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The Graphic Novel Method

Over the last few years, I’ve been thinking about graphic novels and comics beyond a "medium." Last year, /Critical Inquiry/ released and issue dedicated to comics and media that include a variety of articles from academics and industry icons (e.g., Chris Ware) that are looking to push the boundaries of the art and aesthetics of the genre. For example, Ware has been pushing (and practicing) a view of graphic novels that plays with the idea of the physical object of a book containing the narrative–this, he notes, is something he’s been thinking about as digital comics have become more popular. One of the more interesting projects I’ve seen recently is by Özge Samanci: GPS Comics ((link) She’s also written an article for the International Digital Media and Arts Association exploring how to move graphic novels from discussions of medium to genre: (link) While I dig the idea of comics as a genre, I wonder if there would be a way that we might talk about graphic novels and comics as a aesthetic method rather than as a medium or genre. Thoughts?

  • I was about to say, "Hey, I took a class on this!" But then I realized. Hmm, for thoughts on how to approach this, maybe the post could start out talking about the concept of comics as a medium (there's also that article where the author examined comics as a language), and then go into why the aesthetic method may be more fitting. There's the GPS comics you mentioned above, as well as the "Building Stories" box of narratives we looked at in class. I'd be fascinated to see someone take this on. Also, there's Topffer's original goal of comics as an accessible education method to consider. – emilydeibler 9 years ago
  • Thanks, Emily. I taught that class. :) – revfigueiredo 9 years ago

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Latest Comments

I wonder what you’d make of Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”: “Bladerunner.” It isn’t a direct adaptation, but it take elements of the novel and take quite a bit of liberty with the narrative.

One thing I’d add to this discussion is that it’s important to acknowledge the different narrative logics between alphabetic text and image/sound media. When writing with alphabetic text, we have certain advantages; with film, we have other advantages that aren’t available to text; and vice versa (I’m thinking in terms of Aristotle’s rhetoric here: what are the –means– of communication). As readers of text, we’re expected to visualize the narrative in “our mind’s eye,”; perhaps one of the disadvantages of the film adaptations is that is attempts to standardize the novel/short story/etc. narrative visually, taking away some of the individualized interpretations that viewers bring to the text.

It’s easy to forget that before alphabetic writing emerged as a cultural form of communication, narratives were constantly adapted by the speaker. That is, in cultures of orality (before writing), stories were in a constant state of flux, with parts of a given story left out, others extended, structured with alternative perspectives, etc. For instance, Beowulf didn’t have a standard plot, but many (sometimes diverging) plots and details; it was only when alphabetic text became the dominant cultural medium of communication that editors had to standardize the narrative.

What bugs me about the general critique of adaptations is that such critics often overlook the longer histories of narrative adaptations…

How 'By the Book' Should Literary Adaptations Be?

Recently, Banksy has been credited with the “Dismaland” exhibit: It’s an interesting piece parodying (obviously) Disneyland.

Still, over the last few years, I’ve been a bit skeptical about Banksy’s work; from the “Girl and a Soldier” piece to “Exit through the Gift Shop,” I have conflicting view of the artist’s work. Is s/he a sophist, offering counterpoints to social, cultural, and political issues of the day? Perhaps. However, more and more, the artist’s work seems to “preach to the choir,” so to speak. The works seems focused on producing aesthetic commentaries from a particular point of view, but I don’t know that those works are so much ‘subversive’ as they are ‘the other side of the coin’ in an argument. In other words, these works seem to be the “con” view to the dominant “pro” view.

For example, the “Pier Pressure” ( work seems to uphold the view that offshore drilling is environmentally unsound (and I agree); however, does the project really offer anything new to the pro/con debates surround the issue? If it does, I don’t see it. I see “Dismaland” in a similar way, as well as the “Girl and a Soldier” and “CCTV” pieces.

Banksy: The Elusive Street Graffiti Artist

As I read this article, I started to think of Joss Whedon’s “Into the Woods.” I’m not sure that it fits with the indie horror sub-genre being discussed here, but the film is a kind of indie parody of horror films (perhaps another type of sub-genre) that touches on Whedon’s ever-present fascination with secret (government) organizations that attempt to control “mystical” happenings. Perhaps a kind of “controlled chaos” that works by psychological impacts, which, from what I’ve read about horror films, seems like one of the primary modes of affect-ing audience. There’s a recent article that looks such effects in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” over at the Sycamore Review:

Indie Horror: Recent Rise of a Meta-Genre