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  • examination of the art-form of comics
  • what are comics capable of
  • how do comics work
  • how do we define comics
  • what are the basic elements of comics
  • how does the mind process the language of comics
  • closure: what happens between the panels
  • how does time flow, how is it represented
  • interaction of words and pictures to story-telling
  • comprehensive theory of the creative process, what implications does this have on comics and on art in general

Chapter 1: Setting the Record Straight

  • Comic refers to the whole medium, not a specific object
  • Comics: Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence intended to convey and/or produce an aesthetic response in the viewer
  • 1519 Mayans used drawings of sequential images along with the French and early Egyptians to depict stories and make words with pictures
  • It is not known when comics originated
  • The Invention of Printing was a big deal in comic history (because everyone could now enjoy art, not just the rich and powerful)
  • Hogarth’s paintings were designed to be viewed in sequence
  • The torture of Saint Erasmus was popular
  • The father or modern comics is Rudolphe Topffer, he created picture stories with words
  • British Caricature magazines kept the traditions alive and as we got closer to the 20th century COMICS began to appear
  • The word comics had negative connotations that many of comics’ practitioners have been preferred to be known as “illustrators”, “commercial artists”, or “cartoonists”
  • Their low self esteem was self perpetuating and comics gained an image obscured by that negativity
  • Sequential images have been an excellent communication tool but people call them “diagrams” instead of “comics”
  • Single panel images are not comics but rather just comic art
    • Pictures when viewed individually or with another are different because when two pictures are put together, the image is transformed into something more than just a single image.
  • Our attempts to define comics are an ongoing process which won’t end anytime soon. People will always try to reinvent them and so they should

Chapter 2: The Vocabulary of Comics

  • “The treachery of images” – this is not a pipe, it’s a painting of a pipe, no it’s a drawing, no it’s a printed copy of a drawing etc…
  • Icon is an image used to represent a person, place, thing, or idea
  • Non-Pictorial icons meaning is fixed and absolute, their appearance does not affect their meaning because they represent invisible ideas
  • Pictures meaning is fluid and variable, they differ from real life appearance to varying degrees
  • Words are totally abstract icons: their sound is not represented in their form
  • Cartooning is a form of amplification through simplification
  • Cartooning is a way of seeing
  • The face theory, we control a mask which is our face
  • We don’t just observe the cartoon, we become it
  • We can look at shapes and feel as if they have human attributes. Ex. Cars, plug
  • Non-visual self-awareness can be applied to our whole bodies to a lesser degree
  • Car example; he hit me not he hit my car
  • Our identities and awareness are invested in many inanimate objects such as clothes which can cause transformations in the way others see us and the way we see ourselves.
  • This idea was first posited by Marshall McLuhan, who thought that we see extensions of ourselves in inanimate objects.
  • All the things we experience in life can be separated into the realm of the concept and the real of the senses
  • Our identities belong permanently to the conceptual world. They can’t be seen heard smelled touched or tasted. They are merely ideas and everything else at the start belongs to the sensual world
  • A cartoon can display the world within
  • Backgrounds are usually more realistic. Ex. TinTin
  • Japanese artists sometimes use detailed photo like drawings to emphasize the object. Ex. Sword with writing
  • Writing and drawing are seen as separate disciplines
  • Iconic Progressions in Comics

  • Complex _ simple
    Realistic _ iconic
    Objective_ Subjective
    Specific_ Universal
* Good comics are those in which COMBINATION of these very different forms of expression is thought to be HARMONIOUS
  • Single unified language deserves a single unified vocabulary. Without it, comics will continue to LIMP ALONG as the BASTARD CHILD of words and pictures (Pg.47; McCloud)
  • McLuhan 2 cool medias: Media which command audience involvement through iconic forms; TV and Comics.(Pg.54; McCloud)
In American view of comics, words and pictures are separately viewed
  • Artists Higher art, Writers Deeper meaning
  • Pictures are RECEIVED information. We need no formal education to get the message. The message is instantaneous
  • Writing is PERCEIVED information. It takes time and specialized knowledge to decode the abstract symbols of language
  • When pictures are more abstracted they become more like words and when words are more direct and require lower levels of perception they become more like pictures
  • 3 Vertices: Picture Plane, Reality, Language
  • Retinal / Language \ Conceptual * Most left corner: Beauty of nature
  • Most top corner: Beauty of art
  • Most right corner: Beauty of ideas

Chapter 3: Blood in the Gutter

  • We perceive the world as a whole through the experience of our senses
  • Our senses can only reveal a world that is fragmented and incomplete
  • Our perception of reality is an act of faith based on mere fragments
  • In an incomplete world we depend on closure
  • The gutter is the space between where things happen, human imagination comes into play
  • Comics is closure
  • If visual iconography is the vocabulary of comics, closure is its grammar; then in a very real sense comics is a closure (Pg.67; McCloud)
  • Closure can be a powerful force within panels as well as between them, when artists choose to show only a small piece of the picture (Pg.86; McCloud)
  • The reader is a partner in crime when reading comics, they fill in the gutter
  • The Transition Craft:
  1. Moment to moment: little closure (blinking)
  2. Action to action: single subject in progression (baseball batter)
  3. Subject to subject: staying within a scene or idea reader involvement is needed to render these transitions meaningful (axe)
  4. Scene to scene: transitions which transport the reader through time, distances etc…
  5. Aspect to aspect: bypasses some time and sets a wandering eye on different aspects of a place, idea, or mood
  6. Non-Sequitur: no logical relationship between panels whatsoever
  • Types 2-4 show things happening in concise, efficient ways
  • In the 5th nothing at all actually happens
  • In the 6th, non-sequiturs are unconcerned with events or any narrative purposes of any sort
  • There’s a difference in the East vs. West styles of comics
  • The east focuses on being there while the west focuses on getting there
  • The power of closure in-between panels is what is most interesting
  • Comics is a mono-sensory medium. It relies on only one of the senses to convey a world of experience
  • Sounds are represented through devices such as word balloons
  • Within the panels information can only be conveyed visually. But between them none all of our senses are engaged.
  • Only comics can create the magic that occurs in the blank space
  • The artist can only point the way

Chapter 4: Time Frames

  • Words introduce time by representing that which can only exist in time – sound
  • A good way to think of it is that time is a rope
  • The panel acts a s a general indicator that time or space is being divided. The durations of that time and the dimensions of that space are defined more by the contents of the panel than by the panel itself
  • The panels shape can actually make a difference in our perception of time
  • Wherever a viewers eyes are focused is NOW, the rest can be past or future
  • Viewers have a choice in which way they want to go, unlike TV
  • Time and Space in the world of comics are closely linked
  • From the earliest days the modern comic has grappled with the problem of showing motion in a static medium (Pg.110; McCloud)
  • As a result so are the issues of time and motion
  • A single line can show motion in a static medium – MOTION LINE
  • Zip ribbons or motion lines were wild messy and almost desperate attempts to represent the paths of moving objects. Over time they became more stylized

Chapter 5: Living in Line

  • Kandinsky and other artists were searching for an art that would unite the senses and in doing so, would unite the different art forms which appealed to those different senses
  • The most bland expressionless lines on earth cant help but characterize their subject in some way
  • Some lines are more a symbol and symbols are the basis of language
  • Backgrounds can be another valuable tool for indicating invisible ideas, particularly the world of emotions
  • Words can take even seemingly neutral images and invest them with a wealth of feelings and experiences
  • Pictures can induce strong feelings in readers but they can also lack the specificity of words
  • By far the most widely used most complex and most versatile of comics many synaesthetic icons is the ever present, ever popular word balloon (Pg.134; McCloud).

Chapter 6: Show and Tell

  • Back in the day the earliest words were stylized pictures
  • Most of these early words stayed close by their parents the pictures
  • Some written languages survive to this day bearing traces of their ancient pictorial heritage
  • Words not only present sound and loose any resemblance to the visible world
  • Pictures came to be more specific and representational rather than symbolic or abstract
  • When pictures carry the weight of clarity in a scene they free words to explore a wider area and vice versa (Pg.157; McCloud).
  • Impressionism could be thought of as the first modern movement was more a culmination of the old, the ultimate study of light and colour
  • Afterwards there was a comeback, abstraction both iconic and non iconic made a comeback
  • There was a collision of the two eventually
  • Rudolph Topffer brought words and pictures back together again
  • Ways words and pictures can be combined in comics:
  1. Word Specific- pictures illustrate but don’t significantly add to a largely complete text
  2. Picture Specific- combinations where words do little more than add a soundtrack to a visually told sequence
  3. Duo Specific- panels in which both words and pictures send essentially the same message
  4. Additive- combination where words amplify or elaborate on an image or vice versa
  5. Parallel- combinations, words and pictures seem to follow very different courses without intersecting
  6. Montage- where words are treated as integral parts of the picture
  7. Interdependent- where words and pictures go hand in hand to convey an idea that neither could convey alone

Chapter 7: The Six Steps

  • Comics can be art
  • Art is the way we assert our identities as individuals and break out of the narrow roles nature cast us in
  • The Six Steps
  1. Idea or purpose – The impulses, the ideas, the emotions, the philosophies, the purposes of the work… the CONTENT
  2. Form – The form it will take... will it be a book? A chalk drawing? A chair? A song? A sculpture? A pot holder? A comic book?
  3. Idiom – The school of art, the vocabulary of styles or gestures or subject matter, the genre that the work belongs to maybe a genre of its own.
  4. Structure – Putting it all together... what to include, what to leave out... how to arrange, how to compose the work
  5. Craft – Constructing the work, applying skills, practical knowledge, invention, problem-solving, getting the “job” done
  6. Surface – Production values, finishing the aspects most apparent on first superficial exposure to the work
  • The 6 steps are like an apple with the idea being the seed and skin being the surface
  • This is the path of great storytellers, creators who have something to say through comics and devote all their energies to controlling their medium, refining its ability to convey messages effectively (Pg.180; McCloud).

Chapter 8: A Word About Colour

  • Commerce and Technology
  • RGB(creates white) – CMYK (creates black), used for print
* Colours objectify their subjects. We become more aware of their physical form
  • Colours change the surface but not the core

Chapter 9: Putting it all Together

  • In comics the conversion from physical world to the mental world follows a path from mind to hand to paper to eye to mind
  • The mastery of ones medium is the degree to which the percentage of the original artists ideas survive when taken in by a reader
  • Comics is a sight based medium
  • The whole world of visual iconography is at the disposal of comics creators
  • Comics have harnessed the power to command viewer involvement and identification and realism to capture the beauty and complexity of the visible world.
  • The dance of the visible and the invisible is at the very heart of comics, through the power of closure