Friday, April 19, 2013

Ch3: Sequential Art by any other name...

At last, two long overdue pages! Very pleased with what emerged and worth all the time they took. 

The first page addresses what to call this thing? I have this conversation all the time: "I'm doing my dissertation in comics form." Confused response, "Oh, you mean graphic novels?" "Yes, that."

It seemed like at some point I had to address that question in the dissertation as I started to discuss the specifics of the medium I'm working in itself. Initially, I'd thought about a page or two outlining the lineage of visual storytelling and making some sort of map around it - akin to what I did years ago to map the history of games in the Possibilities comic (See below). Ultimately I decided Scott McCloud had addressed so well this already, as had Lancelot Hogben in his 1949 book "From Cave Paintings to Comic Strips." Instead, I opted to play with visual and verbal metaphors (more similar to the Rabbit page also from Possibilities) and explore the fact that the name is less important than what it does. And that speaks more to the point of this chapter - an exploration of how visual and verbal modes work differently and how they can work together...

The second page, begins to lay out my thinking on how comics work (reworking and expanding on my piece the shape of our thoughts). Specifically, I'm starting with McCloud's definition and the sequential aspect of comics, before I move on and address their simultaneous properties on the following page. A lot of this rethinking and wrestling with McCloud's and others' notions on the sequential nature of comics has come in a big way from thinking with my students. If you compare this to the similar page in the shape of our thoughts earlier piece, you'll see an evolution in my perspective on this. What I felt is most important about the sequential comes down to McCloud's notion that time=space and the reader's participatory role in stitching the fragments together. My initial design thoughts had to do with a sequence of events - ala Mousetrap or Rube Goldberg event - but I felt the relied too much on seeing the simultaneity of the page, which I didn't want to get to yet. And then, the idea of the seasons struck me - and their very clear sequential nature - and seemed like the perfect way to demonstrate this idea naturally. This then led me to make the connection to ancient calendars - as a means of recording the passage of time in space. These earliest notations - not all that unlike comic books - were so necessary to early peoples to time crops to celebrate the coming of longer days to come and more. The behind the scene notation mark near the upper right is a redrawing of a paleolithic lunar calendar, and it's right edge juxtaposes with a sequence of the sun setting on the solstice at Stone Henge - time quite literally written in space. I had a lot of synchronicity making this - my mom happened to send me pictures of maple icicles on the tree in front of our house, and I was already working icicles into the sequence. In telling stories to represent the seasons changing, I got the chance to work my dog in again! as we observe Orion and I'm particularly excited about the intersection of fall and spring as represented in the maple leaves sprouting and falling from the tree limb. There are a lot more stories unfolding and metamorphosizing throughout the winding path - but I'll keep quiet and invite you to explore... - Nick 
(As always, these are low-res versions of my pages - in the case of the sequence page, that may make the detail more than a little difficult to see... Sorry about that. When it gets to print - all will be sharp!)
From Possibilities 2006, pages on the history of games. What I didn't do here.
My page on the sequential nature of comics from "The Shape of Our Thoughts" for comparison.


Joseph said...

I had a few thoughts about your dissertation in general. I like the idea. And, having only casually studied philosophy in the past, I've found this comic to be much more clear than other philosophy works I've perused.

I like the progression thus far, really motivating your views without necessarily tangenting. I imagine finding the pace for a philosophy-based comic can be quite difficult as the intention is to open the mind of the reader to new ways of thinking and communicating, but if it becomes too dense or progresses too slowly then only academics will consume it and it will not serve it's purpose.

My favorite panel is in chapter 1, 7th page ( It drives your point home well and looks great. It strongly reminds me of the specification of a turing machine as an infinite length tape. Insinuating that our current society is dehumanizing us.

Some of your imagery reminds me of the fictional people of D'ni from the Myst series. They were incredibly logical and analytical, which most people would believe would cause them to become less human and creative, but to the contrary they achieve some remarkable artistic feats and have a strong inclination to portray ideas through sketching.

Also, I love the perspective in your panels. I'm curious if you take the time to draw out all those complex grids or if you're producing them digital.

Finally, and I realize this probably isn't your highest priority, but I love the print job on the version of the comic you gave me. The ink feels raised on it. Did you use a dye sublimation printing process? Regardless, it's beautiful.

I'm sure I had more interesting things to say a week ago when I read it, but I wanted to wait until after your interview was posted to make some comments. I'm definitely going to continue reading.

nsousanis said...

Hi Joseph, thanks for your thoughtful and thorough comments!
It is a tricky tightrope walk between being adequately deep and widely accessible - but i think, and this is a big part of my general argument - that in making meaning through the visuals i can present a great depth of information that's not impenetrable.

I'm a big fan of the page on boxes as well (in this sequence from Ch1: - hadn't thought of a Turing machine there, but with all of them hope that the image is both suggestive and ambiguous enough to be a generative experience for the reader. You are demonstrating that!
Don't know Myst at all - have to look it up.

re: perspective drawing. While yes, i work digitally, i do draw them all out as i would on paper. Have never learned the tools that might make them easier, and i feel, might make them look as if the machine drew them. Happy to have my lack of perfect rendering a part of the work.

Yeah, i love those prints as well. I actually don't know how it's done - I get them made at my school and they're printed black and white on a color printer, but the raised ink is quite nice. Definitely something i'd want to see in a final product.

Thanks for all your thinking - and keep on reading! Best, Nick

Russell Willerton said...

That's a handsome dog! Can't wait to see the finished diss. I am astounded by the work you are doing.

nsousanis said...

Russell, thanks for the shout out for my dog! I was so pleased to be able to work him in to the narrative once, and now he's appeared on a few pages... He was a good friend and inspiration. Thanks too for the kind words about the work! Best, Nick