Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Jimmy Corrigan and Modern Day America

                Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth is a very complex comic book. Not only does it not read like a normal comic book due to its complex panel layouts, but it is almost meaningless when read on the surface. This is due to majority of the story not being in the words, but rather the pictures, or more specifically the relations of the pictures to other parts of the story and what they represent. Chris Ware included numerous American icons throughout the book. Due to this, it makes sense to read the book as a statement of America. Several of these statements of America pertain to the technological advances that resulted modern day America and their impact on the daily lives of modern day Americans. Although for this book modern day America is the 1980s, Ware’s messages still have meaning today.
                One of the most important technological advances highlighted in the book is the invention of electricity. In several places throughout the book, Ware depicts power lines. There are also some frames where the power lines are in the foreground. During a surface reading of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, one might just simply ignore these power lines by treating them as purely scenery. Although this view exists for the power lines, Ware emphasizes uses of electricity that are not as easy to ignore. The most common example of this is lighting. Ware includes several frames that have complex or seemingly random lighting in the foreground. At a surface level, this seems awkward or maybe random, but at a deeper level, it can be argued that Ware is trying to emphasize the change in life due to the invention of electricity and light bulbs. Light bulbs dramatically revolutionized the way of life more many individuals, from work hours to home life. Electricity also allowed for microwaves, electric ovens, phones, and numerous other objects.
Although we usually look at the invention of electricity, light bulbs, microwaves and several other uses of electricity as a positive, but Ware appears to be highlighting the negatives. One of the first instances of this view point is at the beginning of the book when Jimmy’s mother keeps calling him at work, even though he repeatedly asks her not to. Although phones allow for us to communicate with others instantly, even if they are on the other side of the world, they also allow for unwanted calls. We also see Jimmy buying an answering machine in another frame. Although we now have caller ID on most phones, which somewhat alleviates this issue, in the 1980s the best solution was to screen calls using an answering machine.
However, phones are not the only negative that Ware emphasizes. There is also a frame in the book with a can of soup with the following frame being a table set for two. Although soup is relatively cheap and convenient, there are also anti-social tendencies commonly associated with it. Jimmy had so little social contact that he needed to set the table for two, just so he did not feel lonely.  Later in the book, when Jimmy is on the plane and confronted by the women with green hair, it is visually and textually apparently that he is uncomfortable. Ware appears to be arguing that with the rise of convenience, there is a decline is social skills and interactions. Although this is a huge generalization, it is possible. Another interesting view on the inventions changing daily lives is that Jimmy’s family tree appears to have the similar issues in life as Jimmy. Although his father, grandfather, and great grandfather don’t appear to be as anti-social or as lacking in social skills, they do appear to be gradually decline in social skills and interactions.
Today, you often hear people say that we are becoming more anti-social due to the amount of time we spend behind screen. Although we cannot get Ware’s view point of this due to the time period of the book, it is possible to refute this view, making Ware’s view point of sociality in the 1980s outdated. Today, we have numerous ways of being social, without being physically in the space, such as Skype, FaceTime, FaceBook, Twitter, and several other technologies and applications. When applying this statement to Ware’s views on sociality in the 1980s, his views appear to be outdated.

Although the book takes place in the 1980s, Ware’s views on modern day America still apply. However, some are less prevalent, or in some cases relevant, than they were in the 1980s. Ware appears to be emphasizing the negatives of electricity and several inventions allowed by it. Although this is a mostly one sided view point, it is one that is not as commonly thought of. The book shows the negative effects that phones have, as well as the social implications of convenience. Although you can refute some of Ware’s view points, even in the 1980s, they are still an interesting view on life. Everything has pros and cons, but it is a matter of weighing them. At the surface, Ware appears to have a story that does not seem to have much of a point. However, when diving deeper we see that Ware is favoring a negative view on modern day America.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Jimmy Corrigan, it's Time to Read a Comic Book

I have to say, after all these books I read from our class; I realized that comic books are not only for children actually. Jimmy Corrigan The Smartest Kid on Earth, is another comic book wrote for adult. To be honest, I do not like the protagonist --- Jimmy. He just looked like a loser, miserable middle-age, and self-contemptuous man when I first time saw him. I kind of realized that the instructions part is actually very important for us. It is the place we can know lots of things about the topic of a book. It is much better to read a book after read the instructions. I can bring the questions and purposes into the book and try to find my own answer. Compared to directly read the book, after read the instructions part we can prepare pretty well to deal with any situation no matter what the book wrote about.

In the Instructions part, there is an exam. Those questions are interesting in some way. First of all, he do not want women answer these questions. After that he started to ask questions about childhood, the relationship between son and father those kind of thing. Those seem like tips for us to understand his book. “When you started to realize that maybe your childhood was over, you: a. cried. b. watched in horror as everyone around you became attractive, while you stayed small, pale and offensive. c. continued to read comic books. d. tried to lift weights. e. stopped looking others in the eye.” It is one of the examples of his questions list. When I saw the exam, I put my own answer first actually. After I finished those questions, there is a connection built between me and Jimmy. The author wants us to feel what Jimmy feel. So he needs a reason to make us put ourselves into the story, not watch the story from a god’s vision. I think the exam did a really good job for me. I change my mind about Jimmy Corrigan. I started to consider about why jimmy got such a tragic life. Missing father in Jimmy’s childhood maybe is a really important reason.

Otherwise, the technical explanation of the language, developing skills part in the instructions I want to discuss. It is a test before the exam. The questions sounds silly, “Do you see a) two boxes printed in the midst of text filled with a confusing arrangement of outlined shapes that are utterly incomprehensible, or b) two boxes printed in the midst of text on a page with tiny pictures of mice and a cat head inside them?” Sounds pretty stupid questions, but actually some people ignored these pictures. There are a series questions about these two pictures. The way you analysis these pictures can reflect the idea inside your mind. I have to say Chris Ware is a brilliant cartoonist even we only read the instructions. He provides so many possibilities to understand cartoon. Maybe this is a comic book talked about sad story, but I think there still lots of good details can make us laugh for sure. The point is how we think about it. In the first coupe pages, Jimmy saw a superman jumped from a skyscraper and died. It is a 100% tragedy. It also symbolized some kind of American superhero dream died. But after I saw the instructions part, I find a new answer for the superman died. In everyone’s life, we all have the time we hope we are the superman and wish we can save our own lives. But actually superman does not exist. We cannot just become a cartoon character to save ourselves. People are all belong to ordinary in the end, no matter who you are. So the superman jumped and died, and we see what the reality is.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Jimmy Corrigan, Instructions and Time

Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan the Smartest Kid on Earth, can be at first hard to follow and interpret due to its unconventional layout.  However, it comes with its own “general instructions” which serves to verse the reader in how to approach the book as well as aspects of the technical style required to grasp the comic string language.  This section is littered with words and descriptions which juxtaposes the later body of the novel which, for periods of time falls short on textual detail.  Right away these instructions prepare the reader to be able to think critically about the passage of time and relationship between individual moments separated by frames.  Even panels placed directly next to each other with mostly identical content can be different representations of time and space in Jimmy Corrigan.
            One of the striking images from these pre-novel instructions is in section four titled, “Technical Explanation of the Language, Developing Skills”. It is broken down by two consecutive panels featuring a cat and mouse.  The first panel shows a cartoon mouse lifting a large hammer over his head, and then in the latter panel hitting the disembodied head of a cartoon cat with the hammer.  Linked with this panel, the instructions state, “Below are five test questions by which you should be able to determine whether your understanding of the ‘comic strip’ language is sufficient to embark” (Ware).  Although the panel is seemingly straightforward in nature, these questions seem to deliberately complicate the transition between the two panels.  These questions all stress understanding the basic aspect of time and relationship to past and present by exploring the break between panels, and what the physical separation of the images can produce.  However, the coupled images shown only function to make sure the reader grasps how the natural flow of time functions in typical panels by showing just one specific action, the hammer being lifted to strike the cat’s head.  Stressing the normative in this manner is a way to draw attention to unorthodox relationship to time the panels within the novel exhibit.  The composition of panels, and the relationship to time between them in Jimmy Corrigan, is unlike any typical comic representation and is hard to classify by general norms.  Now that the reader has been introduced to this simplistic two-step functionality of time in depth, some of the very first panels in the novel incite a red-flag reaction which induces further examination of the composition.
By deconstructing such a simple scene in a nature, emphasis is placed in how the visual representation of action and symbols function in the image, as well as helping to understand transitions and narrative links in the story.  One reoccurring visual element of this in Jimmy Corrigan, is the red bird which appears in scenes which often link different periods of time or move between a state of Jimmy’s lucid dreaming and reality.  The first appearance of the red bird occurs on page 6, where it sits upon a branch in front of two versions of Jimmy Corrigan’s house. The bird appears in multiple locations in this scene and appears to be the same bird throughout, however the panels themselves actually show vastly different versions of time.  The way the bird in placed in these scenes creates an interesting paradox about the passage of time.  The bird seemingly transitions between the narrative preface scenes, the house of Jimmy as a young child, into the narratives present condition of Jimmy’s childhood house, boarded-up, decrepit and forgotten.  Finally we get one last panel of where the house was before its destruction with no bird present at all, potentially showing the end of the bird’s existence and by extension Jimmy. 
The symbol transition of the red bird is further used to explore the continuity of time throughout the novel, but maybe most visually in the scene which transitions from the Battle of Shiloh to the hospital. In this scenario, the bird actually interacts with the environment making its actions seem completely continuous through the panels. The bird picks up a flower branch near the body of the dead solider from the past, then flies up to a branch in the next panel to overlook the modern day hospital. The birds shown are inevitably not the same, but yet when viewing all the panels closely together on the same page, they are intrinsically connected as the similarity of their actions represents them as singular.

              One might extrapolate the reason for stressing the basic in the general instructions pertains to the fact that Ware regarded them as unneeded and frivolous.  The entire layout is speckled with back-handed retorts and passive-aggressive tones, and functions in a way similar to the structure of the novel.  That is, what you are provided on the surface is not always what it seems, but may require extra thought to comprehend. Ware did not disregard this section in its impact to the reader and function to the novel, but rather designed it to work parallel.  As the novel may be confusing in its presentation, the instructions are designed to be completely opposite, so easy to understand that they may be intellectually insulting. However, they very subtlety underline important aspects of the novel under a guise which seems to simply educate on the structure and examination of comics.

Ware, masculinity, and Jimmy Corrigan

Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth is a graphic novel of great depth. It is not the first work to break from its comic origins and into the realm of literary argument, but it certainly makes a persuasive argument in a new way. Ware's novel, much like Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, criticizes modern culture and society to present a view on sexuality, particularly as it relates to masculinity in contemporary culture. The novel suggests that due to his home environment, particularly the absence of his father, Jimmy grew to be an introverted, socially incompetent adult. Furthermore, Ware presents a view point that everything is not always as it seems, a further reflection on modern society.

Ware's argument pertains to modern society, and how views of masculinity in conjunction with parenting effects certain people. This becomes evident in Ware's character, Jimmy Corrigan. Jimmy is shown to be a shy, "head in the sky" type character. Jimmy is shown alone imagining superheroes and other fantasies lacking the social skills necessary to make friends or talk to women. The novel implies that this is due to the absence of Jimmy's father. The lack of a father figure also leads to the representation of Jimmy's mother as strong-willed and overbearing, stripping away any sense of masculine identity Jimmy might be able to construct. Her strong personality is evident from the onset of the story when she chastises Jimmy for making her wait, and it continues when she implores him to not be late, making sure he understands. This is just one example of her strong-willed tactics. Ware seems to argue that his mother's strong personality, in conjunction with the the lack of a father figure created an environment which did not allow Jimmy to meet the masculine ideal of society, something that is altogether harmful to men. 
Ware's argument is persuasive as there are elements that I think everyone can relate to (even women, despite Ware's instructions for women not to read the book) in certain thematic elements. Nearly everyone would say their parents, whether through their direct involvement, indirect involvement, or absence effected the person they became. I certainly feel my parents effected my development. The implications of Ware's views as it relates to society are less clear. Certainly, Ware feels the masculine ideal of a strong, womanizing, macho man is harful to boys and the development of males in society, and this should change, but it cannot be abolished completely. Rather, I think Ware feels a more accepting culture should be implemented. This is evident in the formatting of the novel. 

The graphic novel, in terms of comics, is quite... different. Ware makes use of, at times, non-traditional arrangements of color, image arrangement, and text. In his instructions Ware emphasizes that there is more than one interpretation, and even issues a section of errors and corrections at the end ("Corrigenda"). I believe this is a veiled effort at pushing the reader towards a higher level of thinking, beyond absolutes and stereotypes such as the typical idea of male masculinity. This argument seems to stand in conjunction with the previous, supporting a new way of interpretation and cultural understanding. 

Ware's multi-faceted argument presents the problem, and a representation of how that manifests itself in day to day life in the form of Jimmy's story. Furthermore, Ware's graphic novel seems to present a solution in the form of greater acceptance through the format and structure of the novel. Ware certainly presents a persuasive view through the story presented and the format of that story. His argument provides an important perspective on something that seems to be given little visibility, male masculinity. 

Instructions on the Everyman- Jimmy Corrigan

            Almost everything that was read to date, has just been done intuitively, unless it’s a complex language that needs deciphering. Jimmy Corrigan is the latter. At first glance, while flipping through the pages it appears that the comic would just be a straight forward read. However, often there are panels that go in different order, or frames that get flipped and all this adds to how one can piece together the main character’s, Jimmy Corrigan, life. To try and aid in this piecing together, or understanding of the book, the author added on the front flap a list of instructions. Yet, these instructions are without a doubt not a straight forward list. In fact even the instructions work in a strange order, although still conveniently numbered and boxed off when necessary.
            The instructions, are not so much instructions on how to read the novel. They are more a vehicle of helping you decipher the meaning behind the text and keep a mental note on the themes that Ware is trying to address. Most interestingly is the enforcement of how bleak and sad people can be. The loneliness in the world of an “everyday” average person. In the role section this idea is introduced that people are often sad and will either just move on or commit suicide, but very bluntly by the author. Ware also seems to show disdain for those who seem to be alpha, the people that are usually outgoing and sexually confident, he associates this with the type of people who find the lonely sadness that pervades the average person’s thoughts as an inconvenience.
            It is clear that Ware wants to say something about the average American man, in connection with America, in fact the point that sadness is the average American thought is even yet reinforced in the questionnaire section, where the overwhelming answers to questions seem to reflect that people usually are scared of women, always wanting women, introverts and sad to be grown up wishing they could go back to being children.
            The roles and themes are ever present throughout the comic. The protagonist Jimmy is constantly dreaming of sexual encounters with women that he either barely knows, or that find disgust in him. He seems to associate them with peaches and the peaches were repeated throughout. Moreover, he is portrayed as a pathetic ugly balding man with weight issues, which constantly gets hurt, has an overbearing mother and most of his life an absent father. Corrigan seems to be the every man, in the mind of Ware. On top of this, all of Jimmy’s wacky dreams seem to be his attempt to get away from reality and back to childhood, where he can somehow rewrite his life in some way to become a better person. In fact, in the scene where Jimmy is at the hospital with his father after being hit by the truck, the doctor seems to treat Jimmy much like a child. This was an interesting scene, because it is apparent that Jimmy is surely a man at this point. It may be Ware distinguishing the average from the important, as a doctor will look down upon ‘ugly’ average people such as Jimmy.
            Ware often confuses and muddles the stories together, however, in the end he expects you to understand it in his way, or else there will be a problem. The instruction have a section labeled, “Technical Explanation of the Language, Developing Skills”. This shows an image of a cat’s head with a mouse holding a hammer, then another with that cat stuck with the hammer. There are several questions following, that if not answered “correctly” requires one to stop and fill out the questionnaire that as explained above reinforces the theme of the book of the everyman. This indicates that while reading Jimmy Corrigan one needs to think and understand it in Ward’s way, otherwise it is being read incorrectly and should be done again.
            Jimmy is just a sad, unsuccessful and lonely middle aged man who lives with a mother that demands all his attention and compliance, and a father that was absent from his life. Jimmy works in a cubicle and wishes for any women’s peach that he can get, though it is impossible for him to socialize with them. All of this is apparent in the picture and text, which is deliberate by Ward. His instructions do their job to reinforce all of this as the main theme that is obvious to most readers. It is clear however, that there is a connection between images, not just as they appear at that time, yet that they happen as a fluid motion. The dreams and past life of his grandfather all show how Jimmy’s life is run by the absent father and wish to stay forever a child, while also living with a  sexual mind always in action.

Masculine Identity in Corrigan

                In the novel, Jimmy Corrigan, author Chris Ware makes a clear argument about masculine identity. Throughout the book, Ware illustrates certain men objectifying women while they converse with Jimmy. I believe that Ware showed the men in the book this way simply because he believes this is how men actually talk about women in real life, and that makes him unhappy. I believe the origins of Ware’s displeasement with this kind of behavior go deeper than what he writes about in this book. I would venture a guess that in Ware’s own life, one or more women he was close to were mistreated or talked about in a crude manner, and writing about and bringing attention to the mistreatment of women is his way of lobbying for better treatment of women and working to end misogyny.
                In the very beginning of the book, Jimmy Corrigan is sitting in the break room of his office eating his lunch. A coworker of Jimmy’s approaches him and begins talking to him. The man assumes that Jimmy is glum by his facial expression and jumps to the conclusion that Jimmy is having problems with his love life. The man begins a rant about how Jimmy shouldn’t let a “bitch” get him down and how his “personal rule” is to “not tell any chick I like her until I’ve fucked her at least six times.” I believe that this man, who isn’t given a name by Ware, is a symbol for men all over the world who consider females inferior to males. Ware believes that men like this perpetuate rape culture and make the world a less than ideal place for women.
                We see another example of this when Jimmy is at the diner with his father eating burgers. His father begins talking about the “little teenage bitch” who works there because she put ketchup on his order even though he asked for “no ketchup.” He talks about her breasts in a crude manner as she is feeding her baby behind the counter. Jimmy’s father is unreasonably rude when talking about this young woman and judges her completely based off of a simple mistake with his burger. I believe that something like this may have happened to Ware. Maybe he had a family member or a close friend who had a baby at a young age and had to work a low-paying job while raising their infant. Maybe Ware overheard someone talking about an actual restaurant worker like this. Whatever the circumstances, I strongly believe that something happened in Ware’s life that made him want to incorporate this in his book.

                Ware makes it clear in Jimmy Corrigan that he strongly supports the equal treatment of women and is firmly opposed to misogyny and men who objectify women. I believe that the reason Ware spends such a noticeable amount of time in this book illustrating men who objectify women is because something happened in his life that affected him or someone close to him personally. Ware believes that men who do things like this do so to protect their masculine identity and ego. These men are afraid that if they don’t assert their dominance that society will view them as lesser.

Jimmy and his Illusion

The attribute of depression that is very prevalent in our culture now gives rise to many different views towards life and how we should live it.  In Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan, we are given one more view on that emotion.  Ware seems to take a more satirical or comical approach to human loneliness and he paints the main character as someone to be pitied and to almost bring about a chuckle at how mundane his life seems.  However by using the general instructions section on the cover, we can see that Ware also wants to apply meaning to many of the frames he includes.
                Something that stands out to me is what Ware says in the Role section of the instructions about expectations or human feeling.  He describes how for many people a kind of trap of despair has caught a hold of them and it affects how we go about our days, either rendering our actions hollow or forcing us to break through a ceiling of sorts.  Ware describes this situation of bleakness by saying,
                “There are moments – indeed, das, weeks, or even years on end – in some people’s lives where there is a palpable sense that all activity is valueless.  Perhaps waking up one hopeful, sunny morning, we feel the innocent child within us reanimate, a feeling only to be shortly dispelled by the masked lie of adulthood staring back at us in the bathroom mirror.  Or perhaps someone has just let us know that we were no, after all, the life companion that they thought we were, and asked that we please not visit, or telephone, or share their sheets anymore,…”

He is referring to a crushing sense of emptiness that so many people feel that their life has not panned out in any way close to what we wanted and that possibly some things that we hold on to for stability are not permanent, especially people themselves.  We could spend much of our lives trusting someone or some activity only to have the rug pulled out from under our feet and see that the person was not what we thought they were.  This can work as the depressing event itself or something to help break through that ceiling and move away from the darkened thought process of worthlessness.
                Ware makes it interesting to apply this concept to a set of moments in the beginning of the book and how Jimmy experiences these feelings.  As a child he idolizes a superhero from a TV show, and upon seeing the actor at a car show he reacts with typical enthusiasm.  In a consequent frame the man after leaving the mother’s bedroom early in the morning, gives Jimmy a mask to wear, as if to say, “You can be my sidekick!”  Jimmy of course is too young to understand what went on during the night, and so he still is filled with happiness at his good fortune.  Ware uses these frames to set up the illusion of Jimmy’s happiness as a child, because we are aware that the man certainly was of more questionable character than Jimmy could see and that his enthusiasm and trust are misplaced.  Once we reach the images of Jimmy later in life, we see how despondent and beaten down he is and we know now that he has reached that stage of life that he feels like he has no value.  He sees the world for what it is, cold and uncaring and moving at a pace he doesn’t seem to keep up with.  Then there is the image of the superhero actor jumping off the roof to his demise.  Here Ware is using the suicide as a symbol for the event in Jimmy’s life that shows him he needs to take action.  He has reached that ceiling and been pushed through it by seeing his childhood idol, something that brought him so much joy as a small boy, jump to his death and so end Jimmy’s stagnated life cycle.  Jimmy sees that the world will never be what it was supposed to be in his childhood mind and he has to move on.

                Ware includes the general instructions in the cover to give us a window into what Jimmy could be thinking.  Since many of the frames lack words, Ware directs us to make assumptions about the main character’s thoughts and feelings, and with those assumptions we can piece together why he seems to be stuck in his life.  He is suffering from the illusion of what he thought life would be as told by the Super-man, and now that his idol’s character is revealed maybe Jimmy can move on.

Ware and Schulz

It is no secret that many cartoonists are heavily influenced by their predecessors. Techniques of relaying a story through pictures are passed on to new artists, each contributing to and adapting the style. Ware is no exception in this regard. Though his style of cartooning may appear to differ substantially from the lighter work of most comics, their influence on Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth is undeniable. Ware draws from Schulz’s style of prioritizing character expression to craft a narrative that transports viewers to the same state of loneliness as Jimmy Corrigan.
               Schulz is considered one of the most well-known comics of all time. The work which he is most famous for is the Peanuts, a comic strip that focuses on the life of a young boy and his friends. In this strip, Schulz employs a number of strategies to make his characters the central focus of each of his stories. One of the first aspects to stand out to the viewers is the minimal background. His panels feature uncluttered backdrops which place the emphasis of the story in the forefront.
               In this forefront are the characters that are known throughout the world: Charlie Brown and the Peanut gallery. Accustomed to seeing these characters, people may not notice that they are designed simplistically to emphasize their facial expressions. Composed of larger heads perched on small bodies, Schulz created a canvas in which to paint the emotions of each character. The basic lines that make up their facial features have the same purpose. They are easily manipulated into clearly defined emotions.
               Another method in which Schulz minimized background information to keep focus on his characters was the exclusion of any unnecessary characters. There are a number of main characters who are fleshed out in the strip, but no extraneous adults or parents are put in view of the reader. This may be seen as a technique to lessen the amount of work for himself, but this decision of Schulz’s has the same effect of limiting the amount of material in the narrative down to his main concern of character emotion.
               Ware capitalizes on this minimalist technique in several places throughout the novel for much the same purpose. Like Schulz, he keeps the identities of extraneous characters from distracting viewers. There are relatively few faces shown throughout the novel. Jimmy, his father, his grandfather, and Amy compose the main repeating faces within the book. In particular, the sections featuring Jimmy often have no other character’s face fleshed out. Even his mother is never pictured from the front. This is a way in which Ware visually communicates Jimmy’s inability to relate and connect to others. There are not many other people who figure into his life. This strategy helps intensify the viewers’ empathy for and understanding of his loneliness.
He wants viewers to truly experience the overwhelming loneliness from the character’s personal perspective. Many of Ware’s panels contain Jimmy’s face against a mostly blank background. For the majority of the novel, the character himself seems to be an extremely boring individual who is mostly devoid of opinion and expression. However, the nuances of these close-ups allow for viewers to recognize and relate to the emotions Jimmy is experiencing. In essence, Ware ensures that viewers are immersed enough in the protagonist’s expression to subjectively experience his emotions.
               Many of the sequences focused in on Jimmy’s face occur when he is in his father’s home. When he contemplates the price tag on his father’s coffee table, there are a few slides that show the subtlety of the change in his expression. The changes are almost invisible, but extremely revealing about Jimmy’s current state of mind. The audience is drawn in, experiencing Jimmy’s nerve-wracking fear that his father could actually be a conniving murderer.
The sequence in which Amy calls and leaves a message is also particularly interesting. Two full pages have little more in focus than Jimmy’s face. There is a sequence where Jimmy is questioning the identity of the caller; an anxious expression covering his face. Five subsequent panels featuring Jimmy’s face against a black background with relatively little changes reveal the depth of his nervousness and confusion. Though the changes in his expression are small, the effect of being immersed in them is monumental. The audience has been plunged into the mind, insecurities, and fears of this man-child.
Lastly, the portion of the novel after Amy has told Jimmy to get away from her features multiple close-ups on the character. At what may be his most expressive point in the novel, Jimmy’s facial expression is one of despair. Rejected by the only woman who seemed interested in his life, Jimmy is struggling to cope. This is echoed in the montage of close-ups on his face. His expression does not particularly change, but the effect on the viewer is a submersion in Jimmy’s angst.

               By incorporating Schulz’s expression-focused method, Ware was able to not only express the subtle emotional shifts experienced by the protagonist, but to immerse viewers in the perspective from which they originated. He did not require words to transmit these emotions. Like Schulz before him, he understood the impact that an expression-focused account could have on his audience. What results from his efforts is an intimate and personal acquaintance with loneliness.

Jimmy Corrigan - Basic Instructions

            While reading the first few pages of Ward’s, Jimmy Corrigan The Smartest Kid on Earth, you quickly understand why he decided to include reading instructions for his comic book. In particular section four entitled, “Technical Explanation of the Language, Developing Skills”, is useful in understanding the basics of the comic strip and how he plans on using them in his book.  This section is broken down into five questions that are meant to guide the reader into only one conclusion per question. If the wrong answer is chosen the reader does not go any further in the questions and then is forced to agree with what he wants to continue the reading. He is deliberately trying to make sure the reader knows how to interpret the two pictures he placed side by side in the beginning of the section.
            To begin with, section four states that, “most of the talents required for the understanding of this volume are essentially intuitive, though some basic premises must be re-established before attempting a thorough apprehension of the complete work.” This instruction is saying that although the reader may be a comic reader, they need to understand the way he intends to illustrate the comic and how it may be different that the typical comic book is shown. Also, he wants to cover the very basic’s of comic strip reading in the instructions to ensure the readers with no previous comic strip experience understand what they should be taking away from each illustration.
            The two small boxes contain a mice and a cat head with a sequence of events taking place in them, which is the topic of interest in the very first question.  Ward asks, “Do you see a) two boxes printed in the midst of text filled with a confusing arrangement of outlined shapes that are utterly incomprehensible, or b) two boxes printed in the midst of text on a page with tiny pictures of mice and a cat head inside them?” Of course, the reader is not going to choose option (a), because it sounds completely ridiculous, but this is what the author was going for. He knows it sounds absurd and does not think anyone will think it is the correct answer, but it is a small way he insults the reader and shows how little he may think of them or how he wants to make sure they are even capable of the most basic comic strip reading.
            In the next question, Ward asks, “If b), do you see a) two mice and two cat heads in two boxes next to each other, one raising a hammer above his head, the other striking a cat head with a very similar hammer, or b) one mouse and one cat head, portrayed at two different points in time, the result of comparison being the impression of the same mouse striking the same cat head with the same hammer?” This question is not as insulting as the previous one, but still is making the reader feel a little insulted making sure they understand how time evolves through comics.  The reader can take this as an insult or as a helpful guidance to the way they should see time happening in comic strips.  Again the way these questions are interpreted can be one extreme to the other and Ward seems like he could have been annoyed by being asked to provide an instructions section to his comic book by his “research facility” he refers to in the introduction section, which I do not think is a real thing but he decides to blame them for the need for instructions.
            The sequence of events is the topic of questions three and question four.  Ward is making sure that the reader is not completely lost on how comic strips are used to show movement of things and how it relates to the time of events. He uses one question to ensure the readers know that you read from left to right, because this will be of importance during the reading of his comic book. He goes from left to right unless otherwise specified. During these questions he writes less and makes sure the reader knows the cat’s head is being hit with the hammer by the mouse, and not the mouse lifting the hammer of the cat’s head.  This was emphasized because Ward includes violence in his comic book at times, and does not shy away from confrontations between characters is his comic book.  I believe the mouse was hitting the cat’s head because in most cases the cat is the one hurting the mice but Ward wanted the smaller adversary to have the upper hand.  Revealed later in the book, Jimmy Corrigan could be seen as the mouse and his father seen as the cat, with Jimmy wanting to be the one in charge of the hitting and not his father. Although, that may not be correct because the comic book itself is hard to follow and the characters are sometimes hard to differentiate.
            Lastly, Ward asks, “If b) did you, a) feel sorry for the cat head, or b) not?” The only correct answer for Ward is answer (b), and that shows that he does not want the reader to always feel bad for the one being attacked in the comic book because they may not know the full story behind the events leading up to the conflict. He intends the readers to think above and beyond the illustrations he provides and question the motives behind them.
            Then in the last segment of section four, he gives the readers who answered (b) to all of his questions the okay to read the comic book, while anyone who did not answer (b) to all the questions has to take an exam in the next section.  He tells the exam taker’s to not dally, be honest, and to fill in the ovals completely with firm pressure. This section takes on a bossy and annoyed tone, because he does not want to deal with any person who was not able to pass the previous test. Ward is using this as a chance to be bossy to the type of person he probably was bossed around by at some point in time, so he does not sugar coat his instructions.
            In conclusion, I think Ward was not pleased about writing the instructions and felt annoyed the whole time by them.  He included section four to insult the average comic book reader and belittle anyone who may have never read a comic book before. 

Jimmy Corrigan and Technology

It is clear that Ware wrote Jimmy Corrigan with influences from technology. Beginning with the inside cover, the book is constructed as a story within a manual, supposedly one for some mechanical machine. The General Instructions inform the reader on how they should read the manual, including sections on “Ease of Use” and “Technical Explanations.” Throughout the book, the reader is interrupted several times by instruction sheets and diagrams.
I believe this leads to the overarching theme of modernity. One half of the storyline takes place during the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. Chicago is located in the Midwest and therefore can be related to the great move of American settlers into the “heartland” of the country. The World’s Fair, or the World’s Columbian Exposition, celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s landing in America. This event caused the Midwest to be seen as a great land of growth and prosperity. This was further fueled by the fair, which established America’s entrance into modernity and urban development. Impressive architecture, electric lighting and an expansion of the arts were all revolutionary advancements introduced there. In effect, it shed light on American industrialism and the importance of improving America’s lands for the better. The story mentioned the White City, which was a group of important buildings known as the Court of Honor, covered with bright white stucco. It is seen as a significant point for advancement in the story. The city of Chicago essentially went through a beautification process and attracted millions of visitors to the “Metropolis of the West.”
The inclusion of this significant event in America’s history relates to Ware viewing the negative effects of modernity. This event was supposed to be a kick-start to all future advancements and the beginning of a new and improved America. Ware interweaves the story through two generations. One of Jimmy and his estranged father, and the other of his grandfather and great-grandfather. Both generations experienced familial struggles with the absence of the important father figure. His great-grandfather grew up with an abusive father during the construction of the World’s Fair. His experiences are related to Jimmy’s newly discovered relations with his father.
I believe that Ware is explaining that in addition to the technological shifts of the modern world, society as a whole was also affected by these changes. This is a common and popular argument, but one I feel that can be effectively applied. Technology, such as the phone and computer, interferes with interpersonal human interaction. Gone are the days of face-to-face interaction and information traveling by word of mouth. The ease of instant technological communication allows for the disappearance of the need for humans. This can best be seen in Jimmy’s relationship with his mother. Not once do we see an image of his mother. We only receive a sense of her character by her voice and the tone in which she speaks through the red phone. Jimmy is a lonely man in a world of isolation and this blinded communication only makes it worse. Peggy, his office crush, fails to notice his presence because Jimmy is too afraid to speak up to her. He is also overlooked by the public and really only has interaction with his needy mother and has a brief interaction with his nurse. I also noticed that we often never see the faces of the other characters, besides those of the Corrigan men. I believe this is done on purpose to emphasize that Jimmy is in fact alone and isolated from the rest of society. This affects everything from his love life and family life to his mental health and overall view on the world.
The great modernity of the Chicago World’s Fair resulted in the isolation of Jimmy’s great-grandfather and it can be assumed that it trickled down into Jimmy’s father isolating himself from Jimmy’s life. This cycle is then broken when his father makes the strange effort to reconnect with him through a letter. Therefore, it can be said that Jimmy’s isolation is the result of technological advancements. The growth of modernity into America can be seen through Ware’s sporadic depiction of Jimmy as a mechanical robot. Ware flashes back and forth from Jimmy doing an action to a robot doing the same exact action in the following scene. It can be inferred that Ware is trying to show them as the same person or thing. Jimmy, therefore, is the product of technology. This isolation from a loving family and society leads to him daydreaming about a life much greater than his, such as that of Superman. However, this only encourages his secluded personality.