Monday, January 25, 2016

Web Comics: How Format Changes Meaning

As we have been looking at Web comics, and the many variations they can have, I have been wondering how this form adds, and/or takes away from comics. Fred has mentioned this question briefly in class, but it seemed to be referring to the common argument of "real books" vs. e-books.

Side note: Physical books are better than e-books, but, when traveling, on a budget, or needing a book right away, e-books are convenient.

However, I want to push this discussion a little further in regards to web comics, especially since they vary so widely in their use of the infinite canvas. In the Deviant Art links on the potential of web comics, He used an interesting format to present his comics that mimics how one would traditionally read comics- their eye shifting from panel to panel. While I enjoyed this form, the one thing it lacks is planche. The page no longer exist and instead it is just panel after panel. Does having a full page versus panel after panel change the feel/meaning of the story and how we interpret it?

Or how about web comics like "Pup Contemplates"? In these we have the availability to see a "page", even if it is really long. Instead of being able to separate one long, scroll-y page into 2+ is our interpretation different? I almost think the availability to continue scrolling down the screen allows for the completion of the story in a flawless way. However, I also think there is an extreme amount of creativity when composers are able to make a complete page act as a sort of individual story, while still being able to continue that story on the next page (like Low Moon).

Also, the Benjamin Franklin comic we read for today: Pictures and words that are read while continuing to scroll down for a while. Maybe these terms are too simplistic for the complexity of story-telling, but what I want to get at is how here there is no longer any reference to a physical book. This would clearly have been separated into multiple pages and maybe with that in mind it would have had some small panels interspersed. Instead we are getting single page sized images right after one another. Does this change the meaning? Does this format influence how we read it?

From one medium to another

This class has convinced me how powerful comics truly are. Since they have the power to evoke all the senses through the words and images on the page, they allow for a unique type of story-receiving satisfaction.

But when there is a shift in the medium--such as when a comic becomes a movie-- how much gets lost and how differently do audience members perceive? What gets taken in more, what has to completely be removed?

For example, if there was going to be a movie adaption of Stitches, would it still work the same way? The movie could still have the Alice in Wonderland references, there could be a CGI rabbit therapist, and every panel could be brought to life through the film world. However, would it be as powerful as the comic--or would it be more powerful?

Bringing it back to the idea of comics having the power to evoke all senses through the words on the page, would the movie be able to do that?

Because I'm also thinking of the Spiderman movie, and all other comics that have been made for screening pleasure. I know that with the original Spiderman comics, the movie version brought far more life into the character and story line. The movie allowed for a better sense of character development, as well as a more steady build-up rather than Stan Lee's fast paced comics. So in this case, I would say that the movie adaption of the comic helped bring something to life in, possibly, a more tangible way because of how it chose to portray the story.

But if we consider Stitches as a movie, would it have the same effect? I believe Stitches has a unique way of compacting a thick amount of emotion into singular pages--and that would be very different from drawing out these moments into movie scenes.

I think that they would both have very different effects, but it could have potential to be powerful. Would we just have to consider it powerful in different, specific ways?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Memoirs though comics

After reading Stitches, I began wondering about how effective it is to put a memoirs, or even a just a series of memories, into comic form. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and thought that it did a good job of retelling Small’s early years, especially after reading a little deeper into his life online. I feel like in some cases a comic could be a perfect medium to retell a person’s life story. I know other comics have done an excellent job of presenting someone’s life, capturing repressed emotions and hidden secrets through carefully constructed images, metaphors and analogies. Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is a great example of this. Among other things, it blends the metaphor of Greek myth into the mannerisms of her father in a clever way using images and text. 

However, even with anchorage to help relieve the chain of possible meaning, some images will always be a little ambiguous in their meaning. Some authors do this on purpose and others don’t, but I feel this could be a problem for comic book autobiographies when something important is trying to be conveyed. The full meaning could be hard to find if prose is not there to spell it our for the reader. Conversely, even with well chosen diction and careful explanation, some images are hard to describe with just words. It can be easier to show an image of Small’s white rabbit therapist rather than trying to describe him. You can also slip subtle things into a panel such as the tiny drawings of birds and bees in the image of Small’s pregnant grandmother. It seems that both have their pros and cons. 

Is there anything fundamental that is omitted, whether intentional or not, when prose or image are chosen as the primary means of conveying a story? 


What Life Would Be Is Comics Didn't Exist

While taking this class I began to realize the profound details that make comic books important to our culture and society. The world nowadays is comic obsessed; even those who don't consider themselves comic book fans are influenced by movies and comic culture that is literally everywhere now. Even back when comics first began to become popular they influenced the film industry and changed the way books are written. The concept of showing rather than telling is everywhere in media now and who knows where it will go in the future.

Comics become even more important when we consider what McCloud regards as a comic. Now this opens up doors of historical telling and shows off cultural life back in times when they etched drawings on stone or on parchment. We begin to see how peasant and royal life was like several odd years ago, all without the use of years of effort translating a dead or dying language. Even now Marvel and DC are huge companies and have their hands in the pockets of every single media because for the past 70 years the comic scene has been at a growing immensely.

Imagine a world without these influences on film and history and the impact on the culture. Even within our own little circle of people comics have influenced each and every one of us, we could possibly be very different people if things like comics never existed. Its amazing to sit back and view the influence that a medium has had on the world and to recount its history and see where it has been and in what forms.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Infinite Canvas...Infinitely Frustrating...

The concept of the infinite canvas is very intriguing and fascinating to consider. Looking at the monitor as a window instead of a panel is a unique way of observing and appreciating comics. The idea as a whole is innovative, and I believe can create a new way of looking at comics. Personally, though, I don't really like them because of several reasons.

One, I never can see the whole picture clearly or fully (this is using just the examples we had in class, there may be others I don't know about) and that really bugs me. Don't get me wrong, finding the Weiner Mobile or other little easter eggs here and there are pretty cool but this leads to my second reason which is much more personal. I am not a fan of tedious work and combine that with my slight perfectionist personality, I have feel compelled to look through something completely but it is so tedious that I'm torn in two. I prefer to do things wholly and completely so these comics are quite frustrating for me.

Coming to the main point of this post, I believe the infinite canvas works are definitely a personal preference for certain individuals but this doesn't mean they should be thrown under the bus. The amount of time and effort that go into making such a grand work of art is very commendable and should be noted. I agree with the previous post by J.C titled Comic Sub-Categories in the sense that having the categories would have much benefit. One could already have the right mind set going into a certain category of comic because they knew what to expect and be able to appreciate it further. Overall, the infinite canvas brilliant idea, just not my cup of tea.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Comic Sub-Categories

After listening to Scott McCloud's lecture on the infinite canvas, a question comes to mind about comic books and the criterial aspects of a comic book. McCloud would have most believe in "Understanding Comics" that practically anything can be a comic, and while I understand the necessity for an argument like this, after all it's nice to have someone going to bat to prevent the general populace from viewing comics as nothing but the Sunday Funny Pages. However, I wonder not that McCloud is wrong, but if comics do/should have sub-categories so that everyone knows what we're talking about. For example, if I wanted to discuss the comic aspects of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, it would be useful to put them into a sub-category of comics for art that takes up entire walls and was used prior to the generally accepted invention of comics by Töpffer. It would also be useful, if someone was referencing Spiderman or Archie comics to be able to say "traditionally what you think of when I say comics" without the possibility of a pretentious comic scholar giving you a lesson about tapestries. Do you find the idea of categories as a helpful addition? I don't know if there are already categories in existence, if there are do share your information, and if there aren't what would be acceptable names for those categories as well as their specifications?

Visual Comedy in Comics?

One thing I thought about a lot was the way Edgar Wright uses visual comedy. We talked about how in Scott Pilgrim, it's funny when things enter or leave the frame suddenly. And Wright heightens this effect by typically not allowing his subject to move in relation to the frame. This has been true ever since cinematic visual comedy has been a thing, I think - Charlie Chaplin's movies would have been a lot less funny if he hadn't used a stationary camera. The stillness of the camera somehow makes the Tramp seem even more oblivious. And in old silent comedies like that, it's not even so much about something entering or exiting the frame; it's just that the characters move back and forth freely, and the camera is an impartial observer.

Why is this funny? I would theorize that it might have something to do with that dynamic between the camera and the subject. If the camera is still, we get the sense both that the camera doesn't necessarily realize the characters are there and that the character doesn't necessarily realize the camera is there. If the camera is following its subject, the subject could catch us off guard, because we don't know what the subject's going to do. But the subject can never catch the camera off guard, because the camera's following it. On the other hand, when the camera's stationary, the subject can take both us and the camera by surprise.

So. All that digressing about cinematic visual comedy is to say: can any similar variety of visual comedy be achieved in comics? For instance, you have one empty frame, and then the next frame is suddenly full. Can that be humorous in the same way? Or is the panel of a comic incapable of functioning as an impartial observer, because the absence of the dimension of time never allows us to see whether or not it's following its subject?

I feel like I'm being kind of confusing here, so let me try to boil it down. Can a comic surprise us visually as strongly as a movie can? Can a character suddenly entering or exiting the frame be as unexpected and amusing? Or does that lack of time, that translation of time to space, deaden the impact? I'm not sure what the answer is exactly, but I feel like it might have something to do with how vividly closure can fill in the blanks.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Icarus: Comic and/or Video Game?

This is just an impression I had and was just wondering if anyone else had a similar experience. 

As I was reading through Icarus Needs: I began wondering about the criterial aspects that made it a comic and what didn’t. There were uniform panels with action-to-action transitions, simple lines and color, etc. Some of the typical stuff McCloud talked about. I could move back and forth between the panels (using my eyes) just like I was reading a very small print comic bit by bit. However, I had the sense that I was also playing a video game of sorts where you had a complete very simple goal such as collect the apples and trade them for rope. You could interact with characters, objects and animals and move around freely. The aspect of having collected various objects to use at a later point reminded me strongly of games where the character has a bag or inventory of weapons, tools, etc. Also, when you reached another person or check point of sorts, a speech "square" would appear that would help find your next objective. But, sometimes when you revisited a panel that had a speech square in it before, it was gone on the second visit. I don't think this sort of thing is possible in a print comic. 

Does this kind of web comic in relation to infinite canvas potentially create a video game like environment? Is Icarus more or less exclusive of this situation? 


Children's Books

I was talking to Fred yesterday about the role of children's books in relation to comics. He mentioned that Scott McCloud disregards children's books in his discussion on comics because they exist in a different realm. I'm not so sure I agree.

At the very core, children's books are a combination of words and pictures to tell a story and at the very core, so are comics. So what separates children's books from comics? Does some sort of paneling have to exist to make it a comic, or can a single page be considered a single panel?

In addition, do you agree with McCloud that children's books are something entirely different? If so, what can we classify them as?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Effects of the Medium

Comic books nowadays are more readily available with the current change in times. We no longer need to use paper and ink when novels can be published and downloaded at anytime onto electronic devices. Several hundred books can now be stored on a device that is no more wider than the thickness of a novella. My question is how this medium is viewed: Does the fact that more and more comics books are changing over to this style of distribution change the way comics are viewed? Is the electronic version of the book hindering the "full experience" of holding a comic book in its physical form?

As a moderate comic book collector, I enjoy reading my graphic novels in their physical form. There is something about the turn of the page and feeling the thickness of the what I have read vs what is left to read that enhances the experience for me. The fact that such forms are more expensive to print and are less available worries me that in the future, artist and writers will gear their audience toward an electronic medium.

The experience I have with electronic graphic novel reading is one of convenience over personal preference. When I read them online it is most likely because I neither have the money nor the means to purchase them physically. While I do see the logic in having this medium I feel as if publishers could gear toward the benefits of electronic graphic novels and focus their time and money on that. What are your experience with different mediums in which comics can be read, which do you prefer?