Monday, March 23, 2009

Kimberly's Signifier Analysis 3/23/09

In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud successfully attempts to show all the detail and nuance that goes into creating a comic book. He wants the reader to gain the understanding that comic books are an intricate art form, and often offer more to the reader than initially meets the eye.

As with any art form, "The world of comics is a huge and varied one." (p.4.) The world of painting is huge and varied, as is writing, sculpture, film, etc. The history that McCloud provided helped the reader see the evolution of his art form from thousands of years ago to the present day. In so doing, he made it seem less like an art form which appeals mainly to children and more of an important world signifier meant for all ages, depending on content, of course.

By using language along with pictures, the author is able to force the reader to stop and think carefully about what is drawn and written. For example, with "a printed copy of a drawing of a painting of a pipe," (p.25) the reader can see that there is depth beyond initial comprehension when looking at a comic book. Comic strip sequence, detail, color, motion and vocabulary are all parts of the way a comic can manipulate his/her work to appeal to the reader/viewer.

Apart from my adoration of cartoons such as those in the New Yorker magazine, and an occasional pause for Garfield or Cathy comic strips, I haven't really exposed myself to comics much. McCloud's book helped me to appreciate, if not enjoy, the artistic ability and tactics used in compiling comic books.

A lot of the art of comics that McCloud discusses is noted as "invisible." Recently, I was subbing for math and the class was to work on division. They had to solve 25 division problems, each with a numerical answer corresponding to a letter. At the bottom of the worksheet was a puzzle with numbers listed under spaces, and as the students solved the division problem, they were to fill in the spaces with letters to create words. When it was complete, one could see an answer to the question above, "What coin doubles in value when half is taken away?" The answer that was found was, " A HALF DOLLAR." No student in the class understood the answer. No matter how much I thought about it, I too could not explain the answer.

Later that night, I was still thinking about it, embarrassed that I couldn't offer the students an decent explanation for the riddle. There were drawings of all different coins and a paper dollar on the side of the page, which seemed like semiotics, but only added to my confusion. Finally I realized the answer, though too late to clarify it for the students. This is one example I can think of in real life where semiotics were not a helpful means of communication for me and only distracted me from thinking of the correct answer to the puzzle. Nevertheless, I see that a comic's use of semiotics can be beneficial to the type of art they are creating. I am likely not going to rush to Barnes and Noble in search of comic books, but I am so glad glad McCloud opened my eyes to understanding them.

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