24 June 2010
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.
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.
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
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.
22 June 2010
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
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.
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.