On the bottom of page 272 (66 pages after the house project which is said to be page 206 in the directions to build it) in Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware uses an interesting technique. Immersed in a section that includes detailed drawings of the massive buildings of the world's fair, in a line of 7 rather plain frames. To this point James Corrigan's thoughts have been white script lettering on a black background, wherein these 7 frames there are two slides with a blue background and one that is red. This change in background struck me as odd and caused me to ponder its significance more that the simplicity of the drawings would suggest.
Changes in color and shading are used quite often in this graphic novel to represent changes in mood or setting or story that is being told. One good example is when a day dream begins the shading and background color(s) almost always change. Here he uses an abrupt change in background color to note a change in mood but I also believe it leads to what happens in the subsequent pages. The first two frames in that line that only contain text have a blue background. In these frames James discusses how he did not use his free ticket for opening day and is waiting for his birthday and for his dad to take him, and how he does not trust him to do so. One way the blue background could be taken as blue in a gloomy sad sense. If it was looked at in this sense then the background is amplifying James' current gloomy mood towards everything. I believe that this color means a little more than that.
Throughout the book there are many frames with transitioning words on them, i.e. page 271 at the bottom "Sometimes". Many of these transition frames have the exact same shade of blue for its background. Therefore the two frames of James' thought can be seen as a transition to a new part of the story, which ends up being the end of the story of James' childhood. It is interesting how by only changing the color of a frame, the reader is alerted that something different is about to happen. This is done without pictures or the transitional words that are used in other sections of the book.
In the next frame of James' thought, the background color is changed again to a bright red. In this frame James finds that his father is coming through on his promise and taking him to the fair. This is a stark change in mood from gloomy to happy which could be the reason for the change in color. One thing that troubled me however, was that the red used did not bring the idea of happiness to my mind. It brought thoughts of danger or a stop sign. This is rather different than the words of happiness that are contained in the frame itself. I think Ware deliberately using this to warn the reader that something bad is going to happen soon. These thoughts are realized a few pages later when James' dad abandons him at the fair.
In both cases Ware uses the background color of a frame to guide the reader to what is going to occur in the near future whether it be a transition or to alert the reader something bad is going to come of the fair. This is done without the need of any text or pictures, though they are used in that strip of 7 slides and add to the transition. In the case of the blue frames, this idea is thought because of the many blue transition frames that occurred before it, allowing the reader to realize that a transition is occurring without the need of the transitional word. The red frame also tells the reader to stop. And even though the text contained in the frame may be happy a sneaking suspicion is placed in the readers mind that something bad is going to happen. This is a true testament how Ware has a very specific reason for everything he does whether is be in intricate drawings or something as simple as the background of a frame.
Ware, Chris, Jimmy Corrigan: the Smarted Kid on Earth. Pantheon Books, 2003.