batman. Batman was drawn differently in each section and the differences all served a purpose. How we perceive Batman can change how we interpret him.

08 July 2010

Crazy Kinky Nazis - AKA Super-heroes

Under the Hood” is a section of Watchmen by Alan Moore that is the fictional autobiography of Hollis Mason, or “Night Owl,” a masked adventurer from the series. The autobiography focuses on Mason’s creation of his alter-ego, joining the Minutemen, and retirement from crime fighting.

After Joining the police force in 1938 Mason eventually decides to follow in the footsteps of Hooded Justice, a masked vigilante. He creates his alter-ego “Night Owl” and begins fighting crime. He eventually joins the Minutemen, a team of costumed adventurers. They included Hooded Justice, The Silhouette, The Silk Spectre, The Comedian, Nite Owl, Mothman, Dollar Bill, and Captain Metropolis. The team continued to fight crime through the Forties until the Silk Spectre married her agent, and the Minutemen’s publicist. After that the Minutemen went downhill and eventually disbanded in 1949.

Mason recounts the rise of new superheroes Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias. Dr. Manhattan, a large blue man with seemingly godlike abilities, makes Mason feel that “We've been replaced.” Not just the old superheroes but all life as we know it. So finally in May of 1962 the Night Owl hangs up his mask and retires, but not before passing on the torch, and letting another would be crusader take up the name.

Having watched the movie Watchmen, I was somewhat familiar with the plot. I found the more developed back story behind “Night Owl” was very interesting to read. Watchmen is a somewhat more realistic portrayal of the “super-hero.” They are portrayed with flaws, and some of them are just adrenaline junkies, and aren't really the good moral people you would typically imagine a super-hero to be. This is such a refreshing perspective. While it does make the world darker, and more unstable, it also adds depth to the characters. When your super-hero's alter ego is a crazy, kinky, Nazi, you have to ask “what made them want to become a costumed adventurer?” Its great that Mason explains his motivations.

"Under the Hood" is a great look into a uncommon, but fascinating, world of super-heroes. Real people with uncertain futures that fight crime dressed in silly costumes. These super-heroes have issues, just like real people might. They're crazy, they're kinky, they're nazis, they're unpredictable; and that is exactly what makes them interesting.

07 July 2010

Under His Hood

In reading Watchmen “Under the Hood” by Alan Moore I was exposed to the fictional autobiography of Hollis Mason or Nite Owl. Mason’s was a story of mediocrity turned extraordinary. He wasn’t an alien with super-abilities, he wasn’t rich with fancy gadgets, he wasn’t even bit by radioactive spiders… Hollis Mason was, in fact, a normal man. He reminisces about his childhood growing up in the city, working with his father in an auto repair shop. Hollis gives us some background about his family values; his grandfather disapproves of his father’s choice to take the family to the city and away from the Montana farm he spent his first twelve years in. “If I look at myself today, I can see the basic notions of decency that were passed down direct from [my grandfather] to me.” Hollis believes that he has been swayed to see the bad in the city because of this background. The city is filth, a cesspool of dishonesty, greed, lust and godlessness. Hollis exclaims, “I’d feel sick in my gut at the world and what it was becoming.” Hollis recognizes the gap between his country and city homes and retreats to the world of pulp adventure fiction saying that it offered a glimpse at a better world where “morality worked the way it was meant to.” Hollis then asks a question that leads him to become Nite Owl:

“Which world would you rather live in, if you had the choice?”

With a will to do some good in the city, he becomes a cop. However, his whole life changes in 1938 when he sees Action Comics #1 the first appearance of Superman, the first superhero of his kind. He was enthralled. This new addition only added to his adventurous personality and Hollis begins to imagine himself jumping over buildings and running faster than trains like Superman. These fantasies become something else when the appearance of “Hooded Justice” appears in the real headlines of newspapers. Hooded Justice was the first in the trendy fad of real-life superheroes. He wears a costume and protects his community by fighting crime and beating assailants to a bloody pulp. Hollis decides to do the same. He makes himself a costume and goes out in the night to fight crime. He adopts the name “Nite Owl” and less than a year later, the superheroes of the day come together to form the "Minutemen." The Minutemen was a collaboration of superheroes, male and female consisting of the Comedian, Hooded Justice, Dollar Bill, Silhouette, Silk Spectre, Captain Metropolis, Mothman, and of course, Nite Owl. A crime-fighting team that became something worse than what was originally intended. Personality conflicts, sexual assault, marriage and children, alcoholism, and death struck the members of the Minutemen and eventually disbanded the original group. With times changing, superheroes also changed. It was no longer a fad to dress up and fight crime. War, McCarthyism, and social change/protest/music/etc. made for a different America. However, Hollis was still Nite Owl for two decades until the day he realizes, “We’ve been replaced.”

With the appearance of Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias, the superheroes of old were exactly that… old. A new band of superheroes, younger, and some with real abilities and powers come into the picture. Hollis was a cop by day, Nite Owl by night… but his day career is what it is, a job. Hollis decides that the day has come to “hang up my mask and get myself a proper job.” He retires to repair cars, the way his own father did. To settle into being regular and even gives permission for another young superhero to done his name. After a 23 year-long career as a superhero, Nite Owl becomes Hollis again.

Hollis shows that it doesn’t take a supernatural occurrence to be a superhero. Any ordinary person can make the difference… he chose to wear a costume and fight crime literally but he was also mortal and never forgets that. The past experiences he has with death (of his father’s boss’ suicide and then the death of other superheroes) keeps him centered on that fact. I don’t remember much about Watchmen the movie… so I wouldn’t know Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias from Adam… but there’s something oddly terrifying about their mention in Mason’s writing. I guess I’ll have to read it then! Dun, Dun, Dun! :)

Superman

In reading Superman the first comic, it was clear that it was directed to young readers of the generation. The strip consisted of two stories which had an introduction, plot, and conclusion, but never a direct ending. This is common in most comic strips they eventually come to a resolution after the plot, because there is never any intended ending. Superman is an amazing character with many strengths and abilities; he is after all the one and only Superman.

This comic’s introduction story was pretty simple save’s three people and pummels several other bad guys. After his work is done saving the day he returns to his secret identity as Clark Kent and goes on his date with Lois Lane, he humiliates himself in trying not to be violent while three men start wrecking his evening. Later on the men from the dance capture Lois Lane and then here come Superman to save the day.

:( :( :(

06 July 2010

The Inner Workings of the Superhero World

In the book, Watchman, published by DC Comics in 1986 there's a great look into the superhero life called "Under the Hood" about a superhero named Nite Owl. His day name was, Hollis Mason, who begins his story telling the reader about his memories about his father job in a auto shop. He delivers a humorous yet gloomy story about his fathers boss and how he met his tragic end. He goes further to explains how he made his decision of becoming a superhero named Nite Owl. He career during the day was that of a police officer but it wasn't till be took/borrowed a comic from a kid in his community that sparked his childhood fantasies. At that time, the 1939's, there were many superheros emerging doing justice in their community but it wasn't till later that they came together to form the Minutemen which consist of The Silhouette, Silk Spectre, Comedian, Hooded Justice, Captain Metropolis, Nite Owl, Mothman, and Dollar Bill. As soon as the group formed it began to fall apart either by humanly duties like marriage or alcoholism or by the inevitable; death. Nite Owl soon begins to see share how his 27 year career as a superhero goes by and he is replaced with the new age superhero like Dr. Manhattan. Which pretty much leads to his retirement and him being sot out by a young adventurous individual with the same passion for the double life as he did and ends with part two of the life and existences of the Nite Owl.
This reading is a comic that I am familiar with because of the movie. I liked how the story starts off. It is a little humorous imagining a little kid seeing a grown man wearing a pair of boobs crying over a wife that left him. I also liked how he turned to the women from the corner store for help regarding his book, even though she seemed to bug him when he shopped with her 42 novels that never made it to a bookshelf, to me he could have picked a better source for him, maybe a published author. Nevertheless I like the progression of the story of Nite Owl pre-existence to his non-existence.

05 July 2010

Watching Watchmen!

In Alan Moore's The Watchmen, Moore presents the reader with two drastically different characters who have one strikingly similar trait. Ozymandias is a handsome, rich, public, and powerful man. Rorschach is an ugly, poor, private, and almost worthless man. Despite all of these contrasts, they share a common philosophy: they believe that the ends justify the means. This is a major theme of the story, and through it Moore causes the reader the ask themselves the question - do the ends justify the means?

Ozymandias was the first of all the super heroes to go public, two years before heroes were required to unmask themselves by law. Rorschach never went public, choosing to live as an outlaw rather than give up his identity. Ozymandias is considered by many to be the most handsome man in the world, while Rorschach is an ugly man who does not even bathe on a regular basis.Ozymandias runs an international conglomerate, while Rorschach does not have enough money to pay his rent. These differences present the reader with two extremely different characters, their only similarities being their staunch belief that the ends justify the means.

Throughout the Watchmen the reader is presented with many different characters. The characters of Rorschach and Ozymandias have a manichaean relationship. The line between good and evil has been blurred with these two characters: it is unclear to the reader which of the two is good, and which is evil. One is rich, liberal, and handsome. The other is poor, conservative, and ugly. However, despite all of their differences, these characters share a common philosophy: they believe the ends justifies the means. Which to me is a perfect example of the behavior of human nature is a sense!

Regardless, Watchmen still holds up really well on it’s own, and I’d encourage you to read it. Alan Moore is just about as smart as writers come (comic-book or otherwise), and it’s a great entry point into his work. I suppose it might help going in if you have a passing familiarity with the tropes of silver-age superhero comics, but you don’t have to know who any of the characters are beforehand or anything like that (they were all created specifically for the comic, and have not re-appeared elsewhere). Plus, the whole story pretty much begins in media res and then explains the details as it goes, so you’ll be playing a little bit of narrative catch-up either way– it’s just part of how the story’s written.

30 June 2010

twelve revolutions

` In reading Superman From Cleveland to Krypton by Micheal Chaben, it broke down the history of superman and his origin in the history of comics itself. The creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster along with many other comic book artists of that time all were Jewish. It spoke of the relations of Superman and the Jewish history and its significance to many other readers, and including many other comics having Jewish morals.

I found this reading to be; personally, kind of irritating. Only because I am not religious, although I don’t disagree that religion, along with other values impose morals on society. Naturally we choose our own influences as individuals, and I don’t disagree that you can easily see how such ideas are relatable, but that applies to anything that is a potential influence. I am not a big fan of Superman comics but yes they are entertaining. I enjoy how he sited many sources that proved his argument but I am strongly opposed to the only direction he narrowed it down to was the Jewish origins, but I would just say that they do have many Jewish influences.

Up Up and Oy Ve

` In reading Superman From Cleveland to Krypton by Micheal Chaben, it broke down the history of superman and his origin in the history of comics itself. The creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster along with many other comic book artists of that time all were Jewish. It spoke of the relations of Superman and the Jewish history and its significance to many other readers, and including many other comics having Jewish morals.

I found this reading to be; personally, kind of irritating. Only because I am not religious, although I don’t disagree that religion, along with other values impose morals on society. Naturally we choose our own influences as individuals, and I don’t disagree that you can easily see how such ideas are relatable, but that applies to anything that is a potential influence. I am not a big fan of Superman comics but yes they are entertaining. I enjoy how he sited many sources that proved his argument but I am strongly opposed to the only direction he narrowed it down to was the Jewish origins, but I would just say that they do have many Jewish influences.

big world

In reading Reinventing Comics, by Scott McCloud I came to understand why he argued that comics need diversity to stay alive. McCloud explains his opinion, and breaks down this diversity into twelve revolutions and in three of them there is a central theme. He further explains why we need this diversity only so that way comics can remain consistent.

I believe comics need as much diversity as the artists who create them. If you wish to attract a larger range of readers you need to create a variety of genres to reach out to a larger population. Comics are already so diverse because there are so many interpretations, but if you narrow it down to just one then the concept will just get too boring. I don’t think comics will get old not for me anyway. What I do think will be and advance for them would be to get more comics from other countries such as Canada, France, and Japan. Even though they don’t have a large variety they do have more independent reading material.

29 June 2010

lois lane sees the cape

To begin, a brief overview was provided from De Haven's novel,It's Superman!,consisting of young Clark Kent's life before he put on the tights.It describes an adventurous road trip he shared with a friend where he encountered many life issues during the 1930's; rampant racism, the recovery of the Great Depression, war in Europe. He also encountered situations to save people which results in him failing and plays a role in his doubt of his own abilities. Haven's introduction of Lois Lane and Clark Kent's beginning begins with Lois Lane witnessing a man being shot in the chest. She rushes to the mans side and puts herself in danger a the killer who is now behind the wheel of a car aimed and rushing at her. Instead of death, she witnesses the car being held at a complete stop and then being destroyed right in front of her eyes. The story continues into Clark Kent's events where it describes a emotional human side to this superhero. He expresses that he doesn't know what to do to defeat this robot monster killing people in his community but after being humbled by his mother's voice he scraps his courage together and defeats the monster which also brings him face to face with Lois Lane. Haven also provides a quick look at the man behind the robotic monster, Lex Luther. The image given of Lex Luther is of a man that is controlled, scary and vividly complex through a simple drive through the city as he plots his hideous plan that includes people ranging from the president to George Washington Carver. But Lex's thick egocentric mind leaves a calling card to be found, serial numbers in all of the 100 free robotic monsters, which makes the bridge between Clark Kent/Superman and Lex.

I would like to say first off, that i read through this assigned reading so quickly that I was extremely disappointed when it was over. I really liked how Haven made his jumps between the characters. From Lois' insanely descriptive mind, to Lex's over inflated cocky mind to Clark's honorable but fragile mind. I also appreciated the brief introduction which helped me as the reader to understand his frail thought processing. I am now looking for the novel so I can read the entire thing!!! =0)


Clark Kent's first encounter of Lois Lane is during his battle with Lex Luther's robotic monsters that causes mayhem. Lois Lane witnesses

New Reading for Tomorrow!

Hey Class,

The reading for tomorrow is marked in the syllabus as an excerpt from Batman: Arkham Asylum, but I'm changing it to an excerpt from Tom De Haven's It's Superman! The reading can be found on E-Reserves as "Lois Sees the Capeman," which is the title of the chapter. Since the section you'll be reading comes near the end of the novel, I've provided a short summary of the book so far here. This should put the reading in better context than just reading it cold.

Also included with that summary is one for Alan Moore's Watchmen reading you'll be blogging on over the weekend. So keep that in mind before you do your weekend reading.

See you all in class tomorrow!

28 June 2010

Pioneers

Superman made his first appearance in 1938 in Action Comics No. 1 where we are introduced to his origin. As an aging planet a scientist places his infant son in a space-ship and send it to Earth. Once found on Earth the alien infant is placed and raised in an orphange where as he grows his super abilities become apparent to all those around him and as he matures further he learns and channels the full potential to his abilities and he becomes, "Superman! Champion of the oppressed , the physical marvel who had sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need!" Superman isn't always hovering over the city looking for evil-doers though, during the day he uses a secret identity, Clark Kent, a reporter and average citizen working for The Daily Earth.

We are introduced to Batman first in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. Batman, like Superman, hides his identity by being a normal civilian during the day, and at night fighting crime, Batman's identity is Bruce Wayne, a multi-millionaire entrepreneur, a ladie's man and an original gangster in my opinion because he's so cool. The difference between Batman and every other super hero is that Batman doesn't have freakish super abilities, no super strength, no super speed, this guy can't even fly, he defeats evil-doers by using his highly advanced weapons, tools and gadgets, intelligence, and also his crazy skills in beating down crooks on the spot.

I've never been into Superman and reading his first issue didn't alter that at all. I'm not very impressed by Superman as a comic, I enjoy Batman more based on the fact that he isn't super human and he has to actually work to fight crime by using his mind, skills and precision not by the ability to have bullets bounce off his skin. Superman can fly and pick up my house but i'm more impressed by the vigilanty who really puts his life on the line in the name of justice.

the 12 revolutions

McCloud’s enthusiasm for comic book making is apparent in, The Twelve Revolutions. He enlightens the readers on how he does his work and why he does his in keeping comics alive. He informs the readers of how important the roles that the 12 revolutions play in the making of comics. He explains the massive popularity that comic books had in the years 84’ to 94’, but he goes further to explain how the decline of that popularity died off leaving many comic retail store to close down. McCloud expresses that if creators used his 12 revolutions while writing their story lines, it come spark a comeback success within the comic book community.
I feel that McCloud has enough knowledge and experience to articulate his feelings towards other writers as well as enough excitement that can benefit the readers. I really enjoyed his artist creativity that he used within this chapter, especially him with a ripped mid-section and enormous biceps’. =0) LOL

24 June 2010

Breakin' It Down

Comics, however defined or thought to be, are always a topic for debate and judgement. In Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics he chooses Will Eisner's term "sequential art" to define and explain comics. But as Dylan Horrock explains, McCloud doesn't attempt to justify why this sequential art should be seen as the one definitive element in comics to the exclusion of all others. He only chooses this term because he likes it and it is useful; it highlights the things he values most about comics. But doesn't come to suggest that it is the only such element or that it is unique to comics in any way.This rhetorical essay was more difficult to understand I thought that Scott McCloud's book, but Horrock does break down and analyze every aspect of McCloud's definition as to what he believes comics are. McCloud's argument is refered to as simple because the majority of those who will read, or have read this book do share his same views and concepts. It's hard to get someone to read something that opposes their point of view or idea as to what comics really are, or just to get someone to read something new and in book form in general now a days.

Superman According to the Academic

Umberto Eco's essay "The Myth of Superman" takes the comic qualities of Superman and compares them to those of mythic heroes. In this piece, Eco states that though Superman carries mythic qualities (i.e. having superhuman abilities), there are major differences between Superman and the traditional mythic hero.

Traditional mythic heroes have a inescapable, irreversible destiny and character, that is, they have their strengths and weaknesses and a certain purpose or destiny that will always follow. Traditional mythic heroes and their stories are past, they have already developed their history and the public is certain of the outcome. In Superman comics, we are not aware of the history of this hero and therefore are more concerned with "what will happen" as opposed to what has already happened. Having a weekly release of new Superman comics can change the character's destiny and leave room for changes in his character.
"The mythic character embodies a law, or a universal demand, and therefore must be in part predictable and cannot hold surprises for us; the character of a novel wants, rather, to be a man like anyone else, and what could befall him is unforeseeable as what may happen to us."
In the same sense, a mythic hero must also follow the laws of time, whereas Superman is nearly omnipotent and therefore unable to develop as other mythological characters might. He is stuck in a never-changing present (the price you pay as a well-read comic series), where no one can hurt him but also he cannot marry his love interests, reproduce, or grow older since this could cause conflict in the series. Since time has no bearing on Superman, he evolves into the character we know him as today: an evolutionary superhero... he goes from jumping over skyscrapers, running faster than trains, and having impenetrable skin in his first appearance in 1938 to having x-ray and heat vision, super hearing abilities, being able to fly at the speed of light (and break the time barrier), while having impossible strength. His history is found after his appearance (and changed as well). He grows up Clark Kent in Smallville and the entering manhood, moves to Metropolis to become a reporter, but he is always Superman and he always tries to blend in with the normal humans. The good/evil concept in Superman comics is on a much smaller scale due to his longing for a normal human life, where evil is embodied by an "offence to private property," good is represented only as "charity." Superman could fight all evil in this world, he's certainly capable of it, but he holds to these simple civic responsibilities, I believe in attempt to stay grounded as Clark Kent.

Superman may not be a traditional mythic hero but he is far from ordinary to me. Having the ability to change his future, and even his past, writers have the most amazing task at hand. They can rewrite time and his development, superman can be reborn, nothing is out of the question or impossible for this superhero. As I read more about comics and especially superheroes, I am constantly amazed at how creative their lives (past and present) are. I am aware of the legacy that is Superman. The comics have become movies, tv shows, books... a topic of conversation and debate for decades. It is not surprising that Superman is a favorite and has lasted so long in comics and media!

Time and Development

Chapter 4 focuses on the use of time frames in comics. One Single panel can show several moments in time, the past, the present, and the future. Comics are not limited to one panel representing one moment in time, although to some it's a preference, "and beween those frozen moments--between the panels--our minds fill in the intervening moments, creating the illusion of time and motion. The example on pg. 95 is of one panel with several sequential moments in time. From left to right we read the bubbles and understand the scene, obviously all moments in this one panel aren't simultaneously happening but because we read left to right and there is no panel breaks so the time it takes for our eyes to scan from one moment to the next serves as enough closure to to create the illusion of time, and as McCloud explains this one panel could also be seperatied into five seperate panels with one moment in time each and representing order because "the panel acts as a sort of general indicator that time or space is being divided," thus creating a comic strip. Panels come in all shapes and sizes, while different shapes don't affect the direct meaning of these panels they may affect the reading experience.
In chapter 6 McCloud explains how as a child we begin with reading books that have tons of pictures because they are more comprehendable to us at that age, then as we age we move to books with less and less pictures until we reach the comics without pictures, novels, "or perhaps as is sadly the case these days, to no books at all!" Human vocabulary has vastly developed in the same general way as we develop from infancy to adulthood, we began 15,000 years ago in the Golden Age of Cave Painting where most art was pictorial representational and similiar to our children's books, where as others were very iconic and acted as symbols rather than pictures, sort of like a language for this time period, which is similiar yo our novels. As words became more elaborate and explanatory with details, pictures became more symbolic and representational.

Understanding Sequential Art

Chapter one begins with a young Scott McCloud realizing that comic books are usually "crude, poorly-drawn, semi literate, cheap, disposable, kiddie fare," but understands that they don't have to be. People fail to understand comics because they define them as having set boundaries and rules to what they have to be. "A proper definition, if we could find one, might give lie to the stereotypes--And show that the potential for comics is limitless and exciting!" After examining a few extended versions of Will Eisner's definition of comics, which is "Sequential art" he comes out with his own thought provoked definition "juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response to the viewer. Seeing as how people might get bored reading this novel of a definition, McCloud decided to stick with Eisner's solid definition.
To begin chapter two McCloud introduces us to the painting "The Treachery of Images" by Magritte. The subject matter of the painting is obviously a common tobacco pipe, although the text on the painting reads "This is not a pipe." But as McCloud explains this is really not a pipe, it's not a photo of a pipe, nor is it the drawing of one. It is actually ten printed copied of a drawing of a painting of a pipe, when it's considered that every panel represents one single copy of the painting. This is an example to the use of icons in comics. Icons represent any image used to represent a person, place, thing, or idea (any noun to make it easier). If comics are the language, "words, pictures, and other things are the vocabulary." There are a lot more to comics than meets the eye!
I was particularly drawn to how he explains how our mind perceives icons, they represent nothing to people who are out of the common culture it is used in. For example, when I was in London the currency there is pounds, and it has its own icon to represent it. Here in the United States we use the Dollar which is totally different. The two represent the same thing, currency, but it's used differently in icon ism based on the geographic and cultural difference. No culture's Icons are exactly alike, there may be many similarities but there is always gonna be one icon that is different in every culture.

Myths

Umberto Eco’s, Myth of Superman, provides a descriptive background of the history of superheroes in comic book, concentrating mainly on Superman. He explains the characteristics of Superman’s ranging from: his incredible strength, his ability to fly faster than the speed of light, his heat vision abilities and his x-ray vision. Eco also describes how the creators/writers of Superman generate a sense of a timeless atmosphere which never provides the reader with an actual time or date of Superman’s adventures, which allows Superman to obtain a mythic image since he never ages and allows the reader to keep an intriguing interest in the story of Superman. Eco also explains how Superman has a hero side and a fake human side which he doesn’t actually favor. He explains further that the readers might perceive Superman as a hero in religious or mythological sense that allows the reader to link their past with his and hope for similar outcomes.
I know that I didn’t touch all areas of Eco’s writing but he provided some much information that for a non-comic book reader, such as myself, was overwhelmed and couldn’t really get a good grasp on what he trying portray. But I do have one question?
Is there really a correct definition for a super hero?

23 June 2010

Mythtaken?

In 1962, writer and academic Umberto Eco published an essay called “The Myth of Superman,” in which he outlined how Superman (and superheroes in general) didn’t fit the traditional concept of a mythological hero due to the nature of capitalism and the episodic nature of Superman’s life. In essence, Superman has countless adventures over decades, all of which take place in a continuous present, while he remains the same approximate age. His story has a beginning, but it will never reach its end; but more importantly, he can never make progress, can never develop as a human being.Umberto Eco is essentially treating Superman as a mythical character, and utilizing this character as a sign for us as human beingEco was concerned with delineating the features of a 'closed' text - a classic Superman story is 'closed,' in Eco's terminology, because it is designed to elicit a predetermined response - the mythological iteration of the Superman character. Therefore, nothing can happen in a Superman tale which advances the hero along the life-path: he cannot marry, reproduce or grow old.

I think Eco's comment holds true for all comic book characters in a general sense. Their core personas have to remain the same so they are recognizable generation after generation. That said, what keeps comic books vital is each generation's different interpretations of core personas. The characters also appear in story arcs or graphic novels that take into account current events. Superman has definitely changed over the decades. In the Forties and Fifties, the stories were nearly always short and self-contained, but in the Sixties they began to take on a somewhat bigger scope. It was the reboot of the character in the Eighties that produced the biggest changes, though. Suddenly Clark Kent wasn't an orphan anymore, since Ma and Pa Kent were still alive. Lois eventually discovered that Clark was really Superman, and I think they're married in the current continuity, but don't hold me to that. The stories have become much more epic over the past 25 years, running for many, many issues and sometimes tying in to a multitude of other titles.

Whether or not this is a good thing is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.

DAMN THE MAN!

Oh the comic industry... where did we go wrong?

According to Scott McCloud's Reinventing Comics, there has not been adequate change in recent years to move comics to the next level. McCloud proposes that comics focus on "twelve revolutions" to realize the full potential of comics. These "revolutions" will better the comic industry by achieving what McCloud feels is missing from comics today. The revolutions include comics as literature, comics as art, creator's rights, industry innovation, public perception, institutional scrutiny, gender balance, minority representation, diversity of genre, digital production, digital delivery, and digital comics.

In McCloud's chapter, "Big World: The Battle for Diversity," we are exposed to the idea that comics are only as real as the life experiences of their creators. McCloud claims that since, comic creators are, as a majority, are white upper-class males then the audience they appeal to will mostly be those of the same circumstances. His theory is that by making the industry more diverse, comics therefore will be able to evolve into a more diverse medium and it's audience will also follow suit. Okay. Simple, logical theory, right? Well, execution is another story.

I'll let this slip (as much as I can) for McCloud's sake... But in the process of explaining why gender balance is important, McCloud is guilty of such horrible gender stereotyping (i.e. women are more emotional and capable of expressing this better than men) and refers to comics created by women as "women's comics!" What is that about, Scotty? In the same sense, minorities are classified by McCloud. He calls the attempts of creators to portray a certain minority "just guessing." Although this isn't an unreasonable assumption, his first revolution--comics as literature would imply that creators should have the ability to write in many perspectives, not just those that are familiar to them. There are a million writers who research or put in more effort to portray a culture they are not apart of... and though I agree that every industry should be more diverse, does it mean that comics are doomed if there isn't fair representation throughout? Probably not. The weaknesses in this argument are hard to ignore. McCloud's final thought is regarding genre. McCloud claims that genre is the result of the type (gender/race/religion/sexual orientation/etc) of creator that makes the comic. His main argument is that when considering comics, one of the first (if not the first) thoughts is the infamous superhero comics... Catering to white male audiences and created by white males. And it is a common perception of comics, the superhero comes to mind. I am not saying that is always the case... but in my case, it happens to be. I have very little exposure to comics and believe that there is room to reach out to other audiences through different genres... does that mean that I would enjoy a comic made by a Hispanic, twenty-something woman who grew up in a Christian religious home?... probably not. I find that most writers I enjoy reading are nothing like me, and yet I am able to relate to their work. I can like a painting without needing a connection in economic class. And like other women in America, I resent being categorized in any reference to my economic class, religion, sexual orientation, race, and especially gender.

Shame, McCloud. You fell in the trap and published your own prejudices while trying to reveal those of the industry. But at the same time, you were right... I mean, what does a white upper-class male know about anything but his own?


22 June 2010

How to Rescue Comics

The entire comic industry needs to be reinvented from the ground up. At least according to Scott McCloud in Reinventing Comics it does, and he makes a convincing argument. In the introduction he outlines “The Twelve Revolutions.” These revolutions are twelve areas in comics McCloud focuses on in their reinvention. In a later chapter entitled “Big World: the Battle for Diversity” McCloud breaks down three of those revolutions: gender, minority, and genre diversity.

The comic industry has been declining since the mid nineties. McCloud feels that in order for comics to move forward, or better yet grow outward in all directions, several things need to change. The twelve revolutions serve as focal points in Reinventing Comics. The revolutions focus on comics as art, comics as literature, creators' rights, industry innovation, public perception, institutional scrutiny, gender balance, minority representation, diversity of genre, digital production, digital delivery, and digital comics. McCloud claims that only by reinventing comics on these twelve levels can we realize comics for their full potential.

The vast majority of comics have been created by white males. To McCloud this is a major reason why comics lack diversity. He states that comics created by women, while vastly diverse, have some qualities in common that many comics created by men leave out. Similarly minorities have perspective that white males can only guess at, and this perspective can add diversity to comics. These both contribute in a way to genre diversity. McCloud, while he does love superhero comics in his own way, realized that too many men it tights only appeals to a small percentage of the population. In order to broaden comics appeal and gain a larger audience, comics must seek to be as diverse as possible in genre.

Reinventing Comics can sometimes feel like a plea for help. Poor McCloud. He releases his first book, Understanding Comics, around the pinnacle of comics popularity, and then comes a major decline in the industry. I cant help but wonder if McCloud asked himself “didn't they read my book?!” In the introduction he cites many possible causes of the comics recession. I wonder if the rising popularity of the internet didn't have something to do with it, though McCloud doesn't mention that as a cause. McClouds appeals, and his “Twelve Revolutions” seem especially suited to those in the comic industry: creators, publishers and the like. Its purpose for comic readers seems to be just informative, not so much a call to action.

Its a little disappointing that there is little diversity in comics. McCloud makes a very good point that comics can do so much more than what they currently do. I can see why he believes that in order to make more diverse comics, we must have more diverse comic creators, including more women and minorities. His estimate is that one in every thousand people in the United States are comic readers. McCloud wish, it seems, is for more people to enjoy comics the way he imagines they can enjoy them. Considering the great heights that McCloud illustrates as comics' potential, I hope he gets his wish.

21 June 2010

Batman Begins

In reading Batman Begins it slowly unraveled the true colors of the character Stryker who had made a secret contract with the owners of the Apex Chemical Cooperation to pay a sum of money each year until he owned the business, but not having any ready cash he figured he would just kill the only people who knew about the contract so he could gain his ownership instantaneously. Then here comes Batman and saves the last person who knew about the contract and terminates Stryker as he tries escaping and falls to his defeat in a tank of acid.

I found this comic to be very entreating because ever since I was little my dad kept me very well influenced in DC comics and to this day I still enjoy them. One Batman comic I came across when my dad was in Iraq was titled The Jabberwocky, me having read Lewis Carroll’s books found this to be so awesome. The secondary character was a mental health patient who portrayed himself as the Mad Hatter and turns his nurse into a Jabberwocky. Towards the end of the comic when Batman tries to arrest the man for doing this to the nurse, the nurse stops him and tells him not to. That is only because when the nurse had become that creature he truly understood what it was like to be incapable of controlling himself and it was this that helped him understand why the patient was the way he was. I enjoy detective comics. In this Batman comic I enjoy the violence and most of all the ending. Good way to end it for the bad guy.

Inventing Comics, Dylan Horrocks

In the twenty page analysis Inventing Comics: Scott McCloud’s Definition of Comics,

by Dylan Horrocks breaks down McClouds interpretation of Understanding Comics. I found it to be very enlightening, only because in further states that McClouds book doesn’t necessarily states ultimate facts but that his interpretations of comics are just his points of views. Horrocks also clarifies McClouds arguments especially the disagreement in the fact that comics are only possible with more than one panel, but they must also have closure. This argument isn’t necessarily true because you can make single panel comics that too have closure. Horrocks also states how McCloud uses Eisner’s definition of comics which isn’t the pure justification of comics because it is such a large medium. This allows us to cleverly see comics the way McCloud does which are sequential art. I agree with that it did sum up the way I see comics but I agree with his disagreement that comics can’t just be more that a single panel.

16 June 2010

Superhero Soup: A Recipe for Greatness

To Create Your Very Own Superhero from the 1930's You Will Need the Following Ingredients:

One costume (preferably tight-fitting to show off a manly physique)
Physical Strength or Special Abilities
Alias/Secret Identity
Connections (for crime tips)
Desire to Do Good

Mix together. Throw in some humor, back story, vices, fancy gadgets, or even a sidekick to taste and ...

Voila! Bon Apetite!

Okay... so all these "ingredients" are the main ideas of what superheroes like "THE BAT-MAN" and "Superman" are supposed to include. Well, okay, they have their major differences (Superman's an ALIEN for crying out loud!), but all in all this is the template.

Superman is an alien who was dropped on this planet in an S.O.S. situation--his home planet was destroyed. A long way from home and with incredible inhuman abilities (i.e. being able to jump over skyscrapers, run faster than trains, having impenetrable skin), he decides he was going to do good for society here. Of course he fights crime and wears silly tights and says things like, "And now you're going to get a lesson you'll never forget!" He saves the girl, Lois Lane, the object of affection of his alias, Clark Kent. Now. Talk about ridiculous. Clark Kent is a horrible alter ego! He's a skittish coward that works at a news paper... the newspaper job works to get the crime tips, but does he really have to be the complete opposite of Superman?! It's sad really. We all know how Lois Lane will loose her marbles for guys like Superman and how the cowardly types don't appeal to her... why then would he torment himself like that? Superman is one of the Greats or so I'm told, so I won't write him off yet...

THE BAT-MAN (I really how they call him this!), however, is another story altogether. Now this guy knows how to fight crime and live a fabulous life. As his public self, Bruce Wayne, he's a young, rich socialite who spends his time in his mansion or smoking cigars with his good buddy Commissioner Gordon (his crime-tipper) when he's not beating up bad guys and solving crime-mysteries. It would seem in this first episode, that he is simply, a bad-ass. He's the kinda guy that would get Lois Lane as the normal guy and the superhero.

Interesting that we would read the beginning of Superman and Batman together. I wonder whose going to ask the common question, "Who'd win a fight between Superman and Batman?" After reading both comics, I could safely say that Superman definitely has the advantage, being an alien and all. But I don't think these two superheroes would ever throw down anyway. They seem to have the same agenda: do-gooders. So, instead of making war with each other, I believe they'd be making love... err, or at least join forces and fight crime together as completely heterosexual buddies!

... or maybe not. ;)


History of two Legends!

Batman, is a DC Comics fictional superhero who first appeared in Detective Comics # 27 in May 1939. He has since become, along with Superman and Spider-Man, one of the world's most recognized superheroes. Batman's secret identity is Bruce Wayne, billionaire industrialist, playboy, and philanthropist. Witnessing the murder of both his parents as a child leads him to train himself into an unstoppable force, don a costume, and fight crime. Batman isn't like most superheroes, he doesn't posses superhuman powers or abilities; he makes use of intellect, detective skills, technology and physical prowess in his war of crime.
Superman, made his first appearance on an American audience in the year 1938 in Action Comics during the bitter and unforgiving days of the Depression. Superman was faster than a speeding bullet! He was also able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Superman was intended to fight greed, crime, abuse and injustice. Superman was also known as the average man Clark Kent. Superman was an exemplary citizen who, under his disguise, was a reporter for the Daily Planet.
It seems heroes have been an important part of American history. They gave adults and especially young children something to strive for and believe in. Along with the real heroes in our everyday lives such as soldiers, parents or even the president, we also find imaginary heroes. Imaginary heroes are found in comic books, books, or movies. Two of the most Imaginary heroes of our time are Superman and Batman.
When I first think of Batman and Superman, I identify what they both have in common. The most obvious attribute that they share is a double existence. They are apart from the common horde of humanity, special ways that the rest of humankind can only dream of, and illustrate the importance of a mythic presence. Superman is specifically, programmatically, and famously engaged in preserving the truth, justice and the American way. I truly stand by him for the characteristics that he shows. I also love how Batman puts himself well within the scheme or ordinary human experience. They stand for something while they extend themselves to fight crime and arch-villains. They both to me are, great COMIC BOOK LEGENDS!!!!

Critiquing Comics

In Inventing Comics: Scott McCloud's Definition of Comics, Dylan Horrocks critically analyzes the rhetoric of McCloud's Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Identifying it as polemic, as apposed to a “simple, disinterested scientific argument,” Horrocks picks apart many of the persuasive elements of McCloud's book. It soon becomes evident that Horrocks disagrees with the borders McCloud has “drawn” around comics, claiming the “Map” or “Nation” McCloud is trying to create limits creativity, and discourages “Nationalists” from overstepping the boundaries and exploring new areas.

Horrocks explains that in creating an argument that comics can be “limitless and exciting,” McCloud employs a dichotomy of “form VS. content.” That McCloud seeks to separate the message from the messenger. If form becomes the “vessel” and the content is all optional then we can disassociate the “crude, poorly drawn, semiliterate, cheap, and disposable kiddie fare” from the greatness that comics as a vessel can attain. According to Horrocks this is also the first step McCloud takes in erasing and revising the history of comics, and history of language and pictures for that matter. Horrocks also complains that the chosen definition of the vessel, which he notes as “Sequential Art,” is only a preference of McCloud, and may not actually represent what really makes up “comics.”

McCloud's agenda, according to Horrocks, is to remap the territory of comics to bring it out of the “ghetto.” He claims that McCloud uses many geographical metaphors, and this is evidence of his plan to stake out a comic “Nation” and to “Map” its territory. Horrocks explains that while pictures and words reside in this domain, it is primarily the domain of pictures. He references McCloud multiple times stating that in comics, pictures must carry the burden of telling the story, only to be supplemented by words. To Horrocks, these well defined borders serve only to limit what comics can accomplish. Horrocks essay asserts that while McCloud intended to give comics a definition that unlocks their potential, he has only served to create borders that will limit comics. While Horrocks uses maps “to wander outside their delineated borders every time I feel the scenery is getting a little stale,” he obviously worries that other creators, these comic nationalists, will stay within the confines McCloud has set for them. Anyone stuck in the borders of McCloud's Comic Land would not be free to wonder, as Horrocks does, "why can’t you have a comic without pictures?"

I wasn't really sure what the point of Horrocks' essay was until I read the conclusion. I still couldn't decided whether it was an exercise in critiquing comics, namely McCloud's comic, or and essay regarding mapping boundaries in art. Horrocks obviously had a kind of a love-hate relationship with McCloud's Book. While he grouped himself in with the comic fans that adopted it, he also, sometimes reachingly, picked apart McCloud's rhetoric even when there seemed no need to. It seemed a bit ridiculous that Horrocks actually claimed that McCloud's geographical metaphors were part of his grand scheme to “map” comics. Is McCloud actually not allowed to use words like bounds, territory, frontier, chart, and universe in a less than literal sense?

Horrocks also seems to have the magical ability to dance around these borders that would seem impassible to everyone else. Apparently any guidelines created around comics would set up an imposing wall to all but Horrocks, even though McCloud admits “our attempts to define comics are an on-going process.” Several times McCloud challenges readers to push the limits and move these borders, yet Horrocks still acts as if they are immovable.

All in all, while I was impressed with parts of Horrocks essay, such as his knowledge of comics, his writing style, and his ability to break down rhetoric, I was not convinced. I feel that there are a few holes in his argument, and at times he was critical for criticism's sake; he used criticism when it did not actually add to his thesis or point. McCloud's definition still stands as a guideline, not a border, and Horrocks has only proven his prowess in literary criticism, and not that his concern for the creativity of comics stands true.

Comics: The “Ghettoization” Nation

Comics, however you wish to describe them, are a debatable subject, it would seem. As an art form, medium, or communication device (or simply by categorizing as such) we create borders around what we essentially believe comics truly are. Indeed, Scott McCloud has, himself, stereotyped comics as “bright, colorful magazines filled with bad art, stupid stories, and guys in tights.” McCloud goes on in his book, “Understanding Comics” to define comics for what they are… or what he believes they should be.

Dylan Horrocks gives an astounding analysis of Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics.” In his article, Inventing Comics, we are able to see McCloud in new light. Horrocks describes McCloud as a “visionary” with an agenda and calls “Understanding Comics” McCloud’s “manifesto”; an attempt to map the “territory” McCloud wishes to claim for the Comics Nation.

Scott McCloud see’s comics as this infinite art form, a universe waiting to be discovered with limitless possibility and ability. There are no specific genres to obey, no language to submit to, no topics are out of bounds. McCloud has a vision, alright. He also has a definition.

In McCloud’s definition, or rather his idea of comics, we are given ONE example of what comics can be, Will Eisner’s concept of “sequential art”. McCloud takes this concept and fashions it into a definition. Somehow, McCloud takes two words and turns it into “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in a deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response from the viewer.”—quite a leap from “sequential art,” as a concept. By defining comics, Horrocks claims that McCloud has formed “an expression of certain values and assumptions.” McCloud has very cleverly told us what we should value more and less about comics simply by defining them.

The concept of sequential art also leads McCloud to make a claim about the form of comics—form being the definitive marker of what makes a comic a comic. The form is specific enough, but are the borders around this format combative with McCloud claim of the limitlessness of comics? Horrocks asserts that “borders are, after all, artificial inventions designed to control the movement of people, commodities and ideas.” He goes on to argue that “[McCloud’s] definition is more than simply a descriptive model; it is also necessarily prescriptive. By reinforcing some values and suppressing others, it can influence the way we read and create comics, discouraging experimentation in some directions and imposing particular narrative structures and idioms. Since McCloud gives form definition and in turn expectations, it can be assumed that McCloud wishes to limit comics to his own ideas.

Horrocks goes on to explain how McCloud crafts comics into his own definition. Comics, as a community, have a history all their own. What that history is, we do not learn from McCloud. Borrowing from history (i.e. Hogarth’s narrative sequences, wordless novels by Lynd Ward and Frans Masereel, and picture books by Maurice Sendak… even the stained glass of cathedrals! ), McCloud claims any “sequential art” that fits his definition of comics. McCloud even makes a myth-history in which pictures evolve into writing. None of these are credible, but they are also often overlooked.

Even so, McCloud has a vision and in that vision, comics can become more than what they are today. His book, “Understanding Comics” is described by Horrocks as “polemic”, “prescriptive”, a “manifesto”—strong natured words that make me think of McCloud as a politician. Comics have a long way to go and McCloud has opened new territory for creators, fans, and people like me, newbies to the Comics Nation. He urges this community to reach beyond stereotypes and genres, to leave this “Ghettoization” Nation and become what comics are destined for. And in McCloud’s Comic Nation, he screams “YES WE CAN!”

We can argue that McCloud’s definition and rhetoric holds no water, but I’m still voting for him!

15 June 2010

A Mountain out of a Mollhill........

Horrocks argues with McCloud’s definition of comics as a form and his attempts to put up boundaries around what comics are. He pulls out implications of McCloud’s definition that are not immediately obvious and adds to his argument with quotes from a Comics Journal interview with McCloud. It seems that McCloud sees comics as being dominated by the images (“…If the pictures, independent of the words, are telling the whole story and the words are supplementing that, then that is comics.’’). He notes that McCloud has rhetorically latched onto the structural features of the comic medium. Horrocks also points out that among cartoonists, there is a fear of the word as dominating factor, an inversion of the possible anxiety those who privilege traditional text may feel. Horrocks suggests a broader, more inclusive definition of not just comics or print text, but language in general, and this definition is laden with image text sentiment.
Scott McCloud’s written in an informal and accessible style, Understanding Comics looks at the history of the medium, at its vocabulary, at common misconceptions about it, at what makes it work, and at its potential. The book as a whole is a great way in helping people such as myself better understand the use of comics and how they function. The book was so smart, funny, stimulating and unpretentious. Before you ask, no, you don’t need to be obsessed with comics or anything remotely similar to enjoy it. I think that anyone interested in art history or art in general would get something out of this book. Because even though it looks at an art form in specific, Understanding Comics also makes all sorts of interesting points about how art in general works, how our brains process it, how we respond to it and why we create it. Yes, according to Horrock, McCloud might have made a mountain out of a molehill. Truly, I believe it worked in McCloud’s favor.

09 June 2010

Chpt 4/6

In chapter four McCloud makes it clear that we use closer and space time biologically as well as in reading comics which he explained in chapter three. In chapter four McCloud breaks down time and motion is the use of lines. Most comic book artist used lines to show when an object or a person is on motion. Early Japanese artist had been using this technique for years before The U.S. discovered it. Another way we break down sound in comic books is with the use of words, however i will speak more about that topic shortly. They give the example of an object in motion in sequential images with the image changing gradually, but if you would rather use one image moving in an instance the you use lines around that object to show that it is in motion. In chapter six McCloud breaks down the use of words we use words to balance out the story the images tell in a comic. Even though he makes it clear that you can easily make a comic without words they would still provide words to exclaim sound and such as i had stated earlier. with the balance of these images and words they can provide us with a vivid or a vague view of the story being told.
This proves his thesis with these chapter by breaking the concepts down so that they are easy for someone to understand why comics have their icons, with words and stories. This makes it possible for anyone to make a comic relating to their interests. i really enjoy his writing and his descriptions, provided with his abundance of examples. I find it interesting because i am an art student but i highly recommend his writings even to those who are not in the art field. Especially to those who are going into the art field.

Chap 1/2

In the first chapter McCloud narrows down his audience of readers to creators of comics: first by defining comics as a sequence of images or ‘juxtaposed pictorial and other images in a deliberate sequence’. I agree with this definition in the aspect that it covers the basic concept but for those that really want to narrow it down the literal definition is provided. McCloud also states how comics are a medium supported by having many different ideas, writers, and trends excreta. I don’t deny this claim, but more so in the artistic aspect since being that different mediums in art relate to techniques such as watercolor, pen and ink, charcoal, and so on.

One of the claims in chapter two is when you break down the illustrations in comics. You can separate them from icons which are images that represent nouns. The illustrations however of the actual characters are easier for people to relate to because of the simplicity in those characters. I admire this only because it is true in the way we know a generalized placement of our features and unless we are looking in a mirror we do not realize what our face looks like in detail. In that way we can relate to the simplicity of those characters.

Blog 2

The experience that I have had with comics is purely based on the cheap laughs I, or others have known through the expense of the comic strips that are always printed onto the last page of some newspaper section and only seldon seen when someone leaves the paper folded forward exposing the "funnies", as we called them. I never once wondered about the question "Can comics be art?" I always just assumes the answer was "yes" based solely on the fact that they are cartoons, and cartoons are always art, right? I say right and I hope to be concurred with because "art" is such an open term and I agree with the personal definition given in the book, "Art, as I see it, is any human activity which doesn't grow out of either of our species' two basic instincts: survival and reproduction." this definition opens a path for anything outside of sexual activity, breathing and eating to be considered art; and who is to say it isn't? One man's trash is another man's art.
"...because the creation of any work in any medium will always follow a certain path." This said path consists six steps: 1. Idea/Purpose. 2.Form. 3. Idiom. 4. Structure. 5. Craft. 6.Surface. These steps don't always have to follow this direct route when ideas are free flowing in an artist's mind, or any person's mind for that matter. As the book describes "The order of the six steps is innate. Like the arrangement of bones in a dinosaur's skeleton they can be discovered in any order but when brought together, they will always fall into place!" This metaphor helped me to better understand the purpose of the six steps and how they are applied to the mixture of creation.
Your mind is your own personal area for anything you want to imagine or think up, here in your realm you don't have to worry about discrimination, criticism, or any misrepresentation of misinterpritation because it's all common language to you. You know what you mean and what point you are trying to make. The problem facing any and all artists how are they going to make people (the audience) understand what the voice of their art is saying because in essence it is like translating a foreign language. "There's only one power that can break through the wall which seperates all artists from their audience-the power of understanding." Once the wall of ignorance is broken down like the Berlin wall by the hammer of communication, then and only then can comics be fully appreciated and understood for the true expressionism they represent and the raw talent that goes into making every strip. but until then the pilgrimage of the comic continues...

The Secret's in the Sauce!

In chapters 4 and 6 of “Understanding Comics”, Scott McCloud demonstrates the unique relationships comics have with time and space, pictures and words.

“In learning to read comics we all learned to perceive time spatially, for in the world of comics, time and space are one and the same”

Scott McCloud introduces this idea of time and space being the same in several examples. One panel can show several moments in time, one moment in time, infinite time, the past, the present, and the future. This concept is also true with a combination of panels proving, once again, the endless possibility comics have. The panel itself is an important icon used in comics—a point I hadn’t considered until it was pointed out to me. The panel acts as a “general indicator that time or space is being divided.” We use our ability for closure to perceive the relationship between time and space, to lengthen or shorten a moment in time. This can be done by the framing of panels (i.e. the size, shape, and borders of frames). Something as simple as the size of the frame can represent time or how long a moment within that space is. An amazing feat to manipulate time!

“As we’ve seen, the interaction of time and comics generally leads us to one of two subjects: sound or motion.”

Sound and motion add to the illusion that comics create. This illusion is the experience of sensory appeal. We become involved with concept of actual time, action and reaction, dialogue and sound effects. The experience involves the reader to become a component in the story itself. We are pulled into the story and it is fluid and familiar because we make it that way (with the direction of the creator, of course). The experience is unique with comics… even just reading this text has deepened my understanding of the complexity and creativity that goes into creating one. And Scott McCloud has proved once again that there are no limits to which comics are bound.

“Indeed, words and pictures have great powers to tell stories when creators fully exploit them both.”

McCloud explains how different combinations of pictures and words create different responses for the viewer. These combinations are word specific, picture specific, duo-specific, additive, parallel, montage, and inter-dependent. He explains and gives examples for the seven he is familiar with but also never limits comics to these. He goes on to explain that “when pictures carry the weight of clarity of a scene, they free words to explore a wider area,” and vice versa, comparing it to alchemy. You can see change occur in a scene just by mixing up the combination used. This is precisely why comics are such a mystery to me. A creator can create a different feeling with the same picture or script by altering how they are combined for a totally different effect! Comics truly are a remarkable medium for art, story, and creativity!

08 June 2010

Unraveling the Complexities

In Chapters Four and Six of Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art Scott McCloud discusses how time is handled in comics, and the interplay between words and pictures in comics. In Chapter Four his examination of time in comics explains different techniques creators use to manipulate time, and convey it to the reader. Chapter Six explores the different ways pictures and words work together to make comics as we know them.

McCloud demonstrates that in comics time is a complicated notion. In some cases one panel could take up thirty seconds of time using dialogue to pace the reader. That same one panel could be broken up into multiple panels and give the same effect. He shows that time can be manipulated by the shape of the panel itself. Some changes, such as making the panel extend past the edge of the page, give it a timeless feeling making it feel like more time has passed. He also explains a unique feature of comics, that the past, present, and future are visible all at once on the page, unlike other media such as TV and movies. As usual McCloud discusses possibilities not yet explored by comics, such as letting the reader choose which direction to go thus varying the story. McCloud also discusses the use of motion in comics, and techniques creators have adapted to display motion.


Comics use both words and pictures to get their point across, and McCloud dissects how the two work together. He first explains the mere fact comics use pictures and words make them seem nothing more than “a diversion” to some. That classically, the “Great” works of literature and art were kept at arms length, anything that sought to combine the two might as well have had “For Children” stamped on it. After the usual history lesson McCloud develops more on what he said from Chapter Two regarding comics as a medium or “vessel” rather than a style or genre. He then identifies seven ways words and pictures can be used together in comics: word specific, picture specific, duo-specific, additive, parallel, montage, and interdependent. Finally McCloud explains that as either pictures or words take up more of the job of explaining whats happening, the other can be free to make explore artistically.


The examples of manipulating time by changing frame size and shape on pages 100 – 102 are very interesting, and as usual very funny if you read what exactly the two men are talking about. However, my favorite part of Chapter Four is the experimental “choose your own story” on page 105 in which our dear Carl is given another chance at life. The way this page is interactive shows how progressive McCloud is.


Chapter Six seems to be what McCloud couldn't fit into an already bursting-at-the-seams Chapter Two. In many ways he is building on the same concepts introduced in that chapter. It did add to it another method by which to examine comics, the seven ways pictures can combine with words. McCloud loves to give us these tools, and I can see why. It makes something that seems simple, and that we might take for granted, and breaks it down to show the complexity of it.


Both chapters successfully unravel complexity where at first I perceived none. This seems to be another major theme of McClouds. Apparently “Understanding Comics” partially means understand how complex they can be, and not taking them for granted.

BAM!

YES! McCloud indeed does his fantastic movement with his book yet again! From Chapter 4, explaining 'Time Frames' to Chapter 6, talking 'Show and Tell'. It doesn't seem as though he fails to grab his readers attention because he stays on topic to what he is trying to explain to his dear ol' readers.
In Chapter 4 McCloud explains that each panels is a still frame then changes his mind that it's a panel still moving in time. I agree to disagree. Why? Because it is all still frame, the picture does not move like a film would or a cartoon. It just stays in one spot on the piece of paper, right? No, it continues with different images and phrases that take your imagination along, moving each image as a cartoon or film would. Indeed some panels are caught in single moments as though you can invision what they are telling you. Maybe I am have a broad imagination or something but when I look at a picture I can see all the different things happening in the in between, like I am actuallly there and know exactly what is happening. When panels in a comic move a person like that, the artist is indeed doing something CORRECT! Right? Well, YES! This is what I get from McCloud in Chapter 4. It's almost like he wants you to agree with everything he is trying to explain but also telling you not to and to just have your OWN i m a g i n a t i o n! :)
In Chapter 6, I love how McCloud uses an example that can pretty much get anyone's attention. The example was how comics are best with words and pictures, like PARTNERS in a DANCE and pretty much each one takes turn LEADING. Of course this grabbed my attention on a whole new level and my understanding of comics become more clear and out loud in the library I said, "OH! I get it now!" (How embarassing! LOL!) But, McCloud goes along saying that each partner knows their role/part and they support eachother's strengths. Very true!
"When pictures can carry the weight of clarity in a scene, they free words to explore a wider area."
This is true because when you can put a picture to any words, it gives the meaning balance. Another thing McCloud points out is that the mixing of words and pictures are alchemy than science. Another thing that amuses me on his theory about that is the word, 'alchemy'. Why? Because it is EXACTLY what McCloud had said from the beginning what he believes comics are. A seemingly magical POWER! Well, not in those words, but believeing comics have some sort of POWER that needs to be let out and shared with the world.