Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Online "Trails" and Jimmy Corrigan

Some of the comics that were of particular interest to me were on the Scott McCloud link that Dr. Johns posted. The I Can’t Stop Thinking comics are set up in ways that move through various odd “trails” as McCloud calls them. The comic that is actually entitled Trails (I tried to post a link but for some reason it doesn't work. If you follow the link posted by Dr. Johns, you can follow it to the I Can't Stop Thinking comic #4.) really begins to play with this idea as is constantly reflects on the characteristics that this technique entails. The extension of comics onto an online structure is what McCloud explains as enabling the possibility of these unique structures compared to traditional comics. The structure of the comic is in such a way that demands the reader to read in all directions at generally random times.

One major effect that this structure has is that it significantly slows the reading process compared to traditional left-to-right comic panels. It also is explained in the comic of having window-like characteristics instead of being flat. The unpredictability of the structure gives the comic the ability to jump out of the page at the reader to get the reader more involved in what the story is actually doing.

I agree with some of these arguments that McCloud makes. I do not support the idea that it is the complete reinvention of comics and I certainly do not agree that the effects cannot be duplicated on paper. Jimmy Corrigan is an excellent example of this. While the structure is loosely based on a left-to-right structure, I often find myself slowing down while reading to decipher which frame is intended to be read next. A specific example can be found around page 18 (right after Superman jumps from the building.) The reader is indeed meant to start at the top left and end at the bottom right, but in between, the many different sized frames can cause an uncertainty of the intended direction. This is also apparent in the very first page of the comic of Earth that was discussed in class. The view of the planet is shown at different perspectives as it zooms in which actually requires the reader to turn the book to view the earth at the same perspective. Another example which I had to really slow down and study was around page 75 when the phone rings. The frames are set up with different sizes that significantly alter the intended order of viewing at first glance. The use of arrows on this page that link some of the frames together actually show the structure as being a backwards ‘S’ shape.

I agree that this is not the exact same as the structure of online comics, but it still has the same effects. Different layouts of frames slow the reader’s process and which cause the reader to think more deeply about what the comic is trying to do with the layout. With the online comics set up in trails, the intended trail is clearly marked by following the transition markers of the comic. Jimmy Corrigan usually lacks these trails which make the reader think more about the structure of the actual comic. As a result, I think that the only true advantage that isolated to online comics is the lack of flipping pages. The significance of this advantage, to me, is not that great.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

I'm generally very interested in your posts, but I think this one is probably my favorite. When I taught this class last year we actually read Reinventing Comics, by the way, and everyone hated it (by comparison to JC, at least) - I thought it would be more interesting to just do some web comics instead, and everyone's work seems to confirm that.

Anyway, I think you're especially good at pinning down the moment in his work where McCloud could be far more self-conscious: he thinks he's reinventing the medium, but he's reinventing it in a way that makes the structure of individual comics _more_ rigid, even if there is perhaps more variety from comic-to-comic. I don't think he has a handle on that trade-off at all, which is one reason that McCloud (although genuinely gifted, and quite possibly one of the 20 or 30 greatest living cartoonists) isn't quite in the same league as Ware (who I'd argue is the greatest living cartoonist; it would be real hard to say there's more than a handful at his level), because he understands _all_ the tradeoffs and compromises he's making by working in a particular form.

Anyway, I liked your analysis of McCloud's comic/essay. One thing that I was thinking of while reading it is that he has surprisingly little to say about the fact that most of his comic is empty space - something which, I think, Ware would have a response to.