ENGL 300: The Graphic Novel George Mason University (Spring 2011)

27Apr/11Off

Bayou and the fey

Posted by jairhart

After reading some of the first readers posts, and remembering what was discussed in class, I found myself agreeing with what Daynee Rosales was talking about with Bayou being almost like Pan's Labyrinth meets Nat Turner.  Both of the stories of Bayou and Pan's Labyrinth deal with themes of racism, and how the perspective of the main character radically changes as she enters a world of a decidedly fey nature.  After it opens up with a lynching, where Nat Turner ended with one, Lee dives into the pond and reemerges in a world straight out of a dark fairytale.  In this world of talking animals, bizarre magic and a skewed view of history where the line between illusion and reality starts to blur.  There's the fact that Lee is a child, so there is a certain level of exaggeration on her part, and some of the events that happened to her could be in her head, that if you suffer enough emotional trauma, you could potentially retreat into a world that's all in your head.  Then again, she really could have talked to a drunken, lecherous bear-priest.  You never know.

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20Apr/11Off

Re:Unwritten meets Pagemaster

Posted by lsanfiel

I totally agree with ahart9's claims that this novel is a lot like the Pagemaster.  When I was first reading this novel it reminded me of those comics they would pass out to third grader bemoaning the use of drugs.  It really took me back to my childhood in a weird way.  I really don't like this graphic novel personally which is not say that it isn't a good novel but it just don't cut the mustard for me personally.  I also thought Tom was really obnoxious and angsty and I understand that it's a set up for a character arc and what not but I think it's always a daring move when an author makes their main character so unpalatable because no matter how the character may change a reader's first impression is often their last or only impression.  For whatever reason I just could not get over the way these pages where set up and the way the characters were developed.  I just found it irksome, but I still am glad that I've had a chance to read it because it is interesting to look back at all the novels we've read so far and notice the different styles of storytelling and artistic interpretation.

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13Apr/11Off

Responding to Lines and Circles

Posted by ahart9

I agree with you on this being a good graphic novel. I actually liked this one the best. It made me laugh on almost every page with its crude and sarcastic humor. I didn't expect that from this book because the drawing style got in my way at first. I slowly got use to it as I went along. Yeah, I thought that was really cool how he wrote out speeches that were covered up by the other bubble. It really gave the feel of annoyance and tension for the other character, like poor Daisy. I also noticed that when Asterios spoke sometimes there were quotes around his words because it wasn’t the dead brother (narrator) talking. I also noticed the same thing with the way people were drawn. That really bothered me at first, but like you, I noticed how each of the different ways represent different meanings for the characters and their relationships. The ending was my favorite part. If you remember from the beginning where that one guy tells the automotive guy if it was safe to go to work and Asterios makes fun of him for it. Making it sound like it was stupid for that guy to do that and then at the very end where everything was finally right a HUGE meteor is coming down to kill them both. I laughed loud and hard on that one.

 

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8Apr/11Off

Response to A-Jay

Posted by sbell6

I agree that the ambiguity through out the novel was done on purpose in order to draw ties between the reader and the protagonists. Schizophrenia is a visual experience for the people effected by it. Being able to go into that world is something that can only be done through a visual medium.  I think that Powell did an excellent job trying to make something that is so abstract become clear(er) through a graphic novel. A-Jay mentioned the "the small illegible writing, the representation of darkness, and the things filling the gutters" Elements like these were part of trying to extract the level of insanity that people with schizophrenia/on heavy medications have to put up with in their day to day lives. I love how each page has so much substance to them. I feel like Powell has taken the most advantage of the black and white medium for a graphic novel that we have seen so far in this class. Shifting which color dominated each spread depending on the tone the novel was at, or if there was a hallucination being experienced by one of the characters. He is able to twist these two colors to evoke such powerful feelings. He also mentioned it being the more engrossing novel so far. I have to agree ten fold. After learning recently that I am in the prime age of people who start experiencing the effects of schizophrenia, this book started to hit pretty close to home in what my life could be like.

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6Apr/11Off

What Happened to Ruth?

Posted by cpetrus2

            To add to what ekimo said about the ending, I was very confused about the ending as well. Frankly, I was a little annoyed about it. But, I have to admit, the ending kind of drove me much more into the story and quite suddenly too. As soon, as Ruth kicks her parents out of the house, she goes into this hallucinated state and then she drifts out of reality. In a way, she takes the reader with her. I thought that was a nice technique on Nate Powell’s part.

            Yet, the actual plot becomes absent, and I’m left wondering about the purpose of a lot of the back-story. Still, there is one little clue I noticed regarding the build up to the ending. While I was reading the ending I asked myself, when was the last time Ruth had taken her meds? There are a couple moments through the middle section of the story where she is taken her meds and then the pills are just kind of thrown out of the story. Perhaps, the author wants us to look for little clues like that, which are causing Ruth to lose control.

            I also feel like the Grandmother’s hallucinations, her random comments, were kind of playing a part in Ruth’s hallucinations. I also think Perry, Ruth, and the Grandmother were almost feeding off each other’s psychosis. It seems like Perry’s hallucinations come to a screeching halt. He takes a stand and decides to step back into reality. I always felt like his illness is much more minimal than Ruth’s. But, I think the ending suggests that the author wants his readers to reread the story and find more clues in order to discover what happened to Ruth.

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9Mar/11Off

Reflexivity in Maus II

Posted by agill7

From what I've read on this blog and from our class discussion on Tuesday, it seems that everyone is (rightfully) fascinated with the "meta-narration" in Maus II, and I'd like to respond to the commentary we've built so far.

Dayneé had a great point about Spiegelman's reflexive moments as a filibuster, and I agree that they provide a context for Vladek's story. We discussed in class what happens when Spiegelman breaks the fourth wall on page 41 (the reader is implicated and made hyperaware of the book in their hands,) but I think that moment also aligns the reader with the author. We're put in the same temporal context as Spiegelman in that moment, and we are reminded that we are not experiencing Vladek's suffering alongside him, but are perceiving it retrospectively alongside Art (now a character in his own work.)

Considering this in terms of the layered narrative that Emma brought up, if the core of the story is Vladek's experiences, the secondary layer is Vladek's dictation to Art, and the third and final layer is present-day Art at his desk, then this reflexive moment pulls the reader from where we became comfortable at the core and puts us definitively in the third layer, as a reminder that while we'd like to imagine we can sympathize with Vladek, we can only truly understand it from the perspective of the present-day historian.

Like what Lauren mentioned in her post, Art frequently refers to his trouble with drawing events or places he's never seen. He chooses to research and interview extensively to get his images as close to reality as possible, for fear of speaking for Vladek instead of revealing it through this cataclysmic medium. This dedication to the actuality of the event reinforces that earlier reflexivity, to guide us away from appropriating Vladek's suffering.

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8Mar/11Off

Meta-narration and Maus

Posted by amurray5

I also thought that the meta moments in mouse were important in telling the story. It relates more to the reader and allows the reader to know the overall story of the Holocaust, and that Vladak would survive it.  The importance of the meta narrations is that it shows that the characters are self aware the they are going through this tragedy or at least Art Spiegelman the artist and son of a Holocaust survivor. this is important in telling a story that he knows but acknowledging the fact that hearing it and retelling it in your own way are much more difficult than he thought. However he does a good job of trying to get the audience involved with their own visions of his meta narrations of Art Spiegelman and the different things he includes such as when he goes to the house of his doctor and he says in the comic that it would be weird to mention that doctor has a cat as a pet. this entry into the inner views of the characters also is enlightening to show that they as characters are somewhat trapped in a situation that they understand is happening but cant be real. This attitude is similar to peoples reactions to things as horrible as the Holocaust because it truly happened but it is almost stranger than fiction and a tragedy because of that. The breaking the fourth wall is away to show the complexities of portraying the Holocaust in a way that is new but at the same time helps the reader try to understand one survivors story.

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2Mar/11Off

– Maus –

Posted by Emma

Reading through what people have posted on the blog, it is interesting to me how many of us knew of Maus or had read it before taking this class.  Some people knew it from high school, others from previous college courses.  I was required to read Maus in my Western Civilizations class. It kind of reminded me of Kyle Baker and how much he wanted Nat Turner to be used as an academic resource.  It makes me wonder if Art Spiegelman had similar intentions when writing Maus, or if that thought came after its publication.

I would also like to comment on what seems to be the most popular topic, Spiegelman's use of animals in the story.  The first time I read Maus for my Western Civ class I read though and really appreciated the separation of race into something so simple as animals.  I think it would have been much more difficult to show the differences between the Jews or Poles or Nazis if they all looks like normal human beings.  That being said, I do not think that I ever saw the animals as humans in animal masks, more animals that acted like humans.  I think that Spiegelman's decision to make his characters animals not only helped me a reader differentiate between races, but really captured how important race really was at the time.  I feel like the time of the holocaust really made race stand out and made people into "the other," almost like another species such as cats or mice.  It brings out this feeling of instant hostility based on appearance, like a cat would do to a mouse, or a Nazi would do to a Jew.  At no point while reading Maus was I distracted or confused by the use of animals, and most importantly I never forgot that this was a real story that did not happen to animals, but happened to human beings.

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2Mar/11Off

Maus: the choice to portray humans as animals

Posted by Katy McCaddin

There is a concept within Maus that I find particularly captivating. We discussed it in class on Tuesday with our discussion on the animals as "masks".  As I stated in class I think there is much more to these animal distinctions than simply a mask.  They are a clear way to show just how divided by race Europe was and in some ways still is(see France's treatment of the Roma people and of French born Muslims).  The argument that the animals are about nationalism has some merit, but does not address the face that there are Polish and German Jews, but they are all drawn as rats/mice.  Since there is no Jewish "state" I find it hard to believe the choice to draw peoples as different animals is solely about nationalism.  I think that may play a part but it goes deeper.  No matter what the mice do within Maus they are still mice.  Put a pig mask on under you are still a mouse.  No matter what Spiegleman's father does he is still Jewish.  This part of him cannot be removed.  The same way the color of an individual's eyes cannot be changed, or the color of one's skin can't be changed etc.  Please note that I do not in any way mean this in a critical sense. I am not saying Jewish people should try to somehow disconnect from their past and their race. I am simply saying that you cannot completely separate yourself from ethnicity.   The choice to show each ethnic group of people as different animals not only plays with the connotations those animals posses but it is also an easy way to show that an individual cannot choose to truly be a different ethnic group.  The same way that under a pig mask is still a mouse.

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1Mar/11Off

Pathemata Mathemata

Posted by lsanfiel

I found it incredibly interesting that during our class discussion today most people who spoke were interpreting the animal imagery of this piece as being an artistic means to segregate different groups of people.  I personally looked at the imagery more as a means to mask individuality in order to give this story more of a potent influence.  The way that these characters were drawn, with animal heads and human bodies, made it seem to me as if everyone was wearing a mask.  It has a permeable effect that allows the reader to feel as if he could have been part of the Holocaust.  It personally left me feeling as if this could be the story of my Grandfather, Father, or even my own.

I want to expound further on nberry1's post specifically focusing on how surviving trauma has influenced both Vladek and Art Spiegelman.  I disagree with nberry1's opinion that "[Vladek] pessimistically mocks the bond [of friendship]" during the first scene of this book.  I feel as if Vladek is actually doing his best to teach his son how to survive and what friendship truly means.  By saying, "Your friends? You lock them together in a room with no food for a week...THEN you could see what it is, friends!" I interpreted Vladek's words as a lesson that a horrific instance can bond people together in the strongest way possible; by revealing a person's true character.  In no way am I saying that there were no instances of betrayal, desperation, or selfish panic during the Holocaust but different people survive horrible traumas in diverse ways, including committing some acts of altruism.  This is a lesson of a father to his son, a survivor to one who struggles to overcome, that while you must take care of yourself in order to survive, one cannot simply survive on his own.

"Then I slowly realized that your greatest art is the art of survival." -Line from Death and the King's Horseman.

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23Feb/11Off

Empathizing with We3

Posted by mswisher

Although there were a couple posts I considered responding to that deals with the violence in We3 (seriously though, if you think this was violent, never read anything from Garth Ennis), I decided to respond to sbell6's post concerning the lack of character development.

One issue that is brought up in his post, and that was addressed on Tuesday, is how a reader will connect with We3 depending on whether or not they have a pet at home. While it would certainly make one more inclined to empathize with the animals, it isn't a necessity. I think that even if I wasn't a pet owner I would still be upset when the rabbit dies, or at the cruel experiments that they are subjected to.

Another issue that is raised is the lack of character development in regards to the animals. While it is a valid point, I believe that Morrison did this intentionally. I say this because at the beginning, after they kill Guerrera and the General is showing Washington We3, the General says, "They've killed their last tinpot dictator." Before that, Doctor Trendle says that 1 "only kills enemies of our nation." This indicates to me that We3 has been active for some time now, and for Morrison to leave out their abduction, outfitting and training was a deliberate action. It is a pretty short graphic novel even without this development, but it was enough for me to maybe not identify with 1, 2 and 3 but at least to have some emotional investment in them.

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17Feb/11Off

Posted by sbell6

I already commented rpaul2's post earlier, but I am making a new post for it like everyone else did.

I think the first chapter is the most important part of the book. It lays the foundation for the whole story. I believe that Baker created ambiguity in the first chapter on purpose. The chapter is entitled Home. It is a place that is supposed to be safe, calm, and inviting– not chaotic. If you put yourself in the shoes of the people who called this place home when the slave drivers came you would be confused too. Baker captured this tension. Baker needed to give the reader something to contrast the rest of the novel with. A random group of people came to kidnap another group. We needed to see this to understand why a violent rebellion without remorse would even happen.

As for the main character… It doesn’t matter who Nat Turner is. They are all drawn similar for a reason. The graphic novel might be called Nat Turner but I don’t see the book as being a narrative about him as much as I see it about slavery in general. It is about how far these people were abused to the point where they said enough is enough. When they were safe on their home land there was no need for a heroin to raise, everyone was an equal there. But when one of your people gets shot in the face, then the rest enslaved; it is only a matter of time until someone steps up to lob heads off with an ax in return.

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17Feb/11Off

It’s all about the Benjamins

Posted by asuarez2

I'm responding to Daynee's post on why hollywood hasn't made a movie on Nat Turner yet. While I agree that it would make a great film, Hollywood is very picky about what it makes. It's funny to think that shitty movies that come out every year are the creme of the crop, but for the most part it's true. Any way, those movies that come out are usually cookie cutter movies that have the same plot and are guaranteed to make a lot of money. That's why this year there are 27 sequels coming out. It's because Nat Turner is not very well know that there isn't a blockbuster made about him. I'm not saying that it wouldn't be a good idea to make one (I think it would make a great film), but that's not hollywoods game. It would make too much sense.

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16Feb/11Off

Forming Empathy Through The First Chapter

Posted by slawrene

While I respect the opinions shared in the well-written analysis by rpaul2, I find myself disagreeing with almost everything that rpaul2 said.

I agree that Nat Turner is a complex book; however, I do not think that it is confusing to the point that it warrants going back multiple times to figure out certain scenes. Kyle Baker does a decent job of keeping a quick pace throughout the course of the entire graphic novel. I feel that slowing down and going back to reread scenes only takes away from the fast paced mentality of the book. The first few scenes may be open to interpretation, but Baker still makes sure enough is drawn that you are not confused by what is going on. It is clear that the character at the beginning is a woman and not Nat Turner. It is also clear that the first few scenes take place in Africa before slavery and on a boat, not on an American plantation.

The thing rpaul2 said that I disagree with the most is that the first chapter is "relatively unnecessary." The first chapter of Nat Turner could possibly be the most important chapter of the graphic novel. The first chapter displays the history of the slaves to the reader, demonstrating the harsh and cruel circumstances they were put through on the ships and on the plantations. It was argued that Chapter 3 was where the book began to pick up pace and become truly good. The 3rd chapter is riveting because it is full of action and violence. It has the same effect as watching a Michael Bay film: it doesn't matter what is taking place... the action, explosions, and violence will hold your attention and cause you to not be able to look away. Even though Chapter 1 does not have the same effect on the reader as Chapter 3, it is extremely important because it allows the reader to empathize with the character of Nat Turner. By showing the reader all of the horrible things the slaves were put through, it allows the reader to understand why Turner is committing the horrible murders. Without the first chapter, readers of Nat Turner would view the protagonist as a monster obsessed with the genocide of white plantation farmers instead of as a leader of a revolution; which is a pretty important role for a chapter that is considered "relatively unnecessary."

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16Feb/11Off

Response to Why Isn’t This a Movie Already? by Chris Petrus

Posted by cpetrus2

            I totally agree that a Nat Turner Movie would be pretty badass. I think the themes of justice, vengeance, and the power of education would have to be really emphasized. Otherwise, the audience of the film might just view Nat Turner as a cold blooded killer and nothing more. I noticed, in Kyle Baker’s preface, the author mentions that zero films on Nat Turner have been released. The edition I purchased was published in 2008, only three years ago. I think it’s important to note that since Baker’s preface was probably introduced with a much older copy of the graphic novel, perhaps even the first release, and still no movies. I also noted that the inside flap of the cover points out some perceive Turner as “a monster, a murderer whose name is never uttered.” The Slave Rebellion in 1831 could very well be the touchiest subject in African-American history because Nat Turner and his party can be argued as monsters. Turner’s story doesn’t necessarily help the movement to abolish slavery like say, Uncle Tom’s Cabin which was published in 1851 or Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas, published in 1845.

            I would definitely be willing to shell out ten or eleven bucks (going to the movies is so ridiculously expensive now) to see Nat Turner on the big screen. But, I think the makers of the film would have to be very considerate when creating this film. Kyle Baker was so smart to incorporate the scene when the slaves are being captured, placed on the boat, and sold off. He establishes the greatest amount of sympathy in his readers for the slaves, so that when the super gore-fest massacre begins, we can’t help but feel a sense of justification for the slaves. I think it would be cool if the director of the film could insert very quick flashbacks in the rebellion scene. For instance, right before a slave hacks off a little white boy’s head, there could be a little flashback where a little slave child is being beaten to death.

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