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Under Construction

NEW! Image Processing in the Visual Arts - Entering the Imagosphere. Slide show with sound commentary. Note: This is a prototype; the "speech" is more or less spontaneous. There are a few cases where the last item on the slide is not fully explained. I was limited to 60 seconds per slide. The sound starts simultaneously with each slide. Disable popup blockers if you do not hear sound. Feedback welcome for this experimental talk.

Current King Features Comics Reprints of relatively current daily and weekly strips owned by King Features. Includes Flash Gordon.

Comics 2 Film Current news, rumor, links, fan message boards related to film projects based on comics.

Miscellaneous Art and Comments:

1. Less is more. The early Flash Gordon Strips are like romance novels. Plots are relatively simple allowing reader to create an imaginative, romantic space in which to vicariously dwell. Quick, compressed, narration and evocative artwork combine to form an open narrative structure that the reader can imaginatively expand.

The early Flash Gordon strips of 1948-1951 featured precise linearity and stark black and white only. The artist was also famous for his woodcuts. One can see why. Story lines and drawings were quite schematic. This early (1948) image is typical, combining visual simplicity with a romantic narrative to achieve its effect. Note the reflection of Flash's face. Compare to current Flash strip. Art Copyright King Features Syndicate, 2003.
One of the "rules" of this strip was that Dale's hair will never get seriously out of place! She is generally allowed a rather limited range of facial expressions, but her expression here is quite interesting, given her supposed circumstances. Dale's stoic realism has an element of religious awe, while Flash expresses good ol' American optimism. Certainly, fearlessness in the face of death is a characteristic of comic book heroes that has not changed much since these early strips. Art Copyright King Features Syndicate, 2003.

2. Graphic realism and cinema. New printing processes allow artists to create almost too realistic environments. Contemporary comic books rarely stick to the strip (frame by frame) format. Instead, cinema is suggested. Detailed art work can often be stunning, but also leaves less to the imagination.

In contrast to some older strips, many contemporary comics give their characters a huge visual/emotional/narrative range. This example from Wolverine shows the hero in one of his many moods. The cinematic collage of visual frames places the reader (spectator) between Wolverine and his current threat (woman with a gun pointed at him). This encounter with Wolverine later becomes the basis for a sexual dream sequence/fantasy. From: Wolverine, Vol. 1: The Brotherhood, Copyright 2003 by Marvel Comics.
Here, Wolverine is emotionally drained by his recent battle -- just another example of the complex emotional life given to contemporary heroes. From: Wolverine, Vol. 1: The Brotherhood, Copyright 2003 by Marvel Comics.

3. Yugi: Postmodern Pastiche. This series of Magna (comic strip, or graphic novels) is very popular in Japan and internationally. It contains almost too many postmodern elements to mention. A sampling below.

Alienating/Out-of-context Devices. At right are two rendition "types" of the same character, used in the same story, often on the same page. This is an odd graphic/artistic convention that both alienates the reader from the story (a Brechtian element) and simultaneously, instantly, transforms the visual context/story structure from "adult" graphic art to child's amateur sketch book -- a great example of postmodern ambiguity about narrative form. This extreme graphic transformation of protagonists is not to be found in more traditional character/hero-bound works, such as those produced by Marvel. As a graphic/narrative device, I find it too extreme. Nevertheless, given the multi-faceted, postmodern nature of the Yugi series, it prevents the reader/author from taking the narrative too seriously, and it probably adds rather than subtracts from the work as a whole. From: Iushigi Yugi: The Mysterious Play, by Yu Watase. Copyright by Yu Watase/Shogankukan, Inc.
Commentary on the Text. At various points in the novel, the author inserts a column of text with notes to the reader about the art of story construction, drawings, her own thoughts on the story, background on how she came to write it, and so on. From: Iushigi Yugi: The Mysterious Play, by Yu Watase. Copyright by Yu Watase/Shogankukan, Inc.
Androgyny and Sexual Ambiguity. The left panel shows the male love interest introduced in Volume 1 of the story. The right panel shows another male (the Emperor) dressed as a female, and, momentarily, mistaken for a female. One of the female characters introduced in the story has extraordinary physical strength. From: Iushigi Yugi: The Mysterious Play, by Yu Watase. Copyright by Yu Watase/Shogankukan, Inc.

4. Clash of Visual and Narrative Conventions. Jeff Smith's Bone series combines the traditional fantasy narrative (dragons/evil forces/princess/heroes) with the comic relief of three "cousins" who appear to be visual knock offs of Casper the Friendly Ghost. Thus, the reader wavers between willing suspension of disbelief (desiring to take the fantasy seriously) and self-conscious awareness of the crudely/symbolically drawn children's comicbook characters that underlie the conventions of the medium. Bone's universe is jarring, combines conventions that would normally be opposed, and is nevertheless a multi-dimensional, fully functional, universe for postmodern readers.

Visual Planes Represent Narrative Levels. The front plane has two cows, representing innocence and detachment. The imagery recalls Medieval paintings and Henri Rousseau. The second plane shows our heroes, a human depicted with some degree of realism, and two "Casper" characters. They react to the evil creatures in the back plane that supply the tension in the story. From: Bone Volume 3: Eyes of the Storm. Copyright, Jeff Smith, 1996.
Visual/Texual Quotations from the Cannon. Here, Bone has a dream in which he plays the role of Ishmael, and his cousin becomes Ahab. The dream portends future events in the fantasy world of Bone at the same time that it provides commentary on the tradiation of narration and comic relief. From: Bone Volume 3: Eyes of the Storm. Copyright, Jeff Smith, 1996.

5. Political/Narrative HyperRealism. Nothing says "truth" like exageration. In 1988 Batman comics allowed its readers to decide whether to kill off Robin. They did. But first, DC writers revealed that Robin's actual mother was an embezzler. They killed her too. In the same story, the Joker becomes aligned with Islamic extremists and Komenhi. The Joker becomes the Iranian ambassador to the U.N. In a stunning anticipation of the mentality that brought on 9/11, the Joker attempts to kill everyone in the the U.N.