Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jimmy Corrigan Revision

The role of the book, according to the general instructions, has two general intentions.  The first is to act as a form of entertainment for those who are experiencing hardships.  The second is that the book is merely a trophy of fashion to be put on display.  This is a very generic explanation which could be applied to any comic, however the way that the instructions harp of certain details leads to deeper meaning.  The role is really inferring that the book shouldn’t be read in a traditional way.  Leading with the instructions is sort of a buffer that is prepping the mind of the reader for what is about to follow.  
Ware includes these explanations to help the reader interpret why the book is setup in a specific way.  It challenges the reader on a personal level, view of the narrator, and the book as a whole.  Starting with the instructions opens the book’s mood and lets the reader question what kind of amusement they intend to take from the book.  Also, it gives a glimpse of the narrator’s mentality and makes the reader contemplate the view of themselves.  If they fall into the “ugly” category or the majority.  Comparing the content within the instructions and comparing the instructions to the story leads to parallels and contradictions.  There are too many similarities and one could conclude that the instruction is merely a snapshot panel of the book condensed down into one page.  The use of spatiality and frame setup is covered later in this essay.
                Ware tends to walk the line of what is customary for traditional comics.  According to Meskin, comics were originally presented in a mass medium and told a moral story(Meskin, 369).  The general instructions contradict this notion by saying a majority of the people purchasing the book wouldn’t be buying the book for reading.  The purpose of the book is therefore not intended for the mass market which leads to questioning the meaning of the book.  The entire story would then be skewed to the side of the narrator and how he views it.  Looking at it from this angle makes the story seem like an autobiography intended for only the creator.  Taking into account the narrator’s perspective on the reader, the idea could be flipped and lead to the mass market actually being the large portion that read the book.  The popularity of the book also brings up a contradiction.  The book would only be fashionable to display if people read the book or it was a cornerstone to innovation.  If people are not reading the book, there has to be some reason that the book reaches the status of fashion.  Ware breaking barriers and creating a style which isn’t normal is where this popularity could emerge.
                It is also interesting that the quantity of each explanation in the instructions mirrors that of the story.  A large portion of the story contains a form of text and storytelling.  Most of the book contains the depressive facial expression and low self-esteem storyline.  This mirrors that of the exhaustive examples of why someone would read the book.  The minority’s reasoning for purchasing the book is shown with the large pictures or panels not connected to the direction of the story.  Although writers are not confined to rules, normally comics have a constant spatial transition through the panels.  According to McCloud, “Comics panels fracture both time and space, offering a jagged, staccato rhythm of unconnected moments(McCloud, 67).  Sometimes it is hard to conclude how much time has passed between panels.  Ward uses several types of transitions to connect the panels.  The size, placement, and shape of the panels change throughout the book.  The full page panels stand out visually and the physical motion of turning the page adds more depth than the small white space between panels.  This makes it seem like more time has passed.  The larger panels also tend to have more detail involved in the image.    This puts more emphasis on that section of the story making the reader slow down to analyze the whole page.  The text is left out and the picture involves more buildings and the environment.
The other example which stands out as art is the large title panels scattered throughout the book.  Ward includes these large title panels in sections of the book which aren’t connected to the context of the surrounding panels.  They seem more like a filler to the space.  However, the title panels reflect overall themes happening in the book.  Most of them have a fictional feeling to what they are displaying.  One of the pictures shows Jimmy Corrigan interacting with a bird in a cage.  This seems normal, however the bird is standing on pole upside down.  This doesn’t make the bird seem dead, but rather forces the reader to either turn the book around or mentally visualize how the bird should look.  The simple color scheme is similar to an advertisement as if to prove that this is the book.  The mere presentation of owning the book is proof that the owner is fashionable.  Someone glancing at the other non-title pages would not be able to recognize the work.  Circling back to the need to mass produce the work, a simple color scheme would be cheap and quick.
A title image that stands out is the large blue image about 10 pages into the book. The style of the picture makes the image look like a circus poster.  Curtains are placed on the sides to make it look like a show.  It is odd that Ward draws what looks like a murder scene.  Jimmy is cutting a man’s throat with scissors.  In reality the child wouldn’t be strong enough to kill the man, but could reflect his hateful thoughts of what he would do to the man.  The writing in poster even follows the depressing mood of the general instructions.  It says that the book probably isn’t worth reading.
                Although the shape of Jimmy Corrigan is recognizable, Ware tips his hat to the history of comics by keeping a simplistic design.  The details of his hair from child to adult barely changes and is created by several straight lines.  This simplicity bleeds over to the background and the environment.  The windows and objects tend to have straight lines or be square.  A simple ruler and tracing would make quick work of creating the panels.  Mass production of the comic would be feasible since the production of the work wouldn’t take long.  However, this simplicity is not consistent throughout the book.  To go off the second reasoning for the instruction, the need to be a fashion statement, Ware does add some full page panels which include significantly more detail than the other panels.  Including these panels strays away from the simplicity theme and leans more toward the visually artistic and appealing spectrum.  These panels tend to not have any dialogue and focus more on the picture.
                The surface of the general instructions challenges the reasoning for purchasing the book.  The contradictions and irony involved makes the reader explore further the importance of reading the book.  There are many directions that the reader can investigate, but the narration guides reader in a certain way.  Certain themes mold the mindset of the reader to focus on certain aspects.  There is a sense of questioning if the reader should get just as much amusement from the work as the writer.  A word that keeps coming up in the mind while reading the book is “why.”  Why am I reading this book, why did Ware structure the book in the way he did, and why is this story important to Ware.  The content and the way the content is presented leads to many ways to study the story.

Works Cited

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994. Print.
Meskin, Aaron.  Defining Comics?.  The Journal of Aethetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 5.No.4               (Autumn, 2007). pp369-379.  Print.
Ware, Chris. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. New York: Pantheon, 2002. Print.

1 comment:

  1. Your initial argument is overly simplistic - it would be overly obvious to anyone in the class.

    Your research opens interesting possibilities. The book is obviously concerned with history in general, and possibly with the history of comics in particular. If the history of comics is really about moral lessons, that’s something you could have investigated at length & in depth.

    I have trouble following any consistent thread of argument here. You jump around in the text for reasons I don’t clearly understand, and don’t really have anything clear to say about any characters, any part of the story, or really anything at all. There is an interesting thread of inquiry about mass production and how the book relates to mass production - but that isn’t a consistent and coherent argument.

    In short: I have no idea what you’re arguing or why, no idea of what in general you think about Jimmy Corrigan, other than the instructions in a limited way, and while your research has potential, I’m not sure of what you’re actually doing with it. One fundamental issue is that you take things that are obviously meant to be tongue in cheek (or ironic, or something), and take them literally, without being coherent about it - for instance, your repeated references to a “fashion statement.” So you’re looking at parts of the general instructions, but not making an interpretation of their overall meaning or importance. To use the general instructions effectively, you need to get a handle on the voice in which they are given. Why such absurd, pompous language, and how does that change our interpretation of them, for instance?