Thursday, June 27, 2019

Analysis of the Depiction of Memory in Batman Hush, Part One

As I work on my graphic memoir, I am always thinking about (and confounded by) ways to visually depict how memory works, weaving around in time, triggered by specific things in the now, and how one memory can trigger another.
Recently I read the Batman graphic novel Hush by Loeb, Lee, and Williamson, and I was intrigued by how they managed memory.  So I wrote it up to make notes for myself, then thought I'd share them here in case they are of interest to others!  These are only my impressions from reading the book... apologies to those who know more than I do about these artists, their work, and the post-millenial Batman world than I do!
In this first page example, I see the standard page appearance.  Black background and gutters, detailed ink, multiple colors.  Whenever we are in Gotham City, as we are here, things tend toward the blue overall.  Bruce/Batman's narration is in the blue shaded boxes.
So we have read some 50 or so pages that look like this in the clear cut now of the story.

Then the comic starts to train us how to read its greater complexity, as Tom Hart, one of my great teachers, likes to say!  On the page immediately following the above, we find ourselves in one of Bruce's memories.  The time jump is triggered by a comment made by the doctor on the bottom of the above page, and our understanding is helped by the physicality of the page turn, and the completely different visual style,
The monochromatic coloring and the loose watercolor style not only trigger a difference in time, but also mimic the vagueness of memory, which is generally less precise in our minds than the now of our lives.  The memory goes on for several pages before, on a page turn, returning to the more full-colored and detailed depictions of the now. 
We see several such memory sequences, always on a page turn, and always filling several full pages, before the comic takes its next jump in depicting the complexity of time.

In this next image, I see the jump in complexity, again, the page training us how to read it.  Rather than the page turn helping to mark the time jump, the authors rely just on the style shift.  
I like how the character and position of Alfred helps to root us in place.  I also note how this memory, unlike the earlier ones, has a white gutter, but I am not sure what it is signalling.  
Anyhow, now that we readers are trained to read time/memory jumps without the aid of a page turn, or even a full page of memory, the book can do more complex things.

The next example shows how the book expects us to read location changes and time jumps not just from the now of the story to the past, but from one point in the past to another.
So, the first two tiers above are in the now of the story, with a location change to Metropolis.  Unlike Gotham City which is always depicted in blue tones, Metropolis (home of Superman) is depicted in red tones.
In the third tier we jump in memory to something that happened just the previous evening in the story, in Gotham.  We know where we are in time because we just saw this exact image (with different narration) in a previous page.  It doesn't have the looseness of the other memory scenes because it is so recent.
Between the third and fourth tier, we jump from the memory of the previous evening to a memory from childhood.  The shift to the now familiar loose watercolor style triggers the time jump, and the shift in color scheme (along with the narrative cue) signals that this memory is not from Gotham, but from a childhood visit to Metropolis.
So we are now, in the space of one page and four panels, jumping between two places and three points in time!  HOW COOL IS THAT??
Stay tuned for the next post to read the rest of my analysis.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Workspace Photo

Workspace photo. 

I see that my birdfeeder is crooked!  Gotta do something about that...

I do actually have a studio space, but it is such a mess from my moving out of my college office post-retirement because I haven’t had the gumption to do a big and put-away, that I am working here. July. July is “clean up the studio” month.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Sharing: An Graphic Essay about Kafka and Comedy (?!)

This summer I am trying to share more of the terrific things I find on the internet related to comics, creating comics, and comics theory.  There is so much out there to learn from!

Today I'm sharing a graphic essay about Kafka, built around some collage, and referencing Winsor McKay comics and Charlie Chaplin!  It is by Peter Kuper and appeared in the New York Times.

This sort of essay is an inspiration to me of what I might do when I am done with my book. Or maybe along the way. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Sharing: An Article About An Artist's Paintings of D-Day

This summer I am trying to share more of the amazing material I find on the internet related to comics, comics techniques, and comics theory.  There is so much out there to learn from!

Today I share this article by Dave Philipps, which appeared in the New York Times, about artist and D-Day survivor Guy de Montlaur.  It is also about his art, trauma, and expression.

"One June Early Morning"  source:  the NYT article linked above

This is not exactly about comics, but it is another interesting example of an artist who experienced war, could not speak about it, but could paint it.   I continue to find work about the pre-verbal nature of trauma and the verbal/visual nature of people's ability to express the "unspeakable," just fascinating.

Also, this article mentions a John Huston documentary I never knew about. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Sharing an Article on Queer Theory and Comics

This summer I'm going to try to do more sharing of interesting things I find on the internet about comics, comics techniques, and comics theory.  There is so much out there to learn from!

Today I want to share an article called  "Queer Encounters" by Joseph Ronan and Paul Fisher Davies, which appeared in the online journal Sequentials, V1, #2.

The content itself is interesting, using queer theory to think about comics as a medium, about the dynamics of dialogue, the “duality” of word/image, resistance, what it means to be “immature.”

I really enjoy thinking about how the binary of words/images (which seems a more marked distinction in the US than in many cultures, at least in our history of comics) can be thought about through the traditional binary of gender identity.  It is always interesting to me that one of the main influences that shut down the development of comics as a mainstream form of literature in the US (in the mid-twentieth century), was the Frederic Wertham book Seduction of the Innocent (along with his subsequent testimony before Congress).  Comics were really seen as something that turned readers (mostly boys) into delinquents of all types, notably sexually.  This led to the Comics Code Authority rules, which so gutted storytelling that comics in the US, though remarkable in their ingenuity in getting around the CCA, simply didn't have the freedom to develop as a literature in the way it did in other nations.  So the "fixity of social forms" talking about in this graphic essay, really seemed to negatively impact this medium which was, itself, working against such fixity. 

I thought the comic structure was interesting as well. I enjoyed watching it try to do what it was talking, yet remain readable. It also looks to me like it was done on an iPad... so I enjoy learning from that as well.

Would love to hear what others think of it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Memoir: How to Visually Depict Terror

As I continue work on my graphic memoir (trigger warning:  it includes a scene in which I find a dead body), I'm thinking about how I can use different visual styles, maybe even different art tools, to depict the disintegration of my normal mental state into terror as I realized I was in a life-threatening situation.
That got me thinking about how much I've learned about how trauma is processed preverbally and wondering if I could recreate the finding of the dead body scene with no words at all. 
Anyhow, I had out the pens and paints, so I decided to draw it all again (for what, the 200th time??).  I did not relook at anything I've drawn before, but of course, I remember much of what I've already drawn.  So some of these images might look familiar if you've read this blog much before.

Anyhow this was just for fun, messing around to see what I could learn by doing it.  There's nothing better than playing with art supplies and seeing what other parts of your brain they might open up!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Sharing this Article with Comics Watercolor Artist Jared Cullem

This summer I'm going to try to do more sharing of interesting things I find on the internet about comics, comics techniques, and comics theory.  There is so much out there to learn from!

Today, I'll share an interesting article about comics creator and watercolor artist Jared Cullem which I found on the website la petite palette.

I love how he talks about discovering watercolor as a medium for his art after having no interest in it at all:

If you told me it would become my obsession and passion I would have laughed. It gave me the advantage of working mostly on drawing and value before shifting into painting. I ran across French comics that were watercolored and it changed my life forever. I got my first little cotman box and have painted daily, unable to stop since. 

I love the way the details blur as this character slips more into his internal world.

Check the article out here.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

In Honor of Pride, My 2018 Pride Comic

 Last year I posted about how I sketched for hours during my local pride event, then turned those sketches into a commemorative comic.  It was distributed through our local LGBTQ resource center throughout the year.

I won't be home for Pride this year, so I thought I'd post this PDF of last year's comic as my part of the celebration.