Thursday, October 31, 2013

Questions & Comments on House of Leaves, Week I

Post your questions/thoughts as comments to this post.  Again:  a paragraph is fine, or a couple if you feel so moved.  You are posting on a question, problem or topic of your choice.  Citing a particular passage is recommended but not required.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Comments & Questions on Jimmy Corrigan and Marcuse, Week 2

Post your questions/thoughts as comments to this post.  Again:  a paragraph is fine, or a couple if you feel so moved.  You are posting on a question, problem or topic of your choice.  Citing a particular passage is recommended but not required.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Quick Links for Today

How I hate him: (Oct 2, 1950)

Leaf on Snoopy: (September 26, 1952)

Opened front door, Linus Falls: Nov 4, 1952

First Football gag: Nov 16, 1952

Victory through pity: Nov 22, 1952

Linus on the Stairs: October 22, 1953

First Images in Jimmy Corrigan

Jimmy Corrigan is an extremely detailed, frame-by-frame account of the life of Jimmy Corrigan.  As a source of a story, Jimmy Corrigan most closely resembles a film because of its images. With this is mind, Jimmy Corrigan could even be thought of as a storyboard for a film. In a movie, the opening sequence usually establishes a tone for the following action throughout the entire film. In Jimmy Corrigan, the opening sequence of frames does exactly this. The opening sequence gives the reader an idea of how Ware portrays Jimmy, who Jimmy is, and it provides reasoning for Jimmy's behavior throughout the novel.
Taken as a whole, this sequence shows a pretty amusing series of events. A young boy gets yelled at for making his mother late and for simply acting like the child that he is. Anyone could easily laugh at the idea of Jimmy's overbearing mother or strange personality that drives him to put on superhero masks in front of the mirror in his underwear instead of getting dressed to go out. We sympathize with the young boy for being scolded, but also laugh at the situation. On a certain level, however, it is depressing that the child cannot enjoy himself without his mother's scrutinizing and controlling eyes watching him. Ware's comedic but depressing tone is present here as it is throughout the novel. He examines the life of Jimmy Corrigan, a completely average human being who lives a somewhat pathetic life.
The very first image we see of Jimmy is of his younger self in his underwear, in front of the mirror. From this image alone we can characterize Jimmy as a vulnerable and a bit eccentric. This image is extremely personal and portrays the idea that Jimmy is vulnerable because of its details. He is alone, standing in front of his mirror in his underwear, which is a private, vulnerable moment for any human being. The details that Jimmy is hunched over, not looking up, and does not have a full head of hair, all contribute to his uncanny resemblance to an infant. He is as close to fetal position as he can get, standing. The fact that Ware decided to use this as our first impression of Jimmy reveals how he wants us to think of and see Jimmy: harmless and perhaps a little pathetic. We find out in the next two images that Jimmy is creating a superhero-esque eye mask for himself, which establishes Jimmy further as geeky. Judging the image harshly, we could go as far to say that he would rather spend most of his time reading superhero comic books rather than speak to other human beings.
This sequence continues with images of Jimmy's mom yelling at him for various things he has done to upset her. When Jimmy's mom yells at him from downstairs, scolding him for prolonging their departure, the reader can identify with him because this is a completely normal situation. Every child has heard his mom's lecture about making her late to an event or an appointment. Jimmy's mom continues to scold him for the duration of the car ride to the classic car show. Jimmy sticks his hand out the window to enjoy the small pleasure of feeling the wind through his finger (probably imagining what it would be like to fly through the air as a superhero), which immediately prompts his mother to criticize his behavior. This takes Jimmy's mom's scolding to the next level as she is preventing him from enjoying his small, harmless pleasure. These images lay the grounds for the idea that Jimmy's mom is ridiculously overbearing and controlling, but they also provide explanation for why Jimmy is so passive in his life as an adult. These images, which are meant to summarize his childhood, depict Jimmy as a puppet for his mother's hands. We can safely assume that Jimmy was babied and treated like a child until much too far in his adolescence because he is still babied as a middle-aged man. This explains his underdeveloped social skills that he exhibits later in life with his co-workers Peggy and Jack.
Using this first sequence of images, we can deduce a lot of information about Jimmy Corrigan the man as well as Jimmy Corrigan the novel. Jimmy's overbearing mother and seemingly miserable childhood account for the social problems and boring life he lives as an adult.

Prompt 1

Prompt 1: Images in Jimmy Corrigan
            To be honest, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth is the first comic book I have ever read. However, knowing a decent bit about super-hero culture I understand how they work and the purpose they serve. If you are young boy growing up loving Batman and Spiderman, you would much rather see these heroes fight their respective villains than read about it. For kids especially, pictures can be worth so much more than words ever could. I think this is the reason Ware chose this medium to present the story of Jimmy Corrigan. Jimmy is essentially a boy stuck in a man’s body. Whether it is his mother who treats him like he is still eight years old, or Jimmy’s social inabilities with women, Jimmy does not function like a normal adult. With this being said, the picture I chose (Image 1) subtly displays a theme in only three small frames.
Image 1
            In my image, I believe the three pictures are trying to represent Jimmy’s struggle to achieve the American dream. Before we can analyze the picture or other hints of the theme in this book, we need to know what exactly the American dream is. To me the American dream is the idea that in America if you put in your time and work hard you will achieve happiness. Happiness is different for all individuals. While some seek power or wealth, most, like Jimmy, seek companionship. The story highlights many times how he desperately wants a friend or a lover and his social inabilities make this nearly impossible.
            To fully understand the picture I have selected, we must understand the context it is presented. Jimmy is in the hospital being treated for a nosebleed. The way the nurse talks to him is like a child. However, this is not a bad thing to Jimmy. As a child at heart, he enjoys the way the nurse is taking care of him. For this reason he develops a crush for her. When the nurse comes back into the room Jimmy has a fantasy of him and the nurse running away together, getting married and growing old together as the picture shows. This desperate fantasy is outlandish, but tells us how much Jimmy is dying to find companionship. He spends only mere minutes with this woman yet he dreams of running away and becoming married to her. The reason this image is so appealing to me however is because of the final part of the image which is the house in the mountains.
            Reading Jimmy Corrigan I couldn’t help compare him to a similar character from another famous piece of American literature. This character is Lenny Small from the John Steinbeck classic Of Mice and Men. A huge similarity between Lenny and Jimmy is that they are both children in men’s bodies. Steinbeck adds a level of irony to accent this difference. Steinbeck makes Lenny a brutally strong man but is extremely timid because of a mental handicap. In Steinbeck’s novel, the main theme in the story is the quest to gain the American dream. This is symbolized by the farm which they plan to own someday and be free. For Jimmy Corrigan being able to marry the nurse and grow old with her would be his American dream. This is summed up by the house on top of the mountain we see in the lower tight frame of the image.
            I feel that the similarities between Jimmy Corrigan and Of Mice and Men are not a coincidence. The characters are too similar for Ware not to be making some sort of comparison. Jimmy and Lenny both have trouble with women. In Of Mice and Men Lenny has a very tough time talking to women and is at one time accused of raping a woman even though he didn’t and wasn’t intending to do the woman harm. Jimmy also has this trouble and is accused on the plane of staring at the woman’s breasts. The biggest connection to the book is made in the scene where Jimmy has a fantasy about killing a small horse. The way in which Jimmy tells Amos all the plans they have as Jimmy kills Amos is very similar to the way George Kills Lenny. I feel like Ware uses a farm animal as Amos to show that Jimmy’s hopes of that American dream are being killed.
            Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, in my opinion, is a masterpiece. The fact that one man was able to put so much meaning into every picture and frame is truly remarkable to me. With only one divided frame, I was able to pick up a theme in the story. Ware does this many times throughout the book which is why Jimmy Corrigan is much more than your average comic.


Blog 6, Prompt 3

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Industrial Society on Earth

Jimmy Corrigan is a graphic novel that follows Jimmy through his troublesome, monotonous life as well as the life of his father and grandfather. Jimmy does not have an ideal life mostly because of the way he was raised, the way his parents were raised, and his reluctance to try to attain a better life that fills his imagination. Chapter nine of Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man discusses why a developed society always desires to better itself and its relation to philosophical and scientific ways of thinking. Surprisingly, Marcuse’s writing provides a clear tie in with Jimmy Corrigan. Jimmy is essentially the industrial society described in this chapter, with the different facets of his life relating to different characteristics of a society trying to further itself and achieve liberation.
            To understand this metaphor it is important to first discuss Jimmy’s life and how it relates to the two ways of thinking in society as defined by Marcuse; philosophically and scientifically. Jimmy did not have a happy childhood. His mother is overprotective and verbally abusive, while his father was absent for the majority of his life. In his later years, Jimmy works a job he is obviously not happy with as shown by his complete lack of friends in the workplace and poignant expressions. His mother is still constantly bothering him and his new relationship with his father is awkward at best (Ware). This is the reality that Jimmy lives in, or as Marcuse would say, the scientific or reason-based part of his life. Marcuse describes reason as “repress(ing) and even destroy(ing) the urge to live, to live well, and to live better.” (Marcuse Ch. 9) Reason, although capable of progressing society, is the cause of an unfulfilled life. Jimmy’s reality, or reason, is the cause of why he is so down on himself. Reality pushes his life forward, but it is not enjoyable for him as an individual. To fight his harrowing life, Jimmy often has fantasies of what he really wants to happen; actions he wishes he could take if he wasn’t restricted by reason. For example, Jimmy fantasizes about killing his father for not being there for him, and also about having sex with the nurse after the car hits him (Ware). His fantasies transcend reality, just as philosophical thinking transcends science and reason in society. Marcuse writes, “philosophy transcended, subordinating it (scientific thought) to be the ‘good life’ of a different law and order. And this other order, which presupposed a high degree of freedom from toil, ignorance, and poverty, was unreal...” (Marcuse Ch. 9) Philosophy is not bound by scientific thought which is the “universal reality.” (Marcuse Ch. 9) Philosophy goes beyond that and allows individuals of industrial societies to think freely no matter what their situation is. This is exactly what Jimmy does with his fantasies. He expresses his actual wants in his fantasies, which translates into the freedom desired by the society described by Marcuse.
            As stated before, the role models in Jimmy’s life have not exactly been the most upstanding. His father left for yet to be seen reasons at this point in the book, and his mother seems to not put too much thought into raising her child (Ware). Just as Jimmy’s reality and fantasies can be viewed through One Dimensional Man, so are his role models. First, let’s look at mom. She does genuinely seem to care about Jimmy, but she displays it in all the wrong ways. As a child, his mom constantly scolded him for things as childish such as sticking his hand out the window like superman (Ware). She had unrealistic expectations of him as a kid to act as a little adult. When Jimmy does finally become an adult, she is still overbearing; calling him everyday at work and getting into his personal business (Ware). His mother is oppressing him. She is the obstacle in his path of living a happy life. Looking at this relationship through Marcuse, she is the oppression that stops society from truly enjoying life. “For the translation of values into needs is the twofold process of (1) material satisfaction (materialization of freedom) and (2) the free development of needs on the basis of satisfaction (non-repressive sublimation).” (Marcuse Ch. 9) This quote from Marcuse explains that in order for societies’ values to become reality, society must be free to develop their own desires without oppression. In Jimmy Corrigan terms, this quote explains that in order for Jimmy’s desires (freedom) to become reality, he must be able to freely express these wants without interference from his mother. However, just halfway through the book it is apparent his mother is not going to stop trying to interfere so he won’t be able to truly express his desires in life. His father on the other hand represents nature. One Dimensional Man describes nature as a, “legitimate object not only of Reason as power but also of Reason as freedom; not only of domination but .also of liberation.” (Marcuse Ch. 9) Since Jimmy’s father was absent for his childhood so was nature. Jimmy was not able to experience “reason as freedom”, or in other words, the reality of having a father figure. If his father would have been there for him, he would have had an “object” of “liberation” from his oppression that was his mother. “All joy and all happiness derive from the ability to transcend Nature…” That is, happiness in Jimmy’s life could have been derived from his father if he had been there for him. To further drive this point home, Jimmy’s dad is pictured in a flannel for a good part of the book (Ware); an image commonly associated with outdoors and nature.
            Marcuse describes a society with two trains of though. A philosophical path that is free thinking and able to permeate oppression, and a scientific path that is restricted by reality and seeks liberation so it can express itself freely. Nature can be part of the reason-dominated society, but it also serves as a source of freedom as it is not completely conquered by science. Being able to embrace nature and freedom depends on whether or not the industrial society has historical context of why reason has conquered them (Marcuse Ch. 9). Jimmy Corrigan has a bleak reality. It is only lightened by his thoughts of transcending the restrictions placed on him, and acting out against the oppression (his mother) that had defined his life. He seeks a good relationship with his father, who could potentially liberate him from his oppression, but the only way of doing this is knowing his father’s history.. This history is provided to us through flashbacks in the comic, but it still unknown to Jimmy (Ware). Knowing how his father and grandfather were raised could help him understand his father more and conquer his dislike for him. With these metaphors and direct quotes from One Dimensional Man, it is easy to see how Jimmy Corrigan fits a Marcusian way of thinking so well.

Works Cited

Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon, 1964. Web. <>

Ware, Chris. Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth. New York City: Pantheon Books, 2000. Print.

Prompt 2 - Jimmy Corrigan and Instructions

Instructions and the Female Illustration

            When we first open Jimmy Corrigan the Smartest Kid on Earth we are confronted with a set of instructions. These instructions cover everything from the design and layout of the graphic novel to the history of pictographic media. However in one section of these instructions there is a simple question that foreshadows and relates to many of Jimmy’s upcoming interactions; exam question number one asks “You are: a. male b. female.” It goes on “If b, you may stop. Put down your booklet. All others continue.” It would appear that that the author does not intend for the fairer sex to read this book. Quite possibly because the female reader would be dismayed at the way their gender is displayed in the world of Jimmy Corrigan. Whether his overbearing mother, the passenger seated next to him on the plane, his waitress, or his nurse Ware illustrates these women as objects; objects not in the same class as men but existing only to provide physical stimulation and reproductive means.  
            The first woman we meet is Jimmy’s mom. While not a direct object of Jimmy’s sexual desire she is depicted as being nagging and overbearing. It is no coincidence that, whenever she is speaking, her words are outside of the frame. This symbolizes that her words do not merit their own speech bubble the way many of the other characters, including Jimmy’s father, do. Not only do we see Jimmy’s mother illustrated this way but we also see her as the object of sexual attraction; while at the car show she meets and ultimately sleeps with the superman figure that Jimmy idolizes. This superman character’s relationship with Jimmy’s mom signifies the sexual nature that Jimmy will ultimately hold in high regard through the rest of the book.
            One of the next female encounters for Jimmy is the stranger he meets on the plane. In one of the first frames when we are introduced to this woman, only breasts and a pair of legs represent her. It is not until a few frames in that we eventually see the back of her head. This is a representation of how Jimmy sees things; the first and often only thing he notices are those features that have a distinct sexual connotation. It can be observed that there are very few females that we actually see the face of throughout the book. This woman goes on to even question whether Jimmy is staring at her breasts. And to top it all off, Jimmy’s sense of rejection is represented by the banana, a very phallic symbol, which this woman does not touch when she receives her fruit basket and bran muffin.
            Another female that Jimmy encounters is the waitress at the diner where his father and him go to eat. Our first description of this young lady is that of Jimmy’s father: “I hate that little teenage bitch.” He then goes on to say “she’s got a great pair of tits on her, though doesn’t she.” This is just another representation of how women are portrayed as lesser and only as objects of male sexual desire. Not to mention that in the same series of slides she is portrayed feeding a baby further conveying her willingness to engage sexually. Also in subsequent slides she is either pictured bending over or with a speech bubble blocking out her face only leaving her breasts visible to the reader this also symbolizes Jimmy’s focus during the extent of his interaction with her. This encounter, similar to the one before, also ends in rejection; however this is the imagined rejection that Jimmy perceives as part of any female that he finds sexually appealing.
            One of the next female representations comes when Jimmy is at the doctor’s office. First there is what appears to be a poster with the female reproductive system hanging on the wall in the background; this is another portrayal of Jimmy’s fascination with the sexual aspect of females so much so that it is the backdrop prior to his interaction with the female nurse. This is yet another communication sequence where we do not see the face of the desirable female. We initially see her pink and blue bracelets, which symbolize male and female together, most likely in Jimmy’s mind, sexually. Also we see Jimmy’s first person view of her bra from the top of her shirt. Finally the one facial feature we do see is her puffy pink lips, which also serve to epitomize certain features of the female genitalia. Jimmy then goes on to fantasize about a sexual encounter with the nurse that ultimately results in marriage and a little house in the mountains. Finally this scene ends with Jimmy’s dad complaining about the color of the office and upon exiting the building his dad says: “Does everything look sort of pink to you?” This is yet another innuendo illustrating that all he does is think about sex.
            Throughout the novel we see Jimmy looking at women the same way his hero superman viewed his mother at the start of the novel. This may be a disturbing glimpse into the mind of Jimmy, the author, and unfortunately most men; however if the female reader finds this depiction disturbing maybe they should have followed the instructions.

Blog 6 Promt 1

Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth is unlike anything I have ever read; it is truly a unique experience.  Although written in comic book form this is not your typical comic book story, rather than the extraordinary, Ware displays the ordinary, rather than the brave and mighty superhero, there is Jimmy, a depressed, lonely man. Where most comic books offer action, Jimmy Corrigan illustrates deep and complex emotions. The images may have exquisite graphic art, like many comic books, but the story portrayed though that art is vastly different.

The differences between Jimmy Corrigan and the “normal” graphic novel is revealed with in the first few pages with two panels depicting of the superhero jumping off the building.  The first panel, taken by itself, seems as if the man is just about to fly off to rescue the damsel and save the world. The hope created by this picture is destroyed in the next panel with the man lying face down in the street. The image is strikingly emotional and highlights the departure from the traditional comic book.  Of course, we all know that men cannot fly and this is the logical progression of events, but there is something about the cape that makes us think otherwise. We expect to find stories of the impossible in comic books and instead we are given reality. It right away tells us that this will not be the story about the brave superhero saving the world. This gives us a greater understanding of the rest of the novel, as we realize that instead the story will be about a tragic version of reality.

There is something especially heartbreaking about a fallen hero (in this case literally). It is not just an ordinary person experiencing tragedy but someone who is supposed to be stronger, braver and, frankly, otherworldly. Seeing a hero figure struck by misfortune, or in this case death, takes away not only a life but also the hope that life brought to so many people. Ware uses this image to, almost instantly, introduce the reader to the depression and tragedy of Jimmy’s life in the novel. We are guided in the opposite direction of the normal superhero story about rising from the ashes and we are just given the ashes. Superman, a man who is supposed to be practically invisible, perishes. Not only does he die, but he does not fall during an epic battle, sacrificing himself to save the world, but rather in a mundane, unexciting scene of taxi cabs and bicycles. Even after he falls, no crowd forms, only one man seems to be concerned. The rest of the people in the scene just carry on with their lives. We are left with no inconsolable lover, just a scene of ordinary people going on with their lives, the tragedy of indifference at the death of a man dressed as a superhero. Much of Jimmy's life it seems is a tragedy of indifference. Those around him tolerate him, they do not feel many strong emotions towards him at all it seems, the only exception being his mother.

 Many people, including the character Jimmy, idolize superheroes from a young age. Even into adulthood, the magic about them lingers. Ware makes us question our undying admiration of superheroes. Why is it that a cape can make so much difference? Superheroes are a departure from reality and the shining example of valor, courage, strength and bravery. These panels shreds all of those labels. They clash the fantastical and amazing journey of the superhero with the tragedy of reality. In the image, the colors of the background are dreary and mundane. The only bright colors are represented in the superhero.  This represents the usual dichotomy people see between superheroes and the rest of the world. In the first image, this brings a sense of hope, as superheroes normally do. The second image of our superman lying on the ground, effectively destroys this hope and reveals the seemingly unbreakable faith and trust we have in superheroes. The panels illustrate the amazing belief people have in heroes. Often times people fail to see them for what they are, people. They can do no wrong and don’t have to live by the normal laws, such as gravity, in our minds. Ware effectively shows that this idea is false. In the end, the people we put an inordinate amount of trust and belief in are just like us. This also applies to Jimmy’s father in the book. People view at fathers a lot like they view superheroes, strong, just and brave. The reality can be quite different as Ware illustrates in the novel. Jimmy's dad was not present for much of his life and now that he is, he displays none of the characteristics we expect in fathers. The same can be said for Jimmy's ancestors father. Ware tears down these views and these panels clearly show the lack of congruity between expectations (set up in the first panel) and the harsh reality (the second panel).

Prompt 1

Jimmy Corrigan: the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware sets itself apart from other comic books by being so concerned with capturing the felt life of a normal guy, opposed to the super-hero comics that focus on the exorbitant adventures of the extremely gifted. One of those gifts often given to imagined heroes is flight – perhaps no other comic book super-hero image is more enduring that Superman: his arms extended, his chest puffed out, citizens below staring up at the lively figure. Chris Ware inverts this image entirely in a two-frame scene from the eyes of Jimmy Corrigan – in which a Superman-like figure leaps to his death from a six-story building.
The image is beautiful and sad at the same time. A closer look at the details of the image (no text appears on the page) illustrate several themes that Ware explores throughout Jimmy Corrigan: isolation, the journey through life, connection to other people, even sexual desires – all present in the image.
First, it’s worth pointing out that when viewed out of context, this image is everything that Jimmy Corrigan is not. From one frame to the next, Superman is alive and then he is dead. That’s the same way it works for all of us. (We are born) we are alive and then we are dead. But this view is incredibly binary, and reductive of the power that life holds over all of us. Jimmy Corrigan tells in beautiful detail all of the banal relationships, experiences, dreams, anxieties that the main character goes through on his path through the medium of life.
So putting this image into the context of the novel – in which Jimmy met a Superman-actor early in his life, the mystery surrounding the note that Jimmy just received (are those two, the actor and the note’s author, one in the same?) – explains the narrative importance that this scene has to the book.
But this scene is so powerful on its own that we don’t even need to go beyond the page to see its thematic importance.
Only Jimmy saw the Superman leaping from the roof of the building. Everyone on the ground only saw his body once it hit the ground. This difference in perspective helps to explain some of the choices that Ware makes in Jimmy Corrigan. In a world of imposed isolation (such as ours) sometimes we don’t understand anyone’s story except our own. But sometimes, when we know someone truly, we have a better understanding of where he/she comes from. In this image no one on the ground knows that the Superman lifts his arms in the first frame, looking like he’s ready to take flight. This makes us question if it’s even a suicide, or a delusion, or some of both. No one knows except for Jimmy and Chris Ware and the Superman.
Just like the reader gets nothing of the fall, there are no gory details of what would likely happen to a man who just fell 6 stories to his death. No classic THUMP! or WHAM! from the comic books, and no realistic splintered bones, exploded skull, blood pools. Instead, this death is much more personal. There are witnesses on the ground, who turn to look when the body hits the ground, but a couple of frames later they are all gone, and the body remains. The building that the Superman jumps from and every other one in sight is completely empty.
On the inner cover of Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware discusses his dilemma:
As such, the thinking person should have to conclude that, in general, the seeking of emotional empathy in art is essentially a fool-hardy pursuit, better left to the intellectually weak, or the ugly, for they have nothing else with which to occupy themselves. Besides, it is unsightly to feel sorry for oneself, and such “unfortunate times” eventually pass, anyway, and if they don’t, then mercifully, for the rest of us at least, suicide is, of course, an option.
Ware seems to emphasize (through irony) his position as a “thinking person” opposed to the “intellectually weak.” And through this image, too, Ware strikes the difficult balance between using his art to empathetically portray the suicide of a character (itself an all-too-common-easy-way-out literary tactic) from a position of delicacy and mercy. Ware continues this attempt throughout Jimmy Corrigan – to take back the art of everyday existence from the “intellectually weak” who would be tempted to spend pages on the flailing fall, the gawking words of the people on the ground, the continued distraction of the event that this man’s death became.

The Superman is the only person in color in the scene. This is his personal choice, and Ware respects that. Suicide doesn’t affect everyone, thankfully. But when it happens, the experience lingers and colors life with a darker shade. I don’t think the theme is finished in Jimmy Corrigan – but I can’t think of a much better handling of the sensitive subject in any of my literary history.

Prompt 1

The Robot, a Bird, and Peaches
            Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth is equally visual as it is textual.  Frequently, the images are even more important than the text, conveying thoughts or emotions in a way which words cannot.  They also help to smooth the difficult transitions between the various time periods, or between dreams and reality.  Each time the setting changes, there is generally a cue; something appears to help guide us to the next time, or the next dream, or back to reality.  Throughout the story these cues take on three different forms: the robot, a bird, or peaches.
            The image that most perfectly exemplifies this concept is shown below (Fig. 1).  To the best of my knowledge, this is the only image which contains all three cues.  In this case, however, it is the peach tree which is guiding us back to reality.  Previously, Jimmy was dreaming about a life with his father and brother.  In the final panel of the dream, his father is coming to kill him after killing his brother.  We can see him advancing towards a frightened Jimmy in the background, but in the foreground there are some tree branches, with a single peach growing on one coming from the right.  The next panel is the robot sleeping on an airplane, with a bird on its seat and branches with peaches coming from the left.  It’s almost as if the peaches are growing from the same tree as in the previous panel, with the trunk running up the spine of the book, and some branches extending left and right into each panel, respectively.  By the next panel we are squarely back in reality.  Jimmy is sleeping on the airplane and there are no peaches in sight.  Without that single panel with the robot and the peaches, this transition would have been terribly abrupt, and much more confusing.
            This is not the only place within the novel in which this occurs.  Frequently, the bird is used to ease our way into another scene.  More often that the robot or the peaches, the bird is used to signify the passage of time.  We see it at the beginning, after the first scene with Jimmy as a kid.  The bird watches as the house is abandoned and eventually destroyed, and as it flies away it brings us to the window of Jimmy’s office, roughly thirty years later.  However, I believe the most prominent example of this is during the flashback to the Battle of Shiloh, where Jimmy’s great-grandfather fought.  Before we realize that we are reading a flashback, there are two panels with a bird on a branch (Fig. 2).  This cue tells us that we are about to see events from another time.  Ware then goes on to relate the events of the battle, showing us how Jimmy’s great-grandfather lost his finger.  There is then another page in which the bird appears (Fig. 3).  This page looks almost exactly like the page just before the battle except each panel is flipped, telling us that we are returning from our flashback.  The bird then flies past five different hospitals.  First, the one from the battle, where there is a pile of amputated foots.  Second is a hospital with horses and carriages near it.  Third is “Lincoln Hospital” which seems to be more modern, with early cars parked on the street in front of it.  Fourth is “St. Mary’s,” which seems to be more modern yet, with cars that look quite contemporary.  The fifth and final hospital is “Medlife Clinicare,” where Jimmy happens to be staying after his run-in with the truck.

            These symbols are not only helpful, but necessary to our understanding of the novel.  Without them, there would be little to no consistency between the flashbacks and dreams which are so frequently brought up.  While we may not have consciously noticed, by the end of the book I’m sure each of us subconsciously prepared ourselves for some irregularity in the story whenever we see one of these cues.  Ultimately, this device is a genius way to condition readers to the author’s style, which would otherwise be incredibly difficult to understand.

Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 1

Blog 6 Prompt 1

Use of imagery in Jimmy Corrigan’s, Smartest kid on earth.
            Comic books authors are known for their artistic prowess, and their sometimes over-exaggerated depiction of characters. But these extravagant depictions of pictures, and use of graphic art are all the ways in which the author gets across a story about these characters to the reader, with limited use of words, and more use of color and graphics. In Jimmy Corrigan the use of artwork is almost sometimes overwhelming. Trying to decipher the meaning and significances of all the different uses of color and symbols could lead to several interpretations of Ware’s true intentions. But one thing that is apparent and clear in this comic is that the pictures, along with the words also tell a story. In fact it is almost possible to develop a story just by studying the graphics used by Ware. Paying attention to little details, and his use of repetition of images also help to tie up the loose ends to a book that seems to have many possible interpretations. In Jimmy Corrigan, Ware uses several images unusual and contradicting to the everyday heroic image of Superman to depict to us how Jimmy compares his image of a father figure to Superman. These images help to conclude that in this comic book, Superman's character is a reminder of the absence or failing of all the fathers across generation. 
Wares use of imagery to depict Jimmy 3rd, 2nd, and 1st’s relation to the character of superman is one of the many occasions in the book, where an image tells a story even without reading the words on paper. We all have a prehistoric depiction of what Superman stands for in our head. Every child has their ideal image and qualities of what makes their favorite Superhero, and this is no different than Jimmy (III). We start off the book with this image of superman, and from the beginning it is very evident the admiration and love that Jimmy has towards Superman. Even though as readers, we can tell that Superman may not be as heroic or genuine as Jimmy sees him. Ware depicts superman to the reader as nothing but a deceiving actor dressed in costume lying to a kid just to sleep with his Mother. Jimmy’s fascination with Superman is further tainted the morning after Superman sleeps with his mother and he gives him his mask as he tries to sneak out. Rather than seeing the clear truth about Superman he is blinded by his admiration for him once again. His innocent blindness to the truth about Superman and admiration of a male heroic figure is the first evidence of his want for a strong male figure in his life. However we don’t go too far into the book before this almost godlike and untouchable image of Superman is stripped away from him.
As is done numerous times over the course of this comic book, Ware fast-forwards to Jimmy as a grown man, eating breakfast while reading a Superman comic book. His childhood obsession has carried on into his adulthood. But Ware quickly begins to strip this idea from Jimmy with a scene where he watches his idolized hero jump off a building to his death. In this picture we have his bright costume of colors blue, yellow and red set amongst a dull grayish background of buildings, that look as drab and sad as the event that have just occurred. This is the first evidence of the future disappointment in Jimmy’s representation of a father figure, and his upcoming encounter with his newly found father. Ware uses this scene to strip away Jimmy’s image of a father figure in the form of Superman           
            Ware once again depicts the reality of the false image of a father to Superman this time from the perspective of Jimmy (Jimmy II) in a flashback of his time as a young boy with his Father (Jimmy I). In the leading pages to this we find Jimmy II’s father to be a fat brutish, harsh and angry man. Who seems to show no love or affection towards his child. One particular page that stands out is the image of Jimmy (I) laying in bed next to his father, dressed as Superman, with the gloves, mask, and his red shoes laying next to the bed on the floor. This false heroic image of Superman is once again shattered; by depicting him as Jimmy (I) a man who we were just introduced to as an insensitive man who possesses all the characteristics that you would find in a terrible father figure. Ware uses this imagery to show that across the generations, the comparison of an ideal father or father figure to Superman has stood to be false. He shows the generational disappointment of the Jimmy’s in their actual fathers, or ideas of a father figure.
            This idea of a father compared to Superman is shutdown several times in this comic book, and Ware achieves this by his tactful use of graphics to depict these ideas. With these different imageries, the theme of the generational search for a father figure is addressed, and with Ware’s skillful artistic abilities, this theme is brought to life and made easier to understand, just by deciphering the images and symbols. 

Prompt 1: Images

According to Ware’s graphic novel, “Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth,the western world is in a dismal state.  Guised as a global metropolis at the forefront of civilization and technology, Ware depicts the West as ridden with social problems.  He shows Lady Liberty, once the personification of freedom and power, as having been corrupted by present-day western world.  Ware, through his use of a blindfolded Lady Liberty, exposes the true condition of the West in present day: a backwards society in which technology is the only component that is advancing, albeit aimlessly.  
Despite rapidly improving and groundbreaking technology,  millions are impoverished and sick.  To blame technology itself for not being accessible to the poor and ailing would be to ignore the true cause - the wealthy.  Capitalism is what drives the incessant growth and aimlessness of technology in the world.  The competition to make more money has resulted in numerous advances in technology but has also resulted in man’s ignorance to the plight of his fellow citizens.  By using technology only for monetary gain, conditions for the poor continue to deteriorate despite the existence of technology to aid them.  Ware presents two wealthy men each buying a newspaper from a young black paperboy.  The deteriorating health of his mother, who we can assume to be impoverished, is revealed and both men are presented with an opportunity to help the paperboy.  However rather than helping the boy for altruistic reasons, it became apparent that it was a competition between the two men when the “losing” man muttered the racial slur.  They were not concerned for the welfare of the boy and his mother, but concerned rather of themselves.  He was too busy “weighing the relative value of his own redemption, the young newsboy’s actual degree of impoverishment, and the large lunch he was planning for himself later that day” to be concerned with the boy’s well being.  


This state of the wealthy using their status and money towards themselves rather than the needy is the source of the aimlessness of technology.  The blindfolded Lady Liberty grasping the ribbons of technology illustrate a society which is equipped with tools of progress however is blinded by competition and selfishness.  When the people who have the means and access to technology do not use it to promote social health of the society, then the advancements of technology are all for naught.  

The bare-chested Lady Liberty is not an image of empowerment but rather one of the sexualization of women.  In the painting, “Liberty Leading the People” by Eugène Delacroix, Lady Liberty is an image of freedom and power.  She is depicted as leading the French from a tyrannical government into a new age of independence.  Her bare chest symbolizes not the sexual image of a woman but rather the difficult journey from which she has emerged victorious.  This sentiment is not mirrored in Ware’s depiction of Lady Liberty who is plastered on the wall of a store.  She is not in a context of art but a context of commerce and capitalism.  Here her bare chest does not symbolize
power but rather is present to be ogled or simply dismissed by passerby's.  Ware illustrates that despite being heralded as “The Metropolis of the West” at the forefront of social and technological advancement, women are being dismissed and sexualized.  When a woman attempts to be an individual by self-empowering herself, she is disregarded and attacked as overstepping her boundaries.  The woman dressed with an intricate hat rather than a more simple one is dismissed by the same man who dismisses Lady Liberty’s chest as an image of empowerment.  This depicts the stratification of genders in the social hierarchy in which women are at the bottom.  

Ware’s critique of society’s view of women is apparent in our modern day media’s depiction of women.  Films, magazine, and music present a hypersexualized image of women intended to portray women in an inferior role thus promoting the immobility of women in the social hierarchy.