Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Adaptation, Obsessions, Comics & Reasoning

In the film Adaptation, a man tells a woman about the different passions he's had: for antique mirrors, for fish, for orchids, and how he has discarded each without looking back. She is stunned. How can  he possibly abandon a project on which he's spent time and love? He's felt so passionately about each and each has encompassed him. How can he discard them like shells?

Our interests change. We get bored. We are curious and we like to learn. We don't greet each other with, "What's the same?" We ask, "What's new?" The soul must move on.

I've been casting about for the next project and this week's obsession is comics. I pulled out the book Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud to see if I could find some inspiration in its pages.The book is stuffed with examples and rules and explanations. McCloud writes, "In short: there are no rules [turn the page]…And here they are" (5-6). Some of the suggestions are specific to drawing comics, many of them apply to making books.

I'm particularly fond of the section that talks about the relationship between images and words. I mentioned it in a previous post. But here are a few more insights that I'm going to keep thinking about:

"Your story's moments should be like a dot-to-dot puzzle. Remove one dot and you change the shape of the story" and "Each panel shows a complete action" (14). The moments can go fast or more slowly, depending on how many panels or pages the sequence spans.  The reader needs time to understand and process the information presented, and to linger with it, to enjoy it or to be scared/frightened/freaked-out/by it completely. Getting lost in a fictional world is a good thing, but only when there are no real consequences.

Be specific (27). We delight in the flower pattern on the sneakers, the crayon marks on the comic walls. It means we are in a real place that has patterns and vices.

Comics can show details, but they are also about dialogue. In our present culture of reality TV, first-person blogs, and social networking sites, we are familiar with—possibly overloaded with—personal opinions. Comics can provide those opinions through dialogue between characters: through arguments and reactions as well as through humor or through heightened style.

Online comics can reach a huge number of readers. XKCD by Randall Munroe deals with current events, science, and life in general, and it is made of stick figures that show a surprising amount of personality. A great animal comic that addresses human foibles, irony, and our child selves is Hi, I'm Liz, drawn by Liz Climo, who works on the animated TV show, The Simpsons

I have two comic muses. Remy Charlip got my attention when I was seven with his book of humorous drawings, puns, watercolors, and tales, Arm in Arm. The artist I discovered when I was eighteen, and who continues to directly inspire my drawing and art, with wordplay, thumbprints, rubber stamps, watercolors, and assemblage is Saul Steinberg (1914-1999) who "defined drawing as a 'way of reasoning on paper.'" This "way of reasoning" is an ongoing exploration, and perhaps that is why we grab onto one thing and become obsessed: to try to understand the world again…this week.

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