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Bibliography by Chris Hagenah

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 9 months ago

 

 

Bibliography by Chris Hagenah

 

ByChristopher Hagenah, [Berlin feb7th] Team

 

1. McCloud, Scott. Reinventing Comics. New York: Perennial, 2000.

 

Scott McCloud is considered one of the pre-eminent comics theorists on the basis of his Understanding Comics, a seminal work in comics theory.  Though McCloud has been criticized for his lack of “theoretical sophistication” by not engaging with more theoretical vocabulary or reference to theory like semiotics, post-structuralism, or narratology, his work is still fundamental to comics theory, especially due to his own practical use of comics language (Groensteen vii).  Reinventing Comics is a follow-up to the work mentioned above.  In it, McCloud revisits many of the ideas and vocabularies raised in Understanding Comics, such as the gutter and the representation of time through visual sequence, in order to reconsider, develop, and extend these ideas, especially in the context of technology and digital media.  Bemoaning the economic slowdown of comics in the ‘90’s, which could suggest the waning cultural import of comics, Reinventing Comics becomes mostly a type of manifesto arguing for the aesthetic, cultural, technological, commercial, pedagogical and artistic potential for the medium.  “As with any medium, only the tiniest fraction of comics’ potential has ever been fully demonstrated” (McCloud 21).  To provide examples, McCloud reads several comics creators, like Jason Lutes, and their particular use of comics’ language, and distinguishes them from other media.  He claims, “such visual strategies set comics far apart from prose when handling subtext but they are also quite different from those in other visual media like cinema” (McCloud 33).  After developing a more economic and commercial model for a reinvigorated comics industry, McCloud spends the second half of the book on an exploration of the intersection between comics and digital media.  He simply asks: “what can comics do in a digital environment?” (McCloud 208).  Instantiating digital media as an “infinite canvas,” McCloud argues that a computer  monitor is not just a page, but a window, stretching the limits of the page as an “artifact from print,” so that the “page” “can take whatever size and shape a given scene warrants” (Mcloud 200-27).  McCloud ultimately wishes to “reinvent” the medium by speculating about the many different directions that digital media points to with regards to how images can be sequentially ordered.     

 


2. Wolk, Douglas. Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What they Mean. New

        York: Da Capo Press, 2007.

 

In Reading Comics, Wolk first reviews the history of comics and then, building off of the theories of Scott McCloud and Will Eisner as well as other film, media and literary theorists like Walter Benjamin, he develops his own aesthetic position and working theoretical definition of comics.  Wolk takes aim at McCloud by pointing out that “not a lot of cartoonists have made particularly clever use of the ‘infinite canvas’ [McCloud’s term for digital media],” which must be considered as a counter-argument to McCloud’s project for comics grammar mediated by digital tools (366).  Aesthetically, Wolk privileges a comic’s “drawing style [as] the most immediate aspect of comics… the way the artist’s mind interprets sight” (371, 125).  He defines the central medium-specific characteristic of comics as the omittance, rather than inclusion of visual information, “present[ing] the rudiments of physical forms- a few details that stand in metonymically for something in reality” (Wolk 133).  Wolk’s argument assumes the premise that comics is its own medium, distinguishable from literature and film: “comics are not prose… movies… [or] the equivalent of prose narrative or a static version of a film [but] a medium with its own devices… innovators… clichés… genres… traps and liberties” (14).  After setting up a theory which acts as a lens through which to look at individual comics, he then performs a hands-on examination of specific comics, varied by genre, subject matter and creator, such as Chester Brown, Carla Speed McNeil and Charles Burns, with the goal of better understanding the cultural and artistic potential of the medium in general.  Wolk categorizies the varied styles and uses of comics language, and analyzes the distinct stylistic innovations in specific works.  For instance, describing Chester Brown’s (one of Jason Lute’s influences) individual artistic style as a “poker-faced, almost ascetic approach, with the tone of an eccentric but very patient explanation,” Wolk shows how the visual grammar of this style operates in Louis Riel, an historical biography (153).  The style “emphasize[s] that the book is not a representation of the past as it happened; it’s Brown’s personal interpretation of the way that he imagines Riel might have experienced it” (Wolk 154).

 


 

3. Walsh, John.  “CBML: Comic Book Markup Language”.  XML Conference &

        Exposition.  Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, MD.  Dec., 2002.

       http://www.idealliance.org/papers/xml02/dx_xml02/papers/05-05-04/05-05-04.html

 

John Walsh works in the area of Humanities Computing at Indiana University, where he specializes in web-based interfaces using SGML and XML digital collections of literary and humanities texts.  Due to the lack of availability of many comics in university libraries and collections Walsh hopes to use the encoding capabilities of CBML to “facilitate the preservation, study, and analysis of these important cultural artifacts… the original comic books” (Walsh).  While agreeing with McCloud in defining comics as juxtaposed images, or images in sequence, Walsh goes further to include non-primary source materials, or “sub-documents” like the ads featured in many comics, which Walsh considers an “integral part of these publications” (Walsh).  Walsh proposes this interface for the purposes of the preservation and access of comic books for scholars, but more importantly for an “increased functionality” for analysis of comics.  According to him, “the digitized version offers functionality not available in the original print version of the comic book… includ[ing] the ability to perform on the data full-text searches and complex queries facilitated by added and regularized metadata and the rich and detailed encoding added to the original document” (Walsh).  With this metadata capability, one could perform text analysis on comics much as one would in pure text like poetry, especially through comics series such as hundreds of issues any given comic.  For example, if I wanted to find out how many times a certain character is shown in a panel,  (i.e. Superman) I’d be able to perform an accurate search regardless of that character’s being mentioned by name or text (the program would count images of Superman).  In other words, the metadata allows one to search through images, text in images, as well as text itself.   Subsequently, a central question that follows is: how do scholars compile and organize metadata about comics?  Walsh proposes methods for encoding both simple and complex comics structures (i.e. standard six panels to a page being simple, as opposed to more complex, overlapping, or panel-less spreads).  (Another attempt at adapting comics into XML code is called ComicsML: http://www.jmac.org/projects/comics_ml/about.html

 


4. McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media.  Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994.

 

McLuhan is one of the leading figures in media criticism and theory.  His project in Understanding Media is “to understand the effects of the extensions of man,” which he defines as “the technological simulation of consciousness” as expressed through varying media like the spoken and written word, clothing, ads, games and of course, comics (McLuhan 3-4).  Famously proclaiming “the medium is the message,” McLuhan argues that the content delivered by a medium obscures the character of the medium itself (8-9).  He then distinguishes between two forms of media, hot and cool, hot being filled with “high definition” data or information such as radio or film, and cool media, where very little information is provided, and therefore much of the information must be filled in by its receptor (i.e. one who senses, or receives information).  Cool media, like comics, “demand… involvement in [the] process… [and] require participation in depth” (McLuhan 31).  McLuhan later devotes a single chapter specifically to comics.  Comparing twentieth-century comics to the rudimentary woodcut of the prior century, McLuhan argues that comics “offer very little visual information or connected detail… [providing] a participational and do-it-yourself character” (165).  In addition, because of their “participational” quality, they “belong to the world of games, to the world of models and extensions of situations elsewhere” ((McLuhan 169).  Due to this characteristic nature of the comics medium, comics can act as a subversive reaction to more dominant, “hot” media.  Therefore, McLuhan proclaims that “the iconic age is upon us,” and calls for a better understanding not of comics’ content, but of its form, for a clarification of the medium itself (167-9).  “Our need now is to understand the formal character of print, comic and cartoon, both as challenging and changing the consumer-culture of film, photo, and press” (McLuhan 169). 

 


5.  Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide.  New York:

        New York UP, 2006.

 

Henry Jenkins is a Humanities Professor and the founder and director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT.  In Convergence Culture, he examines the relationships between three central concepts.  The first, “media convergence,” by which he means the circulation of media content, Jenkins argues “represents a cultural shift as consumers... seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content” (3).  This isn’t just a function of new technology, but rather of people’s changing interactions as a consequence of technological innovation that allows for new channels for convergence to take place.  For example, Jenkins cites Japanese youth who are able to remain in contact with each other through the day on their PDA’s, despite being physically miles apart (17).  Second is the concept of “participatory culture, ” which is simply defined in opposition to older modes of passive consumer participation, such as the difference between film spectatorship in contrast to YouTube film-making, distribution, and participation.  Lastly, “collective intelligence” describes collective information pooling of consumers, such as the fan-bases for the “Survivor” or “Lost” TV shows.  These fan-bases, due to web forums, form “knowledge communities” who “work together to forge new knowledge often in realms where no traditional expertise exists” (Jenkins 20).  Jenkins creates a vocabulary, such as “zappers, casuals, and loyals,” “transmedia storytelling,” and the “monitorial citizen” with which to negotiate with the changes he sees in contemporary culture (74, 93, 223).  Positing that this culture is “highly generative,” Jenkins concludes that “the power of participation comes not from destroying commercial culture but from writing over it, modding it, amending it, expanding it, adding greater diversity of perspective, and then re-circulating it, feeding it back into the mainstream media” (257).  

 


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