Friday, December 2, 2011

Project Proposal

The main concept of my essay, argument, and the general idea of my thesis is that Jimmy Corrigan is an intersection of two distinct lineages in comics, that of the superhero and of expressionism, forming a distinct expressionist superhero. Additionally, this does not only apply to the character of Corrigan himself, but to the depiction of his environment, America specifically.

After introducing the above and illustrating the goal of the essay, I will begin by giving a brief history and definition of the concept of a superhero. This will be done using Danny Fingeroth’s Superhero on the Couch. By doing so, I will be able to have my audience and myself be on the same page regarding a mutual understanding of the superhero.

Secondly, I will follow with a brief history and definition of the concept of expressionism. Using standard definitions as the term “expressionism” from common dictionaries, while supplementing them with art books such as Bram Djikstra’s American Expressionism, I hope to have a similar effect as with the superhero definition, so that my audience and myself may be on the same page.

Next, I will argue that Jimmy Corrigan is a superhero comic based on its art and visuals. I will do so by comparing it with the Hulk graphic novel we read for class, and showing similarities. For example, how in both graphic novels, the backgrounds change to a single, bright color in particular moments of heightened emotional stress.

Following this, I will continue my argument that Jimmy Corrigan is a superhero comic based on its story. This will be accomplished by demonstrating the story’s following of the hero’s journey, implementing a source that thoroughly defines it, and using Geoff Klock and Danny Fingeroth’s books, respectively. I hope to use the hero’s journey even more effectively by comparing Corrigan with a clearly non-superhero comic that doesn’t follow the story arc, preferably an R. Crumb comic which would make for a nice connection.

Finally, I will conclude the Corrigan-as-a-superhero portion by using my own insight and comparisons of Corrigan fitting the mold of a superhero. For instance, the apt subtitle of “The Smartest Kid on Earth” is a clear evocation of superhero comics’ subtitles, as with Superman, “The Man of Steel.” Coinciding with this, I will present Corrigan’s powers and weaknesses, attempting to present him as a superhero in his version of Metropolis: mundane American suburbia; of course, there is something to be said about his residing in the city of Chicago.

Following this portion, I will present Jimmy Corrigan as the quintessential expressionist comic. Using the “Not Funnies” article, the aforementioned definition and description of the concept of expressionism, and Chris Ware’s interview in The Comics Journal website form the Copenhagen Comics Festival, I will extract specific examples from Jimmy Corrigan to show it as expressionist art. Specifically, the following quote from the interview will be extremely useful: “I think that thinking of the panel as a camera is really … well, it’s one way of doing it, certainly, but the advantage of being a cartoonist is that you are not looking out into the world to make your work, you’re looking into yourself.”

I will conclude the entire essay thus far to make clear my argument that Jimmy Corrigan contains both aspects of superhero comics and expressionism.

For the last part of the essay, I will compare the depiction of the American superhero’s environment with that of Jimmy Corrigan. Using the Hulk and Superman, I will explain how these comics depict America with pride and patriotism, as a nation of strength, values, and righteousness. I hope to contrast this with Jimmy Corrigan’s impression of America as a nation of isolation, bleakness, and other attributes that I will obviously be more detailed with upon closer examination of the work.

Finally, I will conclude the essay by reiterating what has been previously stated, but also by comparing the ends of traditional superhero comics and the end of Jimmy Corrigan.


“Not Funnies” by Charles McGrath for The New York Times, July 11, 2004.

How to Read Superhero Comics and Why by Geoff Klock, Continuum International

Publishing Group Inc., 2002

Djikstra, Bram, American Expressionism, Harry N. Abrams Publishing Co., 2003.

Fingeroth, Danny, Superman on the Couch, Continuum International Publishing Group Inc., 2004.

Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics

Kirby and Lee’s The Hulk

Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan

Chris Ware interview at Copenhagen Comics Festival via The Comics Journal “Graphic Whiteness and the Lessons of Jimmy Corrigan” by Juda Bennett and Cassandra Jackson for Interdisciplinary Comics Studies

1 comment:

  1. I love that first paragraph. Partially because it's something that I *ought* to be saying, but even more so because I haven't thought of it in those terms - it seems like an argument that's rooted in the class, that I could nonetheless learn a great deal from.

    I think the strategy you lay out in the first two paragraphs is good, and possibly essentially. Look for ways to keep this part compact - you don't want to get lost in the very interesting details of either expressionism or of the development of the modern superhero.

    Defining Jimmy Corrigan as a superhero comic is bold. If you had enough time, you might want to look at Lord Raglan's *The Hero*, or at one of Joseph's Campbell's books, which are very interesting explorations of the idea of the hero, the hero's journey, etc. One possible danger with this kind of thing is that you can end up collapsing all literary forms/genres with the hero's journey - which might be correct, but would make it harder to understand JC as being a superhero comic in general, instead of as following the common arc of most fiction. I don't mean to discourage you at all - I think the approach is great - I'm just imagining some of the possible pitfalls.

    What does it *mean* for it to be an expressionist superhero comic? What I mean is: is this a new form? What are its characteristics? Does it more fundamentally do the work of the superhero comic, or of expressionism, or is it something different?

    I think the way you come back to America, by contrasting the America of superhero comics with the America of Jimmy Corrigan's "heroism" shows that you're thinking through the consequences of the combination of the superhero and expressionism yourself.

    One thing that's on my mind is that there are a number of very famous comics which critique or collapse conventional notions of superhero comics, while remaining superhero comics. Alan Moore's *The Watchmen* and Frank Miller's *The Dark Knight Returns* are the obvious examples. What I'm getting at is that it would be interesting to understand what Ware is able to do with/to the superhero comic, through the tools of expressionism (following your argument) that Moore/Miller cannot (using more conventional artistic tools).

    Anyway, this is extremely promising and quite ambitious. I'll boil down my advice at this point to two things.

    1) Don't get lost in the definitions - give them intelligently, then move on.
    2) Stay focused not just on the *fact* that expressionism and the superhero come together in this comic; be sure to ask what that conjunction means, or what work it does.