Monday, February 8, 2010

Why a Johnny-Come-Lately Thinks Comics Matter to Literary Reading

I came early to comics (in my waning toddler years) and lately have come back to them (in the incipience of my dotage) and it wasn’t easy. After fifty years of reading rectangles of letters and lots of white space, reading comics, in which the writing comprised only about 5% of the page and illustration about 80% (and margins the other 15%), I had to re-train myself to assimilate the comic’s different organization.

But as I read further in the comics world, I am finding the bursting of narrative line fascinating. Sure, the traditional six- or eight-panel book still exists, but when I read I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Nimura, with undertones of superheroes in the dialogue and drawing, I was reminded that comics have the ability to “spring” narrative from its traditional linearity of the eye. I’m not talking about Félix Féneon and Tristan Tzara and Bryon Gysin and cut-up techniques, but the way that comics can re-flex the eye that solely word-based books cannot. Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman are experimenting with types of focus in their RAW Junior line of children’s early readers. Placing words in a bubble, they take on both increased and reduced significance, depending on one’s point of view.

I would appreciate anyone who reads this to recommend non-comics “sprung” narrative. I’m not talking, for example, about Carole Maso-style, short-paragraph work or the poetry of Ricardo Sanchez, but visual-based, not-illustrated work, which may or may not have been influenced visually by comics.

1 comment:

Laurie said...

What about John Lennon's work, or Ram Dass, Be Here Now. Do you mean narratives with different sized type, spacing that allows negative space? ee cummings?