Thursday, March 7, 2013

Imagery in Jimmy Corrigan

Jimmy Corrigan by F.C. Ware is the first graphic novel that I have ever read. Obviously, the imagery is something that stands out as very unique addition to the text of the story.  One very important piece of imagery that I noticed was very early in the book, on about the fifth page in fact, when a young Jimmy sits at the table eating breakfast wearing his newly acquired Superman mask with a smile on his face and says, “Mom! He said to tell you he had a real good time!” I saw this as a great way to understand Jimmy better as a character.

Jimmy seems to be a very lonely child. He has an incredibly overprotective and overbearing mother, but no father, and one might assume, little to no friends. I think one of the focuses of this book is about the relationships that Jimmy has (or doesn’t have) with the people in his life. My understanding of the use of the Superman imagery, which appears multiple times throughout the book, was as sort of an imaginary friend for Jimmy. Jimmy meets (the actor that plays) Superman and is very excited. Just when his mom pulls him away moments before he is able to get an autograph, Superman calls Jimmy his partner and sort of gets him out of trouble with his mom. The actor that plays Superman stays the night with Jimmy’s mom (which the young Jimmy doesn’t fully understand) but before he leaves, has a little chat with Jimmy and gives him his authentic Superman mask. That moment is when I think Jimmy is happiest in the whole book. To have someone consider him an equal, if only superficially by calling him partner, and giving him a gift, was a very positive (while short lived) relationship that Jimmy has experienced, and at least through my reading of Jimmy Corrigan, will experience. The gift that the actor left serves as a reminder of the brief encounter that Jimmy had with him that he associates with the positive relationships he has in the future.

In Jimmy’s adult life, he is still very alone. This is probably somewhat his own fault – he has a coworker that sits across from him that he never acknowledges – but nevertheless still has a glaring lack of relationships outside of his mother, now in a nursing home. This changes when Jimmy gets a letter from his father that says he wants to finally meet and get to know him. Jimmy makes the trip to go meet his father and goes on what could be considered an adventure by his standards. The superman imagery keeps popping up while on this trip. Most obviously, when Jimmy gets hit by the truck, he sees the man that comes over to help him with a Superman mask on. Additionally, I’m not sure if I’m reading too much into it, but the nurse that helps him at the hospital has red and blue bracelets on. When Superman is shown in the book, he wears a blue and red suit, so I think that these colors are also paired together to represent Superman, rather than Jimmy seeing the person in a mask. In both of these encounters, Jimmy is getting helped or “saved” by a Superman character and it might remind him of the positive experience he had when meeting Superman as a child. This imagery of red and blue really stands out from the normally bland colors in the story when he is alone or with his father which I think reinforces the idea that Superman represents the positive relationships in his life as opposed to the awkward and estranged relationship he has with his father. 

1 comment:

Adam said...

What I liked here was your focus not on a single isolated image, but on the *repetition* of that image. There are images here (like the red bird) which have a kind of dominion over the text. Superman's mask is one of them, and you're doing a good job of getting at that.

I think you have some of the basics of superman as savior/hero/role model down. What's missing for me is any discussion of the mask *as* mask. Masks are how we hide, or how we assume a new, theatrical identity. What can you do with that?

Also note the use of Captain Crunch (a ridiculous sort of cereal-box superhero - it's important that Jimmy likes captain crunch rather than cheerios, for instance), I believe in that same panel.

So, again - a solid, focused start, which ideally could go deeper into the meaning of these images.