Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Prompt 1: Images in Jimmy Corrigan



Prompt 1: Images in Jimmy Corrigan

Chris Ware’s well received graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth has won numerous awards, including being recognized by Times Magazine “as one of the top 10 English language graphic novels ever written.” A good portion of Jimmy Corrigan lies within character relationships and character development rather than the actual plotline itself. The bulk of the story focuses on the juxtaposition of two running plotlines about Jimmy and his grandfather’s century old story line. Both stories investigate the consequences of missing parental figures. Jimmy Corrigan innately is a difficult piece to read, especially with the constant switching of story lines. Ware keeps his audiences on their toes as he makes abrupt skips while consistently shifting between reality and fantasy. Of course it did not receive such high honors without good reason; Chris Ware takes full advantage of the comic book themed novel by using illustrative nature to enhance the reader’s understanding. The reader is assisted by thousands of colored illustrations and figures that when read quickly in sequence, provide a convincing illusion of life and movement. 
Jimmy Corrigan tells the emotional tale of a socially isolated, middle aged man, Jimmy Corrigan, who had grown up with an overbearing mother and an absentee father. He constantly depends on his vivid imagination consisting of his alter ego character the Smartest Kid on Earth, to escape from his grim reality. Chris Ware strategically selects the colors used in each scene to convey certain moods and emotions of the novel. In the opening story lines and the ones pertaining to Jimmy Corrigan’s present day, brighter colors are apparent throughout the background and backdrops. Bright colors are incorporated in the panels where Jimmy’s idol, Superman appears. When he reads the letter written by his father inviting him out to visit during the Thanksgiving break, the panels are full of light greens and blues. Jimmy’s emotions are of course skeptical but mostly this color pattern shows his excitement and interest of finally meeting his father. The light and easy going vibe can be felt within the warm earth tones when Jimmy’s grandfather presents him with breakfast, bacon arranged on the plate to form “HI”. This is an attempt of peace and/or a type of truce from the grumpy old man.
Certain panels and sections are often given a specific hue to set the tone of the scene. Ware uses a bright red color in scenes to express alarm, danger or surprise. Onomatopoeias like “Smack” and “Slap” are outlined in a red box to emphasis their meaning. The use of the flamboyant onomatopoeias act as speech bubbles, they bring life to the words, transitioning the novel into a graphical form of art. Jimmy recounting his grandfather’s story is typically depicted in duller colors such as grays, dark purples, dark blues and browns. These darker colors reflect the bleak moments the grandfather has had with his heartless father. Ware’s writing style, combined with the colors often creates a key map that guides the reader throughout the story. Dull colors correlate to sad, somber moments while light colors show hopes and positivity. The reader can always turn to these simple hints for assistance, seeing how comprehending Jimmy Corrigan requires more effort from the average reader.
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth can be interpreted in a handful of different ways. For some, their efforts strive toward the fundamental reward of decoding Ware’s mystery. For others, the read is more about the emotional connection they form with the characters. Jimmy may not be a character we necessarily are, but he’s a character many can relate to. He’s shy, meek and lives through his imagination due to his unsatisfying life, something that many people can speak about. Luckily for us, Ware disguises the bleak and dreary lives of Jimmy and his grandfather with vivid imagery and comical narration. The Chicago Tribune stated, "Jimmy Corrigan pushes the form of comics into an unexpected formal and emotional territory." Each scene is responsible for telling its own story and Chris Ware capitalized on how an image can leave an impact.

Visual References:
  
 



2 comments:

Adam said...


Your introduction doesn't actually introduce any particular argument - it's more of a summary or review-summary of the book. You didn't need it. Also, I'd be careful of calling the art in a graphic novel "illustrations" - this book would make far, far more sense with all text removed than with all images removed.

The 2nd paragraph is more focused, but still not very focused. Dealing with the use of color in an example section would have been good; discussing the bacon would have been good. Both in one paragraph is overcrowded and confusing.

Your ongoing discussion of the use of color through the book is articulate and worthwhile, but also vague. "Jimmy recounting his grandfather’s story is typically depicted in duller colors such as grays, dark purples, dark blues and browns. These darker colors reflect the bleak moments the grandfather has had with his heartless father. Ware’s writing style, combined with the colors often creates a key map that guides the reader throughout the story. Dull colors correlate to sad, somber moments while light colors show hopes and positivity." -- this is on ok summary of how color is used through much of the book, but by operating on such a general level, you avoid doing an interpretation. What does color mean where? How is it surprising? When does color's presence or absence make us think differently? By focusing more narrowly, you could begin to address an interesting question along these lines.

Sarah Ayre said...

I think you come close to stating your thesis in the first paragraph, but if the sentences i'm looking at - specifically the last two in the first paragraph - are your thesis, they need to become more specific and clear in stating what you are going to argue in your paper. I think you discuss Jimmy Corrigan and the way Ware jumps around pretty well, but the "why" of why it's significant is unclear at this point.

Another thing I would suggest is that if you continue with the color relations between the story and way Jimmy views event in his life (an interesting idea, and not something that I picked up on at all), make sure that you use visual references for the frames that you are describing. Because you talked vividly about a couple scenes in the second paragraph, I was surprised not to find them at the end of the essay. I think if you reference them (maybe using footnotes?) then your argument could be strengthened.

Also, in your last paragraph, this sentence is unclear in the way its worded: " Jimmy may not be a character we necessarily are, but he’s a character many can relate to." I think you are trying to say that Jimmy is a character that differs from how we view ourselves, but he still has many characteristics that we as readers can relate to. If this is the case, maybe try to reword that so it becomes more clear what you are saying because I think it is important to your argument on the correlation between color and emotion that Ware evokes.

One final thing I think I would note is to make sure that your images coincide with the scenes you discuss. I don't think you mention the scene where Jimmy imagines attacking his dad at all, and so I was confused when I saw that image appear at the bottom. If you are to revise the is, make sure that you have images for scenes you describe and don't include images that you never bring up.

Also, make sure you do describe in detail one particular scene. You make a lot of general statements about colors, but picking a specific scene and closely attending to the images and colors used would be very helpful to your argument. You also might want to discuss why Ware does this stylistic technique, since we can assume that this is purposeful on his part. How does it cloud/encourage our readings of different scenes, and how does it affect our attitude towards Jimmy? Is his life really that bad, or are we being manipulated subtly by Ware into sympathizing more than we should/would naturally with Jimmy? I don't know if these ideas are helpful at all, but just some other things to think about. I definitely think this is an interesting essay on Jimmy Corrigan that I didn't think of at all.