fredag 24 februari 2017

Back to the roots and into the wonder.

For this week we took a dive into the origin of, and the mindset behind some of the earliest comic strips. As someone who's fairly uneducated in the subject, it widened my perspective on what forms they can take and what they wish to achieve. Generally when I think of the phrase 'comics' mainly the things that come to mind are the superheroes of Marvel and DC. However that is only a small portion of the comic tradition, as part of a larger and rich history.

The comics we read were 'The Adventures of Little Nemo in Slumberland' by Winsor McCay, 'Krazy Kat' by George Herriman, and 'Peanuts' by Charles Schulz. They were interesting to compare as they where all part of the early development of comics as a popular medium, and the artists behind them took very different approaches as to how to explore and refine it. For this post I'll be focusing on Little Nemo and Krazy Kat.

The Adventures of Little Nemo in Slumberland.

'The Adventures of Little Nemo in Slumberland' is a title I've heard mentioned many times, but had never read until now. Like many others before me, I was captivated by the rich imagination and astonishing craftsmanship of Winsor McCay. Visually and conceptually, this comic is on a level all of it's own, however it is clear that McCay was struggling with how to best incorporate text with the images. The speech bubbles are often awkwardly places; sometimes cramped in a corner and sometimes almost without room for the text.

Likewise, especially in the early strips, McCay tended to repeat in the explanatory text on the bottom of each frame what was already stated in the images, making the reading experience a bit tardy. As I was reading, it was also sometimes confusing to figure out which image the text belonged to, and going back and forth between the images and isolated text hindered the natural flow of reading. Even so, there is no doubt Winsor McCay was a frontier in his field, exploring and utilizing his medium (not only in comics, but in animation as well) in ways that would inspire and affect many artists, both in his time and those who followed after him.

Krazy Kat was the one that felt the most like a contemporary newspaper comic strip in its design and setup. It displayed some raw humor through imposed violence and relational miss-conceptions between the cat and the mouse.

At first I wasn't particularly drawn to the crude style of the drawings, but as I was reading I started to more appreciate the expressionistic value of the imagery. By this time, some of the comics creators looked to surrealism and the subconscious workings of the mind for inspiration. Krazy Kat seems to be one of those examples. I noticed that while the figures where seemingly occupying the same space, the background elements kept changing. Their number and placement where consistent, but from frame to frame one thing could change into a completely different object altogether. It felt reminiscent of the non-sequitur style which McCloud discussed in his book about comics. It became almost like a fun little side narrative of it's own, and I found myself looking for the objects to see what they changed into as the frames progressed.

Krazy Kat.

The more we delve into the subject of comics, the more I get to experience first hand just how wide it really is. Though narrated through the same or similar principal of sequential images confined within squared off borders, the stories themselves and the way they are presented visually are immensely diverse. How comics first began and how rapidly the art-form evolved into it's various branches has certainly been a treat to examine.

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