Wednesday, October 23, 2013

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.

2 comments:

Adam Lewis said...

Nikki,

Overall that was quite a lot of good analysis from a short strip. I think the only thing I really didn't agree with was your analysis of the mask as "eccentric and geeky." I don't know how old he is exactly in this set of frames but judging by his height compared to the other characters portrayed in this sequence, he was quite young. So lets say he is 10. A 10 year old playing superman isn't, in my opinion, eccentric, he's just a kid.

That being said, I think the rest is very good. As we discussed in class, this is almost his origin story huh? We start with a fairly normal kid sneaking away to see his idol and end with his idol moving in on his mother. I think ware is setting us up with Jimmy's appearance and his Mom's overbearing attitude for sure and I wonder what other events happened like this throughout Jimmy's childhood.

Adam said...

The discussion of film vs. comics vs. storyboarding could be interesting in a longer project if developed - on one level, this is clearly true. On another level, we need to wonder why it matters. It might be relevant here, and would *need* to be relevant in a revision (unless you cut it).

A question re: the 2nd paragraph. What does it mean both to note that JC (note the initials...) is both "completely average" and "somewhat pathetic"? Maybe you didn't notice the contradiction, or maybe it's the start of an interpretation - that in our world really the two are the same.

Your analysis of our first encounter with Jimmy is quite good. If you revise, I'd urge you to think of any larger implications of the mask beyond its associations with superheroes, though. Of course, an alternative would be to delve more deeply into what masks mean *to* superheroes - dual identities, which are supposed to not intersect at all, but inevitably do. Does Jimmy have dual identities? Is he merely hiding? What do the masks mean? You're great on the subject of his vulnerability, but there is yet more to explore here.

"a puppet for his mother's hands" is another great phrase and idea. Does it work through the course of the book? The main events of the book seem to be his attempt to defy his mother, escaping the puppetry. Does it work? In other words, you're opening a good idea, but does it work?

Overall: Very good, if somewhat disjoined. Exploring "the puppet" or "the mask" would have been enough, and would even possibly be enough for a long revision. If you kept both when revising, you'd want to connect them (possibly under a broader umbrella). Also, your introduction seems almost totally irrelevant to the nuanced analysis which follows.