Gods’ Man

Lynd Ward’s Gods’ Man made me consider the reading experience in a new way. Instead of the continuous, forward motion I was used to while reading literature, I found myself flipping back, re-reading, and dwelling longer on a given page while skipping quickly through others. I became hyper-aware of how often I was flipping the pages and how I was constructing a story out of the images presented to me. The story, it seemed, came out of the image’s position between the previous and next image. The context created the story. When reading books that aren’t graphic novels, I read the page, processed the information and moved on to the next one. Then, repeated as necessary. The story in text-based novels was continuous and unconcerned with page sequence. The pages were more of a mode of transport for the story rather than a storytelling technique, as it was with Gods’ Man. My multi-directional experience with reading Gods’ Man made this previous method of reading seem laborious and menial in contrast.

The reading from Scott McCloud’s book also talked about the unique experience of reading graphic novels. His discussion of closure and the “staccato rhythm of unconnected moments” applies to the reading of Gods’ Man as well, but to a larger degree. Where McCloud was discussing how the gutter between panels creates a jarring movement in the story, in Gods’ Man, this effect is multiplied because the space expands from a few centimeters to an entire page.  The space is also coupled with the action of turning the page, so the revelation of the story is even more broken. However, as McCloud notes, this dynamic allowed the reader to become a collaborator, which was an entirely pleasurable experience for me.

9 thoughts on “Gods’ Man”

  1. I like how you describe your experience reading Gods’ Man. I’d agree: there’s no way to read this wordless novel without re-reading it, every step along the way. It raises a question I’m really interested in: how do we know when we need to flip back and re-read something? How do we know when we’re not “getting it” and that we need to look for clues for what’s going on?

  2. I agree that the “gutter” between the panels in Gods’ Man–taking up the span of an entire page–produced an unusual effect. I think it emphasized the importance of every single panel in the story, and I often felt like each panel contained its own big chunk of narrative. I caught myself wondering how the reading would have been different if the panels were strung together, row by row, like in the more modern graphic novels I’ve read.

    1. Lauren, I totally agree that though the span between gutters was quite distant and somewhat odd, that this was because each panel contained its own mini-narrative that then connects it on to the next part of the narrative with every turn of a page.

  3. The first time I read Gods’ Man I also found myself flipping back and forth between some pages. I didn’t think too much of it until I read this post and realized that I’ve never had to flip back and forth between pages when reading other forms of literature. In response to Professor Sample’s question I have to say that I think I felt the urge to go back and re-read certain parts when I felt confused as to what was going on in a panel and when I couldn’t understand the connection between the panel I was reading and the previous/succeeding panel(s). I remember that when I was reading the Mistress part in Gods’ Man and came across the 22nd page I got confused. At first I thought that the patron was about to strangle the main character with a bow/tie and when I flipped to the next couple of pages I figured that I must have been wrong because the main character seemed to be fine. I realized then that I must have missed something because the story I was creating in my head wasn’t matching up with the woodcuts. So when moments like those occurred I flipped back to find clues as to what Lynd Ward was trying to convey. That’s when I noticed that the main character had never been wearing a bow before and that the patron was probably just giving the main character a bow/tie.

    I think that having to go back and re-read pages is a unique experience that doesn’t occur when reading books that aren’t graphic novels. I think the reason this doesn’t happen with other books is because most people have the conception that visuals can often convey more information than words can. Like we mentioned in class, humans tend to look back on their real life experiences in order to understand books and images. During daily conversations we can’t only focus on the words being exchanged in order to understand what’s going on. We have to also realize and notice visual cues (body language etc) which often explain more than the words being said. So I think because of this, when we read books that only have text we tend to just accept what is written as what the author is trying to convey and that when we read graphic novels we tend to assume that there is more going on than what our initial assumptions tell us.

  4. I completely agree that the use of gutters within Gods’ Man was definitely more elaborate seeing as we had to actually turn the page to continue within the gutter to get to the next piece of the story. I have to say that I found myself having to also go back to try and interpret particular parts of the story in order to move on effectively and come to a conclusion about what the story was saying to me. As opposed to McCloud’s various examples, God’s Man was quite “jumpy.” Not so much in the sense that I couldn’t interpret the pictures individually and what was occurring within them, but rather connecting all of the sequential pictures together to understand the time and space of them collectively. What I did enjoy about Lynd Ward’s work of Gods’ Man was how much you can get from just one picture. For example, the discussions we had in Tuesday’s class when we had to choose a page and write down what the picture spoke to us, I found myself becoming entirely engulfed with all of the pictures we had randomly picked to talk about. To be able to look at a single, stagnant illustration and to be able to bring it to life and play a role in the actual interpretation of the story (as McCloud mentions: “YOU killed the man!”). I find it fascinating just how much pictures evoke emotions within us as people and spark up something within us that wants to discover more.

  5. I made myself read the novel all the way through without turning back to refer to previous images. This made me read the novel extremely carefully. After I made it all the way through it I found myself returning to the certain pages to study the pictures. I thought I had the story figured out but as i went back and focused on certain pictures the story changed a little. My favorite part of this novel was the fact that turning the page or continue the gutter to continue the story. The panels were jumpy but they gave enough space to allow the story to make sense. It wasn’t an action sequence but instead allowed the reader to see exactly what was going on. I also liked how the reader contributed to the gutter space by filling in exactly what happened. It made it a very interactive experience. The thing that I loved the most was the way the pictures were made and the vibe they gave. They were terrifying but intriguing. It really drew me into the novel.

    1. I like how you describe the images as “terrifying”—that’s a good characterization of them. I’d like to hear more about what makes them so terrifying. What specific aspects of the wood carving?

  6. I agree with many of the things Michael said, and I am quite impressed that you could read the book without turning back the pages. While I enjoyed Gods Man the first time I “read” it (viewed it), I questioned whether the novel falls under Mcloud’s definition for a comic. Mcloud uses the phrase “juxtaposed pictorial and other images.” The word “juxtaposed” just didn’t seem to apply to Ward’s arrangement of his frames – one per page. But what I realized was that the intense detail in each image conveyed such information about that moment in time, that there was no need to “juxtapose” these images with any other images ON THE SAME PAGE. For the reader, this makes page turning quite an experience because your eyes take in all the detail and emotion in each image.

    1. Good points about what counts as “juxtaposition.” I’ve been thinking that each image is so dense and textured that we in fact could only handle one per page. The woodcuts need that white space around them; otherwise we’d be overwhelmed by their presence.

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