Posts Tagged ‘Ken Parille’

Best Online Comics Criticism 2010


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

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About a year ago, Ng Suat Tong invited me to help judge his annual online comics criticism event. Not seeing a good reason against it at the time, I agreed. (As you may remember, Frank participated last time around.) It was definitely an imperfect exercise, but I knew that going in. More on that later.

First, the winners, as listed by Suat here. (He also provided commentary on the panel as a whole and some of the runners up.)

1. “The Other Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name”, by Jason Thompson (6 votes)

I was apparently the only judge who didn’t vote for this article, which surprises me. Not because Thompson’s article is poor—in fact, I think it is a fine overview of an exotic (to Americans) cultural subject—but because it doesn’t seem to me to be criticism at all. The closest thing to a critical judgment that I can find in the essay comes in the summing-up statement: “In short, although a few artists like Moto Hagio write serious stories about the consequences of incest and child abuse, most manga and anime creators flirt with incest for kink, comedy and emotional effect.” Not exactly an electrifying insight.

Still and all, if this had been a competition designed simply to identify 2010’s best writing about comics on the internet, I may well have voted for this. But it wasn’t, and I didn’t.

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Wood and Clowes


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

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A photo you can stare at for hours.

Daniel Clowes has never made a secret of his Wally Wood fixation. Wood’s life and career, in all its lurid glory and splendid squalor held a particular fascination for Clowes when the younger cartoonist was starting out, a fascination that continues to this day. One example worth calling attention to: compare Gil Ortiz’s amazing photograph of Wood sitting by a typewriter (found here)with the back of the cover Clowes did for Ivan Brunetti’s An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories, volume 2. The large panel with the cartoonist sitting on his bed is clearly inspired by the Ortiz photo.

The entire cover, a fine example of Clowes’ recent move into fragmented storytelling, calls out for a Parille-ite close reading. Briefly, the large panel with the cartoonist on the bed is, I think, the central scene. All the major graphic elements for the front cover and the various smaller fragments are taken from stuff the cartoonist sees in his room. The whole page is about the relationship between the limited physical space a cartoonist works in (the squalid room) and the products of his imagination. This relationship shows elements of both discrepancy (the images the cartoonist draws are more romantic than the reality) as well as linkage (the graphic elements of what the cartoonist draws are taken from stuff around him). Especially interesting is the fact that the cartoon Ivan Brunetti is nothing like the actually existing Brunetti: the cartoonist only deals with the editor through the phone and has an unreal (and hyper-exaggerated) image of what the editor is like.

Clowes cover.

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Unintentional Connections?


Friday, January 29, 2010

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A while back on Blog Flume, Ken Parille wrote an interesting post deploying Ivan Brunetti’s idea that one of the “common pitfall” of cartooning is the making of “unintentional connections” between images in different panels. (Brunetti made that statement in his great little book Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice).

In post and the comments section, the question was raised as to how to decide whether an connection is unintentional or not. Most good cartoonists care about not just what’s inside a panel but how panels relate to each other, not to mention the composition of the whole page.

Here is an example that illustrates the problem: two panels from Billy DeBeck’s Barney Google Sunday page of November 15, 1925. The left facing bull in the first panel does make a connection to the image of the same bull facing right in the second panel: instead of one bull in two panels we seem to be looking at one weird, two-headed monster. More subtly, the sweep of the horizon line in the two panels seems continuous. Was DeBeck aware of what he was doing? Does intentionality even matter, or should we just treasure the overall effect?

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