Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Formal Blog on Jimmy Corrigan

One of the interesting questions posed during last class was what exactly made comic books appealing as opposed to other mediums. Adam’s response in class was that comic books have the unique ability to present a narrative in moments of time and in time that may or may not be linear. This got me thinking exactly how Jimmy Corrigan takes advantage of the traits of a comic book and how exactly it is set apart from other ways other presenting a narrative. I noticed that some frames of Jimmy Corrigan immediately made me think of techniques used in film. Although the illustrations in Jimmy Corrigan do use similar techniques which I will explain further, the lack of true linear time during parts of the comic book allow each individual frame to have increased importance as well as provide for different interpretations of how the frames are fitting together.

One page that I think portrays the similarities between the comic book and film especially well occurs just a bit over halfway through. The center frame shows Jimmy entering a bedroom. The two frames directly to the left of the center show the bathroom door with a flushing sound and the door opened with Jimmy leaving. On the right of the center frame are three pictures zoomed in of items around the room. Finally, the four frames at the bottom of the page show Jimmy holding up the photo, a zoomed in picture of the photo and two more pictures of Jimmy looking at the photo, the last of which he is sniffling. The first connections that I made to techniques in film were of the extreme close up shot. If the director feels that a certain item in a room is important, the camera will zoom in on that object. Both the film and comic book medium have the same purpose of emphasizing something important that otherwise might go unnoticed. The difference in how the close up technique is used is that in film, the linear aspect of that narrative provides more context of the scene. In Jimmy Corrigan, the frames that display close ups act more as pieces of the puzzle rather than something that is blatantly important. The non-linear display of the frames allows for each close up to be interpreted differently. There is very little prior context to the frames with close ups – rather, these frames help to create a context from which the rest of the scene is understood. In this particular scene, the three close up allow the reader to see everything in the room that will eventually gain importance. Perhaps more importantly, the frames can be interpreted in a few different ways. The close-ups can be from a more omnipresent viewpoint – they are in the room so they are indentified. Or, as the center frame might suggest, they are items of Jimmy’s gaze. If the latter is indeed the case, then the page can be viewed from a more linear perspective. Otherwise, is there any true order or amount of time in between each slide? The ambiguity here is a result of the medium.

Another quick similarity that I found between film and the comic book style of Jimmy Corrigan is the use of establishing shots/frames. Before many of the events transpire in Jimmy Corrigan, there is a zoomed out illustration. This is actually used in a similar way to establishing shots in film. The setting of the scene is established in a moderately to heavily zoomed out view. One main difference between how the comic book uses these establishing frames in comparison to film is the extent of how much the shot is used to establish setting. In film, the majority of the establishing shots are solely to present the setting. In Jimmy Corrigan, this is sometimes the case, but because the narrative frequently jumps between the present, past and subliminal, these shots sometimes act more on creating the mood for the following shots rather than establishing a true setting. This isn’t to say that these frames aren’t used to provide a context for the environment, but they usually have more of a point than their counterparts in film.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

This is a great, focused post on how one aspect of Ware's work works; you do a very nice job explaining the complex similarities and differences to the similar techniques in film.

One thing this makes me think of is that in many early superhero comics the artist went to great pains to clarify the order of panels; if they didn't flow in a perfectly clear left to right, top to bottom way there they'd add arrows to clarify the flow; linearity is actually a goal. But in more contemporary superhero comics (I have a recent run of The Incredible Hulk in mind), the artist will occasionally let us be confused; a big, action-filled spread sometimes can't be read as a coherent sequence of events, because we're not provided with a clear sequence, but with visual chaos.

In my mind, at least, that's a similar difference/similarity to your discussion of comics & film.