Composing
Graphic Narratives
Fall 2009

Instructor: Jonathan Bass
Thursday 2:50 - 5:50 PM
Doll Man in Hand.

Final Projects for Fall 2009

Apocalypse Comics Anthology

Read samples from an anthology of comics about the end of the world. This collection is hosted by a talking cockroach.

Music Comics Anthology

Read samples from an anthology of comics about musical history. This collection is hosted by Slash of Guns'n' Roses.

Thanksgiving Comics Anthology

Read samples from an anthology of comics about poultry, families, Turkey drops, the Macy's Day Parade, and other things related to Thanksgiving. Hosted by a turkey.

Animal Fights Comics Anthology

Read samples from an anthology of comics about animals fighting other animals, including humans. This anthology is hosted by a probsoscis monkey.

Infomercial Comics Anthology

Read samples from an anthology of comics about the totally fictional David Bowie Shopping Network. Naturally, this anthology is hosted by David Bowie.

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Week Fifteen

Monday, Dec. 14

Work Due

Final Project

Due dates and formats for the Final Project:

  • Each group member: 9 PM, Monday, Dec. 14 A high-quality PDF copy of your individual story on Scribd and in the dropbox on Sakai.
  • Each group member: 12 PM (midday), Wednesday, Dec. 16 A printed/photocopied/handmade version of your story/chapter in my mailbox in Murray Hall or in my office, Loree 010.
  • One group member: 9 PM, Monday, Dec. 14 A high-quality PDF copy of the contents page and intro, and your individual story on Scribd and in the dropbox on Sakai.
  • One group member: 12 PM (midday), Wednesday, Dec. 16 A printed/photocopied/handmade version of the contents page and intro in my mailbox in Murray Hall or in my office, Loree 010.

Note: You do NOT each have to submit the complete anthology.

Announcements

Even More Fight or Run Comics

Fight or Run, Part 3.

Final Office Hour

Wednesday, Dec. 16, 5-6 PM. Loree 010. Stop by for your final grade and comments and to pick up your work.

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Week Fourteen

Thursday, Dec. 10

Work Due

Final Project

Progress on Final Project. Have some work ready to show.

Presentation

Six on Tufte's Envisioning Information

Alan, Daniel, Vincent, Mike, Allie, and Christian present on ways of relating the Tufte reading on information design to (composing, decomposing, recomposing) graphic narratives.

One on Pratt

Andrew presents on Pratt's "Narrative in Comics".

Discussion

Things to Behold

More Fight or Run Comics

Fight or Run, Part 2.

Activities

Final Project

Remember to make the story INFORMATIVE.

In-class workshop for the Final Project.

Homework

Final Project

Complete the Anthology Project. Each group member must upload a PDF copy of his or her own section to Sakai and leave a printed copy for me in either (1) my mailbox in Murray Hall or (2) under my office door in Loree (room 010) by the due dates listed below.

The group will also need to upload one PDF of the contents/intro pages to Sakai and leave one printed copy for me in either (1) my mailbox in Murray Hall or (2) under my office door in Loree (room 010) by the due dates listed below. As a group, make a plan for who will be responsible for doing this – and let me know.

Due dates and formats for the Final Project:

  • Each group member: 9 PM, Monday, Dec. 14 A high-quality PDF copy of your individual story on Scribd and in the dropbox on Sakai.
  • Each group member: 12 PM (midday), Wednesday, Dec. 16 A printed/photocopied/handmade version of your story/chapter in my mailbox in Murray Hall or in my office, Loree 010.
  • One group member: 9 PM, Monday, Dec. 14 A high-quality PDF copy of the contents page and intro, and your individual story on Scribd and in the dropbox on Sakai.
  • One group member: 12 PM (midday), Wednesday, Dec. 16 A printed/photocopied/handmade version of the contents page and intro in my mailbox in Murray Hall or in my office, Loree 010.

Note: You do NOT each have to submit the complete anthology.

Final Office Hour

Wednesday, Dec. 16, 5-6 PM. Loree 010. Stop by for your final grade and comments and to pick up your work.

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Week Thirteen

Thursday, Dec. 3

Work Due

Time Comic

Complete your time comic. Upload digital versions to Sakai and Scribd. Bring a printed or handmade copy to class.

Final Project

A mix of prep-related things are due:

  • One-page story synopsis (printed), including introductory paragraph that explains relation of your story to the anthology's theme.
  • Panel-by-panel script (printed) or thumbnails (photocopy or printed scan) for at least first two pages of story.
  • Character designs for the anthology's host and for at least two main characters (human, animal, alien, supernatural, metaphysical, or inanimate).
  • Ideas and designs for the 2-page collaborative table of contents and credits.

Complication Analysis

If you failed to submit it last time: Printed copy of your complication analysis of Huizenga's "The Curse."

Presentation

Four on Tufte's Envisioning Information

Alan, Daniel, Vincent, and Mike present on ways of relating the Tufte reading on information design to (composing, decomposing, recomposing) graphic narratives.

Still to present: Allie, Christian, and Andrew.

Discussion

Things to Behold

This Saturday: Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, Saturday, Dec. 5. Guests include Charles Burns, Gabrielle Bell, Kim Deitch, Gary Panter, C.F., Dash Shaw, Adrian Tomine and others we've read this semester.

A short graphic narrative: An autobiographical vignette by Derik Badman that makes intersting use of arrows (and all text panels) to convey its story information.

Classic Splash Pages from Will Eisner, The Spirit Coloring Book (1974).

Your Fight or Run and Time comics. Now on Sakai!

And: Animator Tatsuyuki Tanaka's (non-animated) Fifth Dimension (translation at Pink Tentacle).

Activities

Final Project

In-class workshop for the Final Project. Review of possibilities for creating complication, intensifyhing narrative interest, and putting the page layout to work.

Homework

Reading

Technical, critical, theoretical:

Comics in Brunetti:

  • Robert Crumb, "Patton" (316-27)

Linked Comics:

Final Project

Progress. Bring sample pages in some state of quasi-completion to the next class for in-class review.

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Week Twelve

Thanksgiving
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Week Eleven

Thursday, Nov. 19

Work Due

Complication Analysis

Printed copy of your complication analysis of Huizenga's "The Curse." Again: State the complication (or complications) that trouble the protagonist. Then describe twelve different things Huizenga does to present, explain, intensify, or remind the reader of the complication that Glenn Ganges faces. These are signs, evidence, or reminders of the complication. Your list may include effects of the complication on Glenn or any of the other characters. For each sign of complication: specify the page and panel where you find it.

Time Comic

Progress of your Time Comic.

Presentation

Four Conceptions of the Page

Jenn and Fran present on Benoit Peeters.

Still to present: Allie, Alan, Daniel, Vincent, Andrew, Christian, and Mike.

Discussion

Things to Behold

Typography, Big and Small: Harvey Kurtzman, Hey, Look! (source: Hairy Green Eyeball).

Loopy Framing: Neil Cohn on Panels and Framing.

Hosted Comics: Steve Ditko, "Tales of the Mysterious Traveler," examples one and two. Source: Golden Age Comic Book Stories (Friday, July 24, 2009).

Reading: Black Hole

The reading from Burns's Black Hole exhibits an anecdote generic structure. This structure consists of a Situation stage, followed by a Remarkable Event stage, followed by a Reaction stage. On this page we see the transition from the Situation stage to the beginning of the Remarkable Event stage:

This page presents the culmination of the remarkable event and ends with dialogue that signals a shift to the Reaction stage, presented on the next page:

Other Reading

Clowes, Ice Haven:

What Else We'll Talk About

The Final Project, Fight or Run Comics (a first selection of them can be found on Sakai:Resources), Exercises in Style, presentations.

Three Informational Comics by Josh Neufeld

I've also linked these under the reading for next week but we'll preview them in class.

Comics and Diagrams

First let's glance previewingly at Edward Tufte on Links and Causal Arrows and Mapped Pictures/Annotated Images. (This is part of the reading for next week.)

Some comics examples:

More Examples for Discussion

More comics that are primarily informational, or that use information design, or that use graphic devices, symbolism, and notation with a non-comics informational provenance:

Activities

Final Project

In-class planning workshop for the Final Project.

Homework

Reading

Technical, critical, theoretical:

Comics in Brunetti:

  • Chester Brown, "My Mom Was a Schizophrenic" (209-16)
  • Robert Crumb, "Patton" (316-27)
  • Matthew Thurber, "Island of Silk and Ectoplasm" (141-45)
  • Chris Ware, from Building Stories (372-81)

Linked Comics:

  • Chris Ware, Unmasked (Halloween Story).

Time Comic

Complete your time comic for the next class. Upload digital versions to Sakai and Scribd. Bring a printed or handmade copy to class.

Final Project

A mix of prep-related things are due for the next class:

  • One-page story synopsis (printed), including introductory paragraph that explains relation of your story to the anthology's theme.
  • Panel-by-panel script (printed) or thumbnails (photocopy or printed scan) for at least first two pages of story.
  • Character designs for the anthology's host and for at least two main characters (human, animal, alien, supernatural, metaphysical, or inanimate).
  • Ideas and designs for the 2-page collaborative table of contents and credits.
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Week Ten

Thursday, Nov. 12

Work Due

Time Comic, Part One

The first two pages of your time comic.

As stated in the last class, the two pages can be in pencil but they should not be rough. They should present clearly what you want your first to pages to represent, but they can be in an intermediate state (i.e., you can ink, color, adjust them later on). Also: they DO NOT need to be uploaded to Scribd or Sakai. But they DO need to be available for in-class viewing, disucssion, critique, and so on.

Discussion

What We'll Talk About

Final Project, Time Comics, Fight or Run Comics, Exercises in Style, the next few presentations.

Stan Sakai, Saya. This story exhibits an ending or framing technique in which the story is presented within a larger situation. The presentation zooms in to follow the main action, then zooms out to return to the larger, framing situation, which functions as a commentary of sorts on the main action.

Activities

Exercies in Style

. . .

Final Project

In groups, begin planning your anthologies.

Homework

Reading

Technical, critical, theoretical:

Comics in Brunetti:

  • Frank Santoro, from Storeyville (279-82). And see Derik Badman on Santoro.
  • Dan Zettwoch, "Cross-Fader" (283-90)
  • Gary Panter, from Jimbo (107-14).
  • Dan Clowes, from Ice Haven (362-71).

Each of these readings, despite its brevity, presents an invented or strangely re-interpreted world (cf. Wolk). What do we learn about each of these worlds? How does it differ or resemble our own world? What resources does the author use to present his world?

Linked Comics:

  • A second look: Bernie Krigstein and Al Feldstein's "Master Race," Impact #1 (1955); a black-and-white version now up on Scribd.
  • Shannon Gerrard, Unspent Love (at Top Shelf 2.0).
  • Matt Madden, excerpts from Exercises in Style (on Sakai)

Complication Analysis

Using Huizenga's "The Curse," state the complication (or complications) that trouble the protagonist. Then describe twelve different things the author does to present, explain, intensify, or remind the reader of the complication that Glenn Ganges faces. These are signs, evidence, or reminders of the complication. Your list may include effects of the complication on Glenn or any of the other characters.

For each sign of complication: specify the page and panel where you find it.

Time Comic

Complete your time comic for the next class. Upload digital versions to Sakai and Scribd. Bring a printed or handmade copy to class.

Update: The finished Time Comic is now due the class after Thanksgiving (Dec. something). However, other work will also be due that week, and there's the holiday in between, so plan accordingly.

Presentation

Jenn and Fran present on Benoit Peeters. Still to present: Allie, Alan, Daniel, Vincent, Andrew, Christian, and Mike.

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Week Nine

Thursday, Nov. 5

Work Due

Time Comic Prep

Complete the two remaining parts of the Time Comic Prep. Namely:

  1. Make character sketches for three characters and make some notes on them;
  2. Sketch (thumbnail) three different first pages for your projected comic: each should use (and try to take best advantage of) one of the three different modes of narration that we looked at in Hernandez's "Jerusalem Crickets" (no caption narration), Tomine's "Hazel Eyes" (authorial caption narration), and Clowes's "Blue Italian Shit" (first-person caption narration).

Presentations

Wolk, "Pictures, Words, and the Space between Them"

Samantha and Adam present on Douglas Wolk, "Pictures, Words, and the Space between Them" (on Sakai, under Resources, in the Theory & Criticism folder); Goodman or Ehses (on Sakai).

Discussion

Of Interest

BLICKFANG - The Eye-Catching Covers of Weimar Berlin

Bill Ward, They Said I Was Fast (Campus Love #2, 1949).

Key Ideas from Wolk

Some of Douglass Wolk's key terms and ideas:

  • "cartooning as interpretation" (121)
  • "cartoonist's line" as "signature" (123)
  • "legibility" (124) – very important
  • "two different kinds of information [on the page]" (126)
  • "change over time" (130) = "space in time" (125)
  • "pregnant moment" (131)

Wolk also argues that for many comics: "The cartoonist's image-world is a metaphorical representation of our own" (134). He unfolds two possibilities from this idea:

  1. "experiencing space-through-time in a way that's different form our personal perspective" (134) = representation of another, distinctive subjectivity; and
  2. "the concept of a literal separate reality that is also, in consequential ways, default reality" (134) = fantasy worlds, surreal worlds, metaphysical worlds,dream, worlds, alternate realities, etc.

When we take away narrative focus or fullness, when we slow down the narrative, or increase the space between the moments of crisis, e.g., in the pictureless comics or the diary comics, we get just "another world, which is this world" (literally or metaphorically).

Wolk's example from Seth's Clyde Fans.

Time and Narrative Interst in the Reading

We'll discuss time shifts and the creation of narrative interest in some of the reading for this week, including the Huizenga, Moore and Veitch, and Mignola comics. Also: the value of explanatory and expositional digressions.

Activities

Time Narrative Comic Assignment (Again)

Tell a comics story in five or more pages using words, pictures, graphic devices, page design, etc. The majority of the pages should have four or more panels per page. There should be at least twenty-four panels, although this requirement is negotiable depending on your mode of illustration (talk to the instructor). No more than one page can be a full-page splash.

Your narrative should exploit the time-representing and time-shifting powers of comics and the fundamental two-sided nature of narrative = between the order of the telling (narrtive discourse or representation) and the chronology of the told (Chatman's sense of "story" or fabula).

  • Story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  • Story can be fiction or non-fiction, fantastic or realistic. It can be a genre story (crime, horror, weird romance, superhero, western, political thriller, etc.). The narrative can be fairly straightforward or it can verge on (but should not succumb to) the virtually nonsensical. Always, that is, maintain some clear degree narrative coherence.
  • The story should have at least three different characters and at least one instance of significant complication that get resolved or at least promises to get resolved by the story's end.
  • The story should take place (develop, unfold) in at least five distinct moments or scenes. Three of these can be more or less consecutive or simultaneous (i.e., very near in time). Each of other two moments should be well in the past or well in the future of the main action.
  • Optional: Two panels of the comic should be based on pictorial images in the Zimmerli Museum. The panels do not have to reproduce the images but might borrow a detail, a character, a setting, a color scheme, or the composition. Cf. Manet's many appropriations of parts and wholes of earlier paintings in his own painted work (e.g., the Dejeuner sur l'herbe).

Time Narrative Comic P/Review

Working in groups, review each other's plot outline and first page sketches. Which pages work best? Why? Is there a compication in the story outline? How does the outline generate narrative interest? What changes can be made to increase narrative interest?

Homework

Reading

Technical, critical, theoretical:

Comics in Brunetti:

  • Mack White, "Nudist Nuns of Goat Island" (24-28)
  • Charles Burns, from Black Hole (99-105)
  • Golus and Welch, "Halloween Was a Blast" (185-86)
  • Jessica Abel, "Jack London" (187-94)

Linked Comics:

Time Comic

Complete the first two pages of your time comic for the next class.

Update: This is a clarification in response to some questions asked via email. As stated in the last class, the two pages can be in pencil but they should not be rough. They should present clearly what you want your first to pages to represent, but they can be in an intermediate state (i.e., you can ink, color, adjust them later on). Also: they DO NOT need to be uploaded to Scribd or Sakai. But they DO need to be available for viewing, disucssion, and so on, in next week's class (Nov. 12).

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Week Eight

Thursday, Oct. 29

a werewolf

This week's class (Oct. 29) is CANCELED. However: Your plot outlines for the Time Comic are still due. Upload these to Sakai by 6 PM on Friday (.doc format is fine but NOT .docx), but still bring a printed copy to the next class.

Other than this: Work on your Time Comics. Catch up on the reading. Enjoy Halloween. We resume next week.

P.S. Check this schedule for updates. There'll be some new reading for the next class and a rough breakdown of what's planned for the rest of the semester.

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Week Seven

Thursday, Oct. 22

Work Due

Fight or Run

Finish your Fight or Run comic. Scan and save. Upload a PDF or high-quality JPG version to the Sakai dropbox and to Scribd. Bring e-copy to class, where each team will combine comics and upload to Scribd.

Presentations

Drawing Words, Writing Pictures

Kira and Matt present on chapters 11 and 12. Next week: Douglas Wolk, "Pictures, Words, and the Space between Them" (on Sakai, under Resources, in the Theory & Criticism folder); Goodman or Ehses (on Sakai).

Discussion

Looking at Your Diary Comics

Content: (1) actions: material actions, perceptions, thoughts; (2) orientation: self-oriented, other-oriented, world-oriented; (3) rhythms: regular rhythm (recurring content) or irregular rhythm (random, exceptional, singular contnent).

Presentation: (1) what modes and methods the work uses to present content = words, pictures, graphic and spatial devices, page space/layout; (2) at the level of pictures = scenographic or tropological; (3) Narrational features = narrator or not? punctual or periodic?

Organization: (1) how does the work fit together, form a unity? = formal, logical, allegorical. (2) How does the work begin? end?

Orientation = the interpersonal, communicative dimension of the comic = the degree to which it admits a reader ... ; etc.

First set of examples: Content

Second set: Sense of an Ending

Figuration: Metonomy, Metaphor, and Allegory

Final example: Diary comic crossing over into a story structure

Narrative Arcs

Back to these again: Jessica Abel and Matt Madden's concept of the traditional narrative arc is a variation of the simple narrative structure.

Abel and Madden speak of "five essential ingredients":

  1. The protagonist
  2. The spark
  3. The escalation
  4. The climax
  5. The denouement

Agent and patient (at least one of the patients) combine as the protagonist, who exhibits three essential traits: he or she (1) "has our empathy"; (2) "has the motivation to pursue needs or desires"; and (3) "has the ability (hypothetically) to achieve those desires" (Abel and Madden 130). The complication becomes a "spark" that gets the story going. Multiple attempts at Resolution escalate toward a final, successful Resolution (or "Climax"), followed by the familar Denouement.

With the narrative arc firmly in mind, let's consider first Homer's Odyssey and then, more closely, Priddy's "Onion Jack." And, of course, Herbie.

Another staging of the narrative sequence:

List of functions in complete narrative sequence.

Fundamental stages of the narrative sequence according to Emma Kafalenos, "Functions after Propp: Words to Talk about How We Read Narrative," Poetics Today 18 (1997): 469-494.

Modes of Narration

Let's look at the different approaches to narration = to both presenting and witholding story information = that we find in (1) Hernandez's "Jerusalem Crickets," (2) Tomine's "Hazel Eyes," and (3) Clowes's "Blue Italian Shit." We'll also look back on the autobiographical Bechdel and Spiegelman stories about reading from early in the semester. Like "Blue Italian Shit," these are both narrated by (older versions) of the story's protagonist.

Time Comic: Extreme Example

Richard McGuire, "Here"

Activities

Time Narrative Comic Assignment

Tell a comics story in five or more pages using words, pictures, graphic devices, page design, etc. The majority of the pages should have four or more panels per page. There should be at least twenty-four panels, although this requirement is negotiable depending on your mode of illustration (talk to the instructor). No more than one page can be a full-page splash.

Your narrative should exploit the time-representing and time-shifting powers of comics and the fundamental two-sided nature of narrative = between the order of the telling (narrtive discourse or representation) and the chronology of the told (Chatman's sense of "story" or fabula).

  • Story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  • Story can be fiction or non-fiction, fantastic or realistic. It can be a genre story (crime, horror, weird romance, superhero, western, political thriller, etc.). The narrative can be fairly straightforward or it can verge on (but should not succumb to) the virtually nonsensical. Always, that is, maintain some clear degree narrative coherence.
  • The story should have at least three different characters and at least one instance of significant complication that get resolved or at least promises to get resolved by the story's end.
  • The story should take place (develop, unfold) in at least five distinct moments or scenes. Three of these can be more or less consecutive or simultaneous (i.e., very near in time). Each of other two moments should be well in the past or well in the future of the main action.
  • Optional: Two panels of the comic should be based on pictorial images in the Zimmerli Museum. The panels do not have to reproduce the images but might borrow a detail, a character, a setting, a color scheme, or the composition. Cf. Manet's many appropriations of parts and wholes of earlier paintings in his own painted work (e.g., the Dejeuner sur l'herbe).

Work solo, collaboratively, or in a small group (each member responsible for five pages of story). As an alternative: you can develop a plot collaboratively in class, then each make (and modify) your own version of the story. In any case, discuss the project as a group before pursuing whichever approach you select.

We'll work on this comic for the next three weeks.

For the next class:

  1. Make character sketches for three characters and make some notes on them;
  2. Write a 1-2 page story outline (printed, not handwritten);
  3. Sketch (thumbnail) three different first pages for your projected comic: each should use (and try to take best advantage of) one of the three different modes of narration that we looked at in Hernandez's "Jerusalem Crickets," Tomine's "Hazel Eyes," and Clowes's "Blue Italian Shit."

If there's time today, we'll beginning to make character sketches for this project.

Homework

Reading

Technical, critical, theoretical:

  • Abel & Madden, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, chapters 11 (setting the stage) and 12 (constructing a world).
  • McCloud, Understanding Comics: Finish the book.
  • Douglas Wolk, "Pictures, Words, and the Space between Them" (on Sakai, under Resources, in the Theory & Criticism folder).
  • Zander Cannon, Tips and Tricks: Writing for Comics

Comics in Brunetti:

  • Kevin Huizenga, "The Curse" (291-300)

Linked Comics:

  • Alan Moore and Rick Veitch, Greyshirt story: "How Things Work Out" (Tomorrow Stories #2, 1999). (Also under Resources on Sakai.)
  • Mike Mignola, Hellboy in "Doctor Carp's Experiment" (on Sakai)
  • Richard McGuire, "Here"

Time Comic Prep

Complete the three parts of the Time Comic Prep described under the assignment above.

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Week Six

Thursday, Oct. 15

Work Due

Interview Comic.

One printed copy from each participant, each with its own title & credites splash panel. Each participant should also upload a copy to Sakai and Scribd.

Presentations

Understanding Comics

Dylan and Justin present on McCloud, UC, chapter 6. Next week: Goodman or Ehses (on Sakai); Abel and Madden, chapters 11 and 12.

Discussion

Looking at Your Comics

We'll look at the last sets of Pictureless Comics and Simple Narratives.

Complications without Resolution

Examples: Archer Prewitt's "Funny Bunny" and Adrian Tomine's "Hazel Eyes".

Narrative Arcs

Jessica Abel and Matt Madden's concept of the traditional narrative arc is a variation of the simple narrative structure.

Abel and Madden speak of "five essential ingredients":

  1. The protagonist
  2. The spark
  3. The escalation
  4. The climax
  5. The denouement

Agent and patient (at least one of the patients) combine as the protagonist, who exhibits three essential traits: he or she (1) "has our empathy"; (2) "has the motivation to pursue needs or desires"; and (3) "has the ability (hypothetically) to achieve those desires" (Abel and Madden 130). The complication becomes a "spark" that gets the story going. Multiple attempts at Resolution escalate toward a final, successful Resolution (or "Climax"), followed by the familar Denouement.

With the narrative arc firmly in mind, let's consider first Homer's Odyssey and then, more closely, Priddy's "Onion Jack." And, of course, Herbie.

Another staging of the narrative sequence:

List of functions in complete narrative sequence.

Fundamental stages of the narrative sequence according to Emma Kafalenos, "Functions after Propp: Words to Talk about How We Read Narrative," Poetics Today 18 (1997): 469-494.

New Graphic Narrative Genre: Fight-or-Run Comics

Topic: Relation between rule-based genres and rule-based games.

Some examples of Fight or Run comics by Kevin Huizenga (from the reading):

Activities

Fight or Run: Introduction

The Fight or Run activity is based strongly on Kevin Huizenga's "open source" comics game published as Fight or Run: The Shadow of Chopper (Buenaventura Press, 2008).

In Huizenga's Fight or Run comics two characters encounter each other in an otherwise unpopulated desert-like environment. Either both characters decide to fight or one of them decides to run and the other then pursues the runner. Within a finite number of panels either (a) one of the fighters is victorious (if the decision was to fight) or (b) the runner either escapes and wins or is caught and loses. The comic ends with a panel identifying the winner.

Fight or Run Diagram

Fight or Run Network of Options

Fight or Run Comic: Narrative Structure

The Fight or Run comic realizes the following structure:

  • Banner: At least one tier in size, containing the title ("Fight or Run") and both picturing and naming the characters (e.g., "Kid Tortuerer vs Chopper").
    Example: Fight or Run Banner
  • Situation stage: One or more panels showing Character A wandering in the desert (or other environment).
    Example: Fight or Run Situation
  • Complication stage: One panel showing the Character A encountering Character B.
    Example: Fight or Run Complication = Encounter
  • Decision stage: One panel (immediately following the Complication panel) announcing Character A's decision to Fight or Run.
    Example: Fight or Run Decision
  • Resolution stage: Two or more (usually more) panels showing A and B fighting or A chasing B. Ends with either A or B beating the other, B catching A, or A escaping.
    Example: Fight or Run Resolution
  • Denouement: One panel declaring = naming and picturing the winner.
    Example: Fight or Run Coda

Fight or Run Activity: Instructions

Here's the procedure for the in-class exercise:

  1. Form groups of two (or three, if necessary).
  2. Working on paper, each member designs a distinctive character. Give the character a look, a shape, a size, a name, a personality, and some traits. The character may or may not have powers. But he, or she, or it should have some ability, talent, tool, weapon, spirit companion, or useful pet. Your character may also have peculiar weakness, shortcoming, neurosis, deformity, lack, gap, etc.

  3. Share your character (all the details) with your partner(s).
  4. Working on paper, make a Fight or Run comic of at least seven panels in which your character, by whatever means, defeats your partner's character (or, if you're in a group of three, your partners' characters). Your character wins either (1) by defeating the other character(s) in a violent or non-violent contest of some kind ("fight"), or (2) by definitively escaping the contest ("run"). The "fight" can take any form that the intersection of your character's abilities, the other character's abilities, and the environment allows. Ditto, the running away. Part of the exercise is to discover an unusual solution to the problem.
  5. When finished: share your work.
  6. Note: each group member makes his or own Fight or Run comic in which his or her character, whether running or fighting, is victorious.
  7. For next week: scan and upload a PDF or high-quality JPG version of your Fight or Run comic to Sakai and Scribd.

Homework

Reading

Technical, critical, theoretical:

  • Abel & Madden, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, chapters 11 (setting the stage) and 12 (constructing a world).
  • McCloud, Understanding Comics. Chapters 7 and 8.
  • Ehses, "Representing Macbeth" (Sakai > Resources > Theory & Criticism)

Comics in Brunetti:

  • Gary Panter, Jimbo (107-14)
  • Jaime Hernandez, "Jerusalem Crickets" (349-54)
  • Dan Clowes, "Blue Italian Shit" (355-61)

    Linked Comics:

    Fight or Run

    Finish your Fight or Run comic. Scan and save. Upload a PDF or high-quality JPG version to the Sakai dropbox and to Scribd. Bring e-copy to class, where each team will combine comics and upload to Scribd.

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Week Five

Thursday, Oct. 8

Work Due

Interview Comic

Progress on the comic.

One for each group: a printed (not handwritten) script or panel-by-panel outline of the action and dialogue for the comic.

Presentations

Understanding Comics

Chris and Kristen present on McCloud, UC, chapter 5. Next week: Chapter 6.

Discussion

Sound Effects

A gallery of classic comic-book sound effects (and related lettering).

Coloring Your Comics

Here are some tutorials for coloring comics using Photoshop.

Looking at Your Comics

We'll look at the last set of Pictureless Comics and then at your Simple Narratives.

Activities

Interview Comic

Continue working on your Inteview Comic. You may want to use the class to layout/combine your work using the Macs.

Homework

Reading

Technical, critical, theoretical:

  • Abel & Madden, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, chapter 10
  • McCloud, Understanding Comics, chapter 6 and 7.
  • Nelson Goodman, "Twisted Tales" (on Sakai, under Resources, in the Theory & Criticism folder).

Comics in Brunetti:

  • Reread Tomine, "Hazel Eyes" (342-48)
  • French, "ZZZ" (32-34)
  • Prewitt, "Funny Bunny" (46)

Linked Comics:

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Week Four

Thursday, Oct. 1

Work Due

Simple Narrative Project

Turn in a physical (printed, photocopied, or handmade) copy of your eight-panel comic. Upload digital copies to Scribd and Sakai.

Simle Narrative Analysis

Print out your three analyses (two from Brunetti plus your own) on a single sheet of paper and submit this in the next class. (You do not need to upload this work to Scribd or Sakai.)

Presentations

Understanding Comics

Aliza and Vidhi present on McCloud, UC, chapter 2.

Kevin and Arron present on McCloud, UC, chapter 4.

Next week's presentation: UC, chapter 5.

Discussion

Important Technical Stuff

Combining multiple files (e.g., pages) into a single, multi-paged document.

Saving work for editing vs. saving work for sharing.

Adding metadata to your files.

Narrative Structure

Last week, we looked at how we can analyze a comics narrative into a sequence of different panel-to-panel transitions. We then saw how we can further analyze certain examples of narrative according to a simple four-part narrative structure: Situation, Complication, Response, and Denouement.

Next week we'll look at a related approach to narrative, the traditional narrative arc as described by Abel and Madden.

Here, however, is an example of a different simple narrative structure:

The debut comic strip by Yoshiharu Tsuge

Bizarre, the debut comic strip by Yoshiharu Tsuge, reprinted in Tsuge Yoshiharu Early Work Anthology, vol. 1, p. 9.

The standard four-panel structure of this strip is nicely analyzed in this Zippy strip:

Zippy

Zippy by Bill Griffith (source: Visual Linguist).

Examples for Discussion

Some of the Pictureless Comics. Two things to look at in particular: What resources for graphic storytelling or communication do these comics exemplify? And to what extent, do at least some of them, follow the simple narrative structure we examined last week?

Chris Ware's "I Guess" and excerpts from the Week Three reading and 100 Bullets.

Some further examples with reference to both this week's Abel-Madden reading and the interview (or conversation) comic assignment:

In the first example: notice Segar's plot and narration decisions, the use of delay and shifts of focus in telling the story.

In the second and third examples, notice how inanimate/nonhuman objects move from being props to almost being third characters in the represented action.

In the last example, notice how Cole balances a scene dominated by Dr Volt's thin blue outfit in the upper left against a second scene dominated by Woozy Wink's dotted, much fuller green outfit in lower right. Notice also how each of the two scenes has its own secondary or background activity: the cat and mouse drama above, the odd bespectacled figure (Plastic Man in disguise) below.

Activities

Interview Comic

Form groups of two or three and begin to plan, plot, script, layout, and make preliminary sketches for your Inteview Comic.

Homework

Reading

Technical, critical, theoretical:

  • Abel & Madden, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, chap. 9 (Structuring the Story).
  • McCloud, Understanding Comics, chapters 5 & 6.
  • Seymour Chatman essay on narrative (via Sakai; Theory folder).
  • Benoit Peeters, "Four Conceptions of the Page", trans. Jesse Cohn (ImageText 3.3).

Comics in Brunetti:

Oddly, not much straight conversation represented in the anthology.

Linked Comics:

  • Chris Ware, "I Guess" (1991, now really on Sakai)
  • Joel Priddy, "Onion Jack" (via Sakai).

Interview Comic

The final version is due in two weeks (Oct. 15). For the next week, each group must prepare and turn in a printed (not handwritten) script or panel-by-panel outline of the action and dialogue for the comic.

Finish drawing your panels (or as many as you can). Design and draw your title splash. Scan your work (if hand drawn). 600+ dpi recommended for line art, smaller for color.Save each PANEL (not page) as a separate TIFF file.

Bring an electronic copy of your work (e.g., on a flash drive) to class.

You'll have a chance in the next class to put the full comic together using Adobe InDesign or a similar program.

If you cannot make it to next week's class, do not leave your partner(s) in a bad spot. Send them digital copies of your panels via email so that they can finish their version of the comic in class. They'll then send you copies of their panels and you'll need to finish your own version independently. (Upload to our Scribd.com group as soon as you can).

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Week Three

Thursday, Sep. 24

Work Due

Diary Comic Assignment

Upload PDF versions of the diary comic to the "402_fall09" group on Scribd and the dropbox on Sakai. Turn in a printed or handmade version in class.

Iconic/Realistic Assignment

Upload PDF versions of this drawing and diagramming assigment to the "402_fall09" group on Scribd and the dropbox on Sakai. Turn in a printed or handmade version in class.

Presentations

Rebecca and Maribeth will co-present on McCloud, Understanding Comics, chapter THREE.

Next week's presentation: on chapters TWO and FOUR.

Discussion

Story versus Diary: Who Narrates and How?

More particularly: Autobiographical narrative (or recount) versus Diary.

Questions = Options

  • Is there a narrator?
  • If yes: Is he/she/it depicted in the comic?
  • Is the narrator a character in the story being told?
  • If so, is he/she/it the protagonist or a secondary character?

Some examples of different kinds of narrator in graphic narrative, mainly from the reading homework for this and last week.

Examples of diary comics from previous semesters.

Continuing with McCloud and Transition

Panel composition, page composition, and panel-to-panel transition.

Example of an action-to-action panel transtion.

Example of an action-to-action panel transition.

Types of panel-to-panel transition:

Where do subjective and objective shifts backwards in time (perceived-to-remembered and present-to-past respectively) fit in to this breakdown?

Here is what is possibly an example of a symbolic transition (from Jack Kirby):

Possible example of a symbolic transition: what Prince Namor sees.

And here's a page of symbolic transitions from Eddie Campbell:

A exemplary page of symbolic transitions by Eddie Campbell.

Next: Follow the panel transitions in Cliff Sterrett's Polly and Her Pals (March 3, 1929).

And in one of the Wrong Planet narratives from our previous class.

Simple Narrative Structure in Comics

A simple narrative structure has four essential parts or stages, each distinguished by its place in the sequence and by the story information it conveys.

  • The first stage describes a situation and introduces the main characters.
  • The second stage introduces a problem or complication into the situation, a change that is a problem for at least one of the main characters.
  • The third stage presents a resolution in the form of a partial or complete response to the problem by one or more of the characters, typically a solving action or longer process and its effect(s).
  • The fourth stage presents the denouement, the aftermath of the response that makes clear the success, partial success, non-success, or uncertain success of the response, often through the reactions of the main characters. The fourth stage may also show how the original situation has changed due to what has taken place in the Complication and Resolution stages of the narrative.

In sum, then:

SIMPLE GRAPHIC NARRATIVE:

Situation^Complication^Resolutionn^Denouement

Note: ^ = "is followed by" and the subscript n indicates that multiple iterations of the Resolution stage are possible.

Each of the four stages is obligatory, and each usually needs at least one panel of presentation. However, other kinds of graphic container (captions, word or thought balloons, inset panels) can be used in-panel to do the work of an absent panel. For example, dialogue in a word balloon, or words or images in a thought balloon, can be used to convey the denouement content from within the last of the resolution panels. Moreover, as I show below, overlapping or overflowing stages are not impossible; and, in some cases, a stage may be strongly implied rather than explicitly presented (e.g., a Resolution by the Denouement, although this is harder to do in a simple narrative than in, say, a gag strip).

Keep reading . . .

Activities

Reading Diary Comics

Circulate your diary comics. Read as many of them as you can in the time allowed. As you read try to get a sense of some of the things commonly and uncommonly done in this genre. As with the reading for this week: note the differences and similarities between these comics genre and comics of other kinds.

Sunday Comics Jumble

This in-class exercise has two phases: an activity phase, in which your group collaboratively constructs a narrative from found material (an old Sunday comics section), and a presentation phases, in which your group (1) presents your final narrative and (2) explains the panel transitions occuring therein. In the course of this, we'll also discover some of the ideology and conventions of late 1930s America, a strange and distant land.

Working in groups of four on the nutritious Big Macs, complete the jumble comics exercise described on pages 46-47 of Abel & Madden.

Here are the original instructions.

For this exercise we'll use the strange and beautiful Sunday Comics Sections from the Times-Picayune, June 25, 1939 (via the hard work and kindness of ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive).

Work in Photoshop.

As you're working one group member needs to keep a list of the panel-transition types for reference during the presentation portion of the activity.

When you've finished, save your comic jumble twice: (1) as an editable PDF, Tiff, or PSD and (2) as a PDF compressed for FAST WEB VIEWING. Upload the second (compressed) version to our "402_fall09" group on Scribd.

Homework

Reading

Technical, critical, theoretical:

  • Abel & Madden, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, chapters 6 and 14.
  • McCloud, Understanding Comics, chapter 4.
  • Douglas Wolk, "Pictures, Words, and the Space between Them" *on Sakai, under Resources, in the Theory & Criticism folder).
  • Nelson Goodman, "Twisted Tales" (on Sakai, under Resources, in the Theory & Criticism folder).
  • Ron Rege Jr., Dave Choe, Brian Ralph, and Jordan Crane, A Guide to Reproduction (.pdf).

Comics in Brunetti:

  • Collier, "Artist" (90-97)
  • Mazzuchelli, "Near Miss" (259-67)
  • Seth, excerpt from Clyde Fans (333-42)

Linked Comics:

  • TBA

Simple Narrative Project

Drawing on our discussion of simple narrative structure, follow Gilbert Hernandez's example and make your own eight-panel simple narrative.

Again: It should have each of the four parts – Situation, Complication, Solution, Denouement – in the standard order. You should also fill each of the following standard roles: Context, Complicator, Patient, Agent, Mirror, and Prop (at least one of each, with the exception of Agent and Patient, which can be filled by the same character or characters). Contextual Characters are optional.

And again: The Situation should introduce the Context, the Agent, and the Patient. The Complication needs to introduce the Complicator. (For role definitions, see the list of roles above.) The Solution needs to present one or more solving actions on the part of the Agent and the effect of each action (evidence of its success, partial success, failure, or unintended consequence[s]). And the Denouement needs to present the agent's and/or patient's reaction to the solution, a modified situation, or a return to the pre-complication situation.

Your comic must be eight panels, fitting on one or two pages. It can be in color or black and white or anything in between. And as with the diary comi, it can be made by hand or digitally or through some combination of the two, and in any style that works. Also: It can be silent, like "Pipowear!"; worded, like "Mosquito"; or pictographic, like "God."

As you work on your story, remember that situations can be bad, full of problems, and complications can be good.

If you're stuck for an idea, use one of the incidents from your Diary Comic as a starting point. What was the complication? How did you respond? How did you feel afterwards? How did the combination of complication and response change the situation?

Turn in a physical copy next week; upload digital copies to Scribd and Sakai.

Simle Narrative Analysis

Select two comics in Brunetti that exhibit (follow) a simple four-part narrative structure. Briefly summarize what happens in each part of the structure. If you cannot find two comics that follow the structure strictly, specify how any two comics in Brunetti diverge from the structure.

Specify the breakdown for your own comic. Which panels belong to the Situation, the Complication ,etc.

Print out your three analyses on a single sheet of paper and submit this in the next class. (You do not need to upload this work to Sakai.)

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Week Two

Thursday, Sep. 10

Work Due

Scribd Sign-Up

If you haven't yet: Register for Scribd and send a request to join the "402_fall09" group.

Drawing, Photographing, and Describing: Your Desk

Turn in a printed copy of your description, a copy of your drawing, and a copy of the photograph (a black and white computer printout is fine). These can all be printed on the same sheet of paper or on separate sheets, Whichever works.

Pictureless Comic

A physical copy of your pictureless comic (printed, photocopied, or handmade) is due at the start of class. In addition: Upload an electronic copy (scanned if not originally digital) to to our "402_fall09" group on Scribd by the start of class; and also to the Sakai dropbox.

Presentations

Understanding Comics

Two volunteers nedded for presenting on McCloud, Chapter THREE, in the next class.

Discussion

Scribd Sign-Up

If you haven't yet: Register for Scribd and send a request to join the "402_fall09" group.

Grading Criteria

Below are the general grading criteria for the composing graphic narratives course. Specific assignments might have some additional criteria.

  • Clarity: The clarity of panel content and transition. How easy or difficult is it for your reader to tell what is going on in a panel or to effect closure between series of panels. Clarity is a relative value. Some narratives exploit ambiguity or obscurity. Clarity becomes a problem when ambiguous or obscure narration is not a (clear) intention of the work.
  • Completeness: The degree to which your work satisfies the basic requirements of the assignment. (E.g., if the assignment specifies that your narrative take place in a cold climate, does it take place in one? If the assignment specifies no more than three characters in at least nine panels, do you have four characters? only six panels?)
  • Care (or Correctness): Correct spelling, submitting all your pages, having all the basic pieces in place (e.g., title).
  • Effort: Visible effort put into the assignment.
  • Interest: What you do with the assignment.

Clarity/Legibility

Here we'll take a look at some examples to get a better sense of some aspects of what I mean by clarity or legibility. (These examples are not comprehensive.)

Example of deliberate illegibity in a comics panel.

Example of deliberate illegibility in a comics panel.

Here is another case to examine: Porch Days.

Kinds of Narrative: Story versus Diary

More particularly: Autobiographical narrative (or recount) versus Diary.

Questions = Options

  • Is there a narrator?
  • If yes: Is he/she/it depicted in the comic?
  • Is the narrator a character in the story being told?
  • If so, is he/she/it the protagonist or a secondary character?

Some examples of different kinds of narrator in graphic narrative, some from the reading homework for this week.

Examples of diary comics from previous semesters.

And some short excerpts from diary comics from a previous semester.

Graphic Narrative Inference

Skippy comic strip by Percy Crosby.
Skippy comic strip by Percy Crosby.
Chew Boy, comic strip by Nicholas Gurewitch.

Activities

Wrong Planet

With these words on inference-making and stretching (slowing down) and compressing (speeding up) the narrative in mind, we'll work on Pahl Hluchan's "Wrong Planet" activity, described in the Abel & Madden textbook on page 31.

Work in groups of four to six members. Use the yellow Post-Its provided.

Homework

Reading

Technical, critical, theoretical:

  • Abel & Madden, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, preface, introduction, and chapters 1 and 2. Read through the chapters but don't do the activities or homework assignments.
  • McCloud, Understanding Comics: skim chapter one for interest, then read chapters two and three carefully.

Diary Comics in Brunetti:

  • McShane, "09/12/04" (154-56)
  • Park, "Sunday, April 4th" (157)
  • Davis, "September 1, 2005" (158), "September 3, 2005" (159), and "September 5, 2005" (160)

Other Comics in Brunetti:

  • C.F., "MM22" (123-29)
  • Hernandez, "Mosquito" (74)
  • Sacco, "White Death" (227-41)
  • Drechsler, "Constellations" (199-203)
  • Tomine, "Hazel Eyes" (342-48)

What are some differences and similarities between the diary comics and the other comics from this and last weeks' readings? For instance: Do the diary comics have a sense of ending? If some of them do, what creates that sense of ending? What makes a diary comic different from an autobiograpical comic or memoir like Bechdel's "Compulsory Reading" or Spiegelman's "Eyeball"? from interview-based journalism like Sacco's "White Death"? from a heavily narrated story like Tomine's "Hazel Eyes," or a virtually unnarrated story like C.F.'s "MM22"? Or from a story told by a character within a story, like Tara's dream recount in "Hazel Eyes"?

Be ready to consider these differences and similarities in the next class as we begin to considered different kinds of (graphic) narrative structure.

Linked Comics:

  • None for this week.

Diary Comic Assignment

Complete the diary comic assignment for the next class. In brief: this involves maintaining a two-week diary in comics form.

Iconic/Realistic Assignment

In chapter two of Understanding Comics, McCloud describes the continuum of icons, from the more realistic to the more purely iconic. For this homework exercise, select eight different comics from the Brunetti anthology. On a sheet of white paper, do your best to copy a character face/head from each of these and order them in a line from most iconic to most realistic. Under each face/head record the name of the cartoonist you're copying and the page you're copying from.

Don't worry about making perfect or even very close copies. Just do your best and make sure your label each with its source.

Note: As an alternative to lining up your copied heads, your can number them from 1 to 8, with 1 being the most realistic and 8 the most iconic.

Presentation

Over the next few weeks, you'll present short (five-minute or so) summaries of the critical and theoretical readings, beginning with Understanding Comics, chapter three, for the next class. These presentations will be given in groups of two.

Summarize the theory or argument of the chapter, listing and defining any key words.

Find or create your own examples to illustrate the author's ideas (to supplement his or her own examples in the reading). Present these in Powerpoint or Keynote or via Acrobat or a graphics program (or, if the visuals are of your own creation, via Scribd).

Again: The first presentation group will prepare and present a five-minute summary of McCloud's Understanding Comics, chapter three.

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Introduction

This course is devoted to the analysis and production of narrative that uses non-moving pictures, page composition, and graphic devices such as panels, word balloons, and arrows, along with written language, to do a varied range of things that we use narrative to do: inform, instruct, entertain, transform, persuade, etc.

In this respect, graphic narrative, as we will use the term in this course, remains broadly construed. There are many different kinds and genres of graphic narrative. Some are fictional, some are not; some are entertaining, and others are merely informative. Comics are one major kind of graphic narrative, but not all comics belong to the category.

Here is a diagram showing the membership relations of graphic narrative and comics to each other and to some other big categories we'll tend to use this semester.

Graphic Narrative Diagram

Diagram showing membership relations between the categories of graphic narrative, comics, narrative in general, fiction, non-fiction, and drawing. The point being that comics can be narrative or non-narrative, fictional or non-fictional, drawn or not-drawn. When comics are narrative, they fall within the category of graphic narrative.

Week One

Thursday, Sep. 3

Discussion

Introduction

Welcome to the first class of the semester.

Books for the Course

These are the main books we'll be using:

  1. Jessica Abel, and Matt Madden. Drawing Words & Writing Pictures: Making Comics: Manga, Graphic Novels, and Beyond. New York: First Second, 2008.
  2. Scott McCloud. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperPerrenial, 1994.
  3. Ivan Brunetti, ed. Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories. Volume 2. New Haven: Yale UP, 2006.

They'll be supplemented richly by a large number of online and scanned comics and a few handouts.

Three Conceptions of Comics

We'll be working with three conceptions of comics:

  • Comics as information = approach comics in general as an evolving body of techniques for storing and communicating information, very often narrative information. For example:
    Two panels from a Polly and Her Pals Sunday page.

    Two panels from a Polly and Her Pals Sunday page by Cliff Sterrett.

    Another example:

    Herge - They Explored the Moon - page 1

    Another example: Sarah McIntyre, "Dear David Lasky" (one that points to its informational character).

    Comics as Misinformation: History of the Heavy Metal Logo.

  • Comics (or cartooning) as interpretation, an idea put forward by Douglas Wolk in his book Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean, parts of which we'll be reading shortly. Wolk argues that comics don't simply reflect or record or report on the world in straightforward way, but "interpret" (or subjectively distort) the world in particular ways – through the style of the cartoonist (how the world is shown) as much as through the representational content (what parts or versions of the world are shown).
  • Comic as an art form (or place) in which anything can happen. This idea applies both to the content represented in a comic story or graphic narrative and to the form itself.

    Here is an example of some things that can happen in (as) a graphic narrative: Untitled story by Yves Chaland from Heavy Metal magazine.

Presentations

Narrative: Before and After in Comics

After reviewing the syllabus, requirements, policies, etc., we'll take a first extended look at some examples of graphic narrative in comics and other forms.

Graphic narrative in comics: the Before and the After.

Comics Terminology

Review of some basic formal terminology used to talk about comics/graphic narrative.

And while we're at it, we'll take a look at two other references: Nate Peikos's article on Comic Book Grammar & terminology and Dash Shaw's "Cartooning Symbolia" (.pdf).

Activities

Before and After Exercise

Description of exercise: In groups of four examine the linked examples. For each one, determine what happens before (what leads to) the image or depicted scene and what follows from it. In other words, construct a general story surrounding the image. Then, for each image, describe a panel preceding the image and another panel following it. What action is shown in the panel? What, if anything, is said?

For this activity, use these three examples.

When we're done, we'll take a look at this exciting picture by Jack Kirby. How is the Kirby picture different from the three panels we used in the exercise? If you were to use this panel in the preceding exercise, what would be different?

Panel Lottery Activity

This is a variation of an activity designed by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, authors of Drawing Words . . ..

For this activity, follow these instructions.

Homework

Reading

Technical, critical, theoretical:

  • Abel & Madden, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, preface, introduction, and chapters 1 and 2. Read through the chapters but don't do the activities or homework assignments.
  • Mark Newgarden and Paul Karasik, How to Read Nancy (PDF).
  • McCloud, Understanding Comics, skim chapter 1 for interest, read chapter 2 carefully.
  • Conrad Taylor, "But I Can't Draw!" (.pdf)

Special reading for the Pictureless Comic assignment:

Comics in Brunetti:

  • Joe Sacco, excerpt from Soba (Brunetti 329-36)

Linked Comics:

Register for 402 Fall 09 Scribd Group

Register for the 402_fall09 group on Scribd. To find the group, simply search for "402_fall09" on the Scribd website.

Once you've registered, you'll need to send a membership request. I'll check on these early next week and accept your requests by next Wednesday.

Drawing, Photographing, and Describing: Your Desk

This is the first part of a series of related exercises. It will end somewhere, although I'm not sure where just yet.

This first part has five steps:

  1. Photograph your desk (or an equivalent workspace that you use for drawing, writing, etc.).
  2. Draw a picture of your desk (sketch or use a computer application). Try to include all the objects on your desk.
  3. Write a 150-300 word technical description of your desk, including the objects on it.
  4. Draw a picture of yourself (realistic or fantastic) scaled to your desk drawing (later you will combine these).
  5. Scan the drawings of your desk and yourself. Scan at at least 300 dpi for grayscale or color, at least 600 dpi for black and white line art. Save as PSD or TIFF.

Turn in a printed copy of your description, a copy of your drawing, and a copy of the photograph (a black and white computer printout is fine). These can all be printed on the same sheet of paper or on separate sheets, Whichever works.

Pictureless Comic

Make a nine panel comic using any features of the form but NO pictures. That is: you can use word balloons, thought balloons, motion/speed lines, sound effects, fancy borders (including broken and overlapping borders), and emanata (see Drawing Words, pages 7-8). You can even use impact symbols (i.e., the jagged shapes used to indicate the fact and intensity of impact in fight scenes, accidents, etc.). But you can't use any pictures (no figures, no objects, no backgrounds).

Your comic should contain the following elements, which it needs to convey non-pictorially:

  • cold-climate setting
  • two human and one non-human (animal, plant, or alien) characters
  • an object possessing a distinct physical property (e.g., very heavy, very warm, very soft, very loud, very brittle, very painful to touch).

Your comic should also do its best to include:

  • a piece of dialogue (or captioned exposition) used as both a question and an answer (i.e., in different panels).

Note that, despite the absence of figures and scenery, your comic does not have to be set in the dark, or a snow storm, or a blinding light, or represent the subjective experience of a blind narrator. That is: you do not need to explain (internally) the absence of the usual pictorial content. Although you may do so if you wish.

You can make the comic using pen and paper or a graphics program. While you might want to vary panel size, layout, or borders as part of your comic, here is a 9-panel grid (.pdf) to help you get started.

Here is an example of a short pictureless comic by Abel and Madden.

Some more examples courtesy of Derik Badman:

And a pictureless comic of a kind by the terrifici Eddie Campbell: Good Night Sweetheart (.jpg).

A physical copy of your pictureless comic (printed, photocopied, or handmade) is due at the start of the next class. You should also upload an electronic copy (scanned if not originally digital) to to our "402_fall09" group on Scribd by the start of the next class; and also to the Sakai dropbox.

Again: If scanning your work, 300 dpi should be fine for color or grayscale; but use at least 600 dpi for purely black-and-white (no grays) line art. Save the scan as a TIFF file or as a PDF to our Scribd group and to the Sakai dropbox.

Note: When saving an image as a PDF (e.g., in Photoshop), select "high quality print" as your setting.

Scanners are available in all the campus computer labs as well as in Mason Gross.

Note: If you have trouble uploading to Sakai and/or Scribd, bring an electronic copy of your work to class (e.g., via flash drive or email) and we'll upload in class.

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