Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The genius of xkcd...graded blog, option 1

Ok, so I don't know what the initials stand for, but it's a pretty cool comic. It's perfect for this class because, as the title states, it's a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language. Here's how it relates to Jimmy Corrigan:

1) The repetitive elements of the strip. In Jimmy Corrigan, certain themes would show up again and again. The crutch, the bird, the red hats. Chris Ware used this to tie previous things to the current events. xkcd uses the recurring "My hobby" jokes, hilarious in themselves, to keep up an idea of the characters' personalities. Hobby Photoshops Effect an Effect Iambic Pentameter Curse Levels That's what SHE said. Chris Ware ties one scene to another in this way, and so does xkcd.

2) Time. Both stories deal with time. Jimmy Corrigan covers two parallel lives and switches back and forth between them liberally. xkcd frequently has the main character travelling through time. Read all of the the Choices series, for example. There are plenty more but this is the most direct example. Why does Chris Ware do this? Well, for one, it lets the reader draw on themes instead of specific events. It also allows Ware to show how he thinks the experiences of childhood shape the adult (Surgery? heh). He probably intended both and many more. xkcd does it to show the interesting points of math and reality, but mostly just to write funny comics. Hey, it's his job and a man's gotta eat.

3) Artistic scenes. Sometimes Ware does architectural drawings for the aesthetics of it, to set a scene, or both. xkcd does sort of the same thing. It's less frequent now than it was in the past. Trees and the next two are good examples. I have no idea why xkcd does this, other than to show off his talent (or boredom?).

4) Imaginative scenes. Jimmy Corrigan holds many instances where an idea or event is imagined but shown as literally happening. One example is when Jimmy goes to his father's apartment. He imagined being stabbed in the throat/face by his father. Naturally we don't assume this happens in the story, knowing its imagined. xkcd plays around with this idea of imagination in real life. Reference

5) Both artists make use of the classic box-by-box comics style to parody. Jimmy Corrigan has the opening chart and periodic updates showing different story lines "pulled out" of the central picture. Here's an example of xkcd using the classic frame to be funny. Fall Apart

6) Real life remarks. Jimmy Corrigan references common life events...birth, death, crying, joy, lonliness. His "death of a hero" idea in Superman's suicide is a feeling we've all felt once before. Most of us have had Santa Claus 'disappear' from our list of people to look up to when we found out he wasn't real. Ware hits this idea in a real way. xkcd takes this from a comic angle. He lists things we all do at some point, in some form, that are funny to consider. Paths Velociraptors Balloon Turn Signals.

As for Chris Ware's unnatural and irregular style of comics-writing, xkcd says this: Garfield

Try as I might, I have nothing to say about the superiority/inferiority of the the internet as a medium. It's like commenting on air being a medium for heat. It's sort of irrelevant what you think of it, and there's not much to say anyway. The only argument that I can make is that comic artists take their work seriously. They comment on the things we all know and love. There's humor/pain out there in our lives, surrounding us (refer to point 6 if you don't understand this yet), and the best comics are the ones that fish it out of the cacophony of it all, and present it to you in bite-size portions. Ware and xkcd are excellent examples of artists with this gift.

Just some funny ones for kicks: Snakes on a Plane MC Hammer Baring my Heart

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

Your individual comparisons are genuinely interesting. #5 is especially interesting to me - the idea of the frame falling apart is pretty wonderful, and xkcd's use of it, if not totally unique, is certainly nice.

As a minor aside, I'd actually argue that most of the "strips" you link to aren't comics at all: Will Eisner prefers the term "sequential art" to comics, which should explain my argument. With many of the xkcds you linked to, there's no sequence at all, but just a single image. Although some of the clever ones (see point #5 again) actually include movement and sequence within the shattering frame...

The Garfield strip (which is a real comic, I'd argue) is hilarious, and spot-on, given Garfield's notorious nature as purely commercial and team-drawn (a number of bad cartoonists learned to draw by working for Garfield: the guy who draws that idiotic strip about the baby (Marvin?) being one example.

Anyway, I greatly enjoyed the comparisons, but as you acknowledge you don't have much in the way of an argument - this is a rather scattered set of connections, which could have benefited from more focus.