Term Paper: Choices Portrayed in Sequential Arts

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¶ … Portrayed in Sequential Arts

Us vs. Them?

Common sense should tell us that reading is the ultimate weapon - destroying ignorance, poverty and despair before they can destroy us.

A nation that doesn't read much doesn't know much.

And a nation that doesn't know much is more likely to make poor choices in the home, the marketplace, the jury box and the voting booth

The challenge, therefore, is to convince future generations of children that carrying a book is more rewarding than carrying guns."

Jim Trelease (20th century), U.S. educator (Columbia)

Real People" Choices in Comic-Books

In the past, cartoons and comic books basically dealt with strange scenarios, childlike circumstances and the supernatural, rather than real life situations. Today, however, some independent graphic novels, such as: Summer Blonde by Adrian Tomine; Stray Bullets Vol.1: "Innocence of Nihilism" by David Lapham; and Tiny Giants by Nate Powell depict individual stories that portray "real people" making choices that lead them down different paths in life. "The word 'thesis' is derived from the Greek tithenai, which generally means a position advanced for argument." (Burton and Steane 125) During the course of the "path" chosen for this thesis, this researcher relates examples of common and uncommon sense stores in comic-books, along with "choices" "real people" make. Also, throughout this thesis, this researcher explores the thought of "us vs. them," but primarily focusing, however on the concept of choices portrayed in comic-book scenarios and considers answers to the following two questions:

Do choices of individuals reflected in comic-books potentially influence choices readers make in life?

What works to impact choices?

Comic-book Character Considerations

In Revealing the Art of Toons by Alex Ross, according to Paul Cole, a staff writer for the Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England), the days when DC Comics characters were strictly kids' stuff no longer exist. Contemporary "Graphic novels have elevated cartoon capers to an art form now dominated by artist Alex Ross, whose life-like airbrush paintings portray the crimefighters (sic) as middle-aged men and women." ("REVEALING the ART of" 7) Ross credits his father Clark, a minister, for instilling the moral framework that allowed him to appreciate the good deeds Superman, Spider-Man and other positive comic-book characters routinely perform. ("REVEALING the ART of" 7) Choices which contribute to actions that consider individuals, other than one's self, as noted by Ross, reported by Cole, will similarly impact future generations. Cole points out that throughout Ross's work more than first meets the eye appears. "The minister caught up in the superhero civil war of Kingdom Come, for example, is clearly the artist's father." ("REVEALING the ART of" 7) Seeing more than the superficial story proves to be beneficial for comic book fans and art students as choices depicted in the storyline, as well as the artwork, offer "an eye-opening glimpse at a modern art form too often taken for granted." ("REVEALING the ART of" 7) Kearns (2005), who relates points about X-Men and Spider-Man comic-books, points out choices portrayed by the primary characters:

X-Men: "It's OK to be different."

Spider-Man:

With great power comes great responsibility."

This researcher purports this study focusing on choices portrayed in comic-books may be deemed by some to be different, but that's OK. In addition, this researcher understands that research, as writing, possess "power," and consequently also holds the responsibility to make choices that will ultimately result in a paper that will increase understanding regarding choices "real people" in comics, as well as in the real world make. Hopefully, in turn, this information will encourage readers that rather than reading of superheroes in tight underwear destroying city property and causing collateral damage in pursuant of heroic activities, readers would benefit more by reading comic-books relating "real people" stories.

II. Us vs. Them Superheroes aren't heroes because they're strong, they're heroes because they perform acts that look beyond themselves."

REVEALING the ART of" 7)

Literature Notes

Dunford (46) states that ideally: "Most prescriptions for the research process describe it as a series of sequential steps, beginning with the identification of a research problem or question, then moving (via a review of the existing literature)...." J.S. Mill, cited by Burton and Steane (124) contend that a person can never consider him/her self to be educated unless he/she only examines the best arguments of his/her own side, but makes a point to study the best arguments of his/her opponents as well. As the research questions are identified in the first segment of this paper, this section includes the review existing complementary and challenging literature. Ned Denny, a staff writer for the Daily Mail (London, England), reports in "The Comic-Book Heroes with a Touch of Genius," that contemporary comic-book artists tackle the same real-life, gritty subjects and thorny issues novelists write about ("The Comic-Book Heroes with" 64) He supports his claim by pointing out:

Salvador Dali's prediction that 'comics will be the culture of the year 3794' located the genre's geniuses in a vague future world rather than the present day.

All this began to change with the appearance in 1978 of Will Eisner's a Contract With God (the trilogy is published by W.W. Norton.

The 60-year-old Eisner was a veteran of the comics business, his cult newspaper strip the Spirit having run throughout the Forties.

Inspired by the glossy, book length collections he saw on an honorary visit to a French comic festival, Eisner sat down and produced what Gravett describes as 'a quartet of sad, moving and disarmingly unglamorous' vignettes of Jewish life in the Bronx of the Thirties.

To an industry whose mainstay was the exploits of glamorous superheroes - in other words, escapism - it was an untouchable curiosity.

Eventually released by a small independent publisher, a Contract With God showed that comic-book artists could tackle the same gritty subjects and thorny issues as novelists. 'I can't claim to have invented the wheel,' Eisner later remarked, 'but I felt I was in a position to change the direction of comics.' Almost 30 years on, Eisner's brave example has spawned countless graphic novels on every subject imaginable. Take Persepolis (Cape,... Marjane Satrapi's wholly enthralling account of growing up in Iran after the 1979 revolution. ("The Comic-Book Heroes with" 64)

In Dragon Slippers (Harper Press), Rosalind B. Penfold uses the comic script to depict choices related to the emotional trauma of life with a violent and manipulative man. Although the approach may seem to contradict itself, the light comic-strip tone balances the weighty theme of emotional trauma and ultimately depicts choices that lend to a liberating effect.

In a similar sense, Marisa Acocella Marchetto in Cancer Vixen (4th Estate) and Brian Fies in Mom's Cancer (Image) portray choices leading from the bleakest of situations to redemptive lightness. Even choices regarding travel destinations are presented in comic-strip form. Guy Delisle does this in Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea (Cape) in a subtle satirical style. Forty years after the creation of the X-Men, comic book heroes designed to act as a potent reminder of "the ultimate silliness" of divisions like race and religion, Kearns (2005) posits, some individuals continue to divide humanity into "us" and "them." "... from Kashmir to Northern Ireland to South Africa, many societies continue, if only informally, to segregate their neighbors based on arbitrary measures." (Kearns, 2005)

Stray Bullets... Stray Bullets Volume 1, "The Innocence of Nihilism," by David Lapham, follows "the lost lives of people who are savagely torn apart by events beyond their control." Stories in this issue and ensuring works by Lapham focus on: ("Stray Bullets")

An imaginative little girl's "innocent' world being shattered as she witnesses a brutal double murder.

An introverted young boy, approaching manhood, learns a lesson regarding "...just how far is too far" as he falls for a needy woman living life in the fast lane.

Two low-rent hoods who live to "party" and learn what is matters most in life.

Amy Racecar, the infamous gangster, eats lunch with the president, and talks to God. ("Stray Bullets")

The following figure (1) portrays the cover of Stray Bullets, written and illustrated by David Lapham.

A www.comicstore.com.au/Purchase~id~455964753.aspx"

Figure 1: Copy of Cover of Stray Bullets by David Lapham ("Stray Bullets")

Adrian Tomine's Work From the early 1990s, Zushi reports, Adrian Tomine qualifies as: "...the uncontested boy wonder of the 'alternative comix' scene." Tomine started his Optic Nerve series when still in high school, yet he continues to stand as a high-water mark of the confessional mini-comics genre.

Tomine deliberately avoids the typical epic American preoccupations, and instead chooses to focus on small curiosities of day-to-day life. Figure (2) portrays the cover of Shortcomings, written and illustrated by Adrian Tomine.

Figure (2): Copy of Cover of Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine (Hoffman)

An example of Tomine's work, which characteristic for him, romanticizes loneliness, may initially appear simple. Shortcomings, however, shares an intricate, poignant, true-to-life story in comic-strip panels, as it permits readers to follow Ben Tanaka' choices as he struggles to make sense of his crumbling personal life. After Ben's girlfriend, Miko, leaves… [END OF PREVIEW]

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