Where Are the Faces?: Images in Jimmy Corrigan
Near the beginning of Jimmy Corrigan, Jimmy has an interaction with a man who just spent the night with his mother. Throughout their encounter, never once do you see the man’s face. The closest the readers come to seeing it is when he is wearing a mask at the very beginning of the graphic novel. This lack of face approach to characters outside of Jimmy (and his father) is a continual theme in the artwork. Since the story is from the perspective of Jimmy, this artistic style gives insight to Jimmy’s approach and feelings toward other people.
Jimmy is not a confident man. He stammers when he talks. He often gets confused by what people say to him. He sometimes lies in order to make his life seem a bit more fulfilled, such as telling his dad that he is in a relationship with the woman he has a crush on. Overall he is just an awkward man who does not know how to interact with another human being in a natural way. The lack of faces in this novel, instead of being just an aesthetic choice by the author to have better focus on his protagonist, does this to emphasize that Jimmy cannot bring himself to look anyone in their face. Eye contact is an essential part of social interaction, but Jimmy being an introvert cannot exert himself to following through with that expected social convention. Readers do not see any faces because he does not see their faces.
Many of the people Jimmy cannot bring himself to look at are women. Often times, the frame shows only the area between the bottom of their chin and the beginning of the waist/hip. This puts a lot of emphasis on the woman’s breasts, meaning that while Jimmy is unable to look these women in the eye, he still looks at their bodies. Often time the women are shown turning away from him, allowing him to gaze over them sexually without them noticing. He does get caught by the woman on the plane that was talking to him. If you go back a few frames, the only body part in every frame with her are her breasts, and several of those frames show Jimmy’s eye line directed there. It is not surprising that a man like Jimmy sexualizes women. If he can never bring himself to look them in the eye, women can never truly be fully realized people to him. Without that, women are just objects. This is supported by various dreams of his, including one in which he refers to the woman as a “cocktease whore.” The one woman he cannot sexualize, his mother, is always shown small and indiscriminate because without being able to sexualize her, he can actually never see her.
The artwork in Jimmy Corrigan gives insight and support into the way the man-boy Jimmy Corrigan sees the world and those around him. To him, a person’s face is just too personal to face. This leaves him socially inept, and unable to form healthy relationships. But on top of not being able to relate to people in a socially approved way, he can also not see certain members of society in a fully developed way, namely women. It seems that Jimmy would rather avoid people all together, yet craves the confidence to make it seem like that decision was entirely his choice.