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Comic and montage as a means to a medium


'Tis a wonderful moment when you work at something and it begins to come together, almost by itself.

Well this is me and my Mr Punch project

Coming together.

The elements are complicated.

First there is the drama, the story telling business, driven, as it happens, by character attribute and pre-existing use. I may parody puppetry but in the pitch there is more to mine than I at first thought.

Then there is the photography -- posing the subjects to get the best shot in the lighting conditions I'm working under.

Finally, comes the task of pulling the comic together panel by panel before  publishing online.

While I started with 'a' concept, I am surprised how much I can veer toward utilizing a mix of elements in creating the comic. Since I've gone back to using colour  there is no reason I cannot indulge myself  with collage and montage effects so long as the reading flows.

Reading so many graphic novels and comics of late I get to respect the inventiveness of both illustrators and writers. I am also exposed to how fluid and flexible the medium is.  

From what any one considers to be comics on paper -- new options have been developed such as the extraordinarily effective comic journalism -- especially Joe Sacco's wonderful graphic novels  on Palestine.

Joe Sacco: Palestine
Cartoons we presume we know about --  but to take actual events and turn them into comics allows  a certain engineering of perspective to be bought into being which is going to be different from straight written journalism or standard video about these same incidents.

Looking at what the comic journalists have to say -- especially Dan Archer  and  Sacco (see interview), of course -- and then reading the end product, what strikes me is how effective are their efforts. 

For me, this is a 'wow!' moment. 

After years of taking photographs or recording audio or shooting video and writing journalistic reports about 'events' I am mightily impressed with the way that a comic can/could tell the story of what occurred and why.

Even with photographs -- any report is going to limit itself to one or two shots, or, as happens nowadays online, to a slideshow. But as soon as you edit and  place the images  into a series of panels, add captions and whatever, you are, in effect, creating a comic -- except there is no drawing involved. Your placement or caption and commentary is nonetheless going to serve as a graphic representation of your topic. 

I take the view that it is better to use filters on your images so that they look unreal -- like they are indeed drawn or water coloured rather than simply photographed. I think it is important -- and here my Bertolt Brecht training shines through -- that the means to the medium is self evident to the viewer and that your effort is presented as something heightened and unusual (Brecht called it 'alienated').

Its' all about a different way to see.

This notion is what is driving my every other day creative efforts. 

"What if," I ask myself, "I can turn any event into a comic -- even the most mundane routines of my daily existence? "

I'm not saying I'm going to do that but anything could be comicified by firstly drawing or photographing and image of it; and, secondly, selectively arranging those images together while, as required, adding text.

It's Storytelling 101. 

Obviously a single image doesn't have to carry the weight of the whole story. Instead a 'comic'  has several images bought together as montage -- edited. That's what 'montage' means --  it's French  for "organize".

I'm finding that with modern digital cameras -- and mine is a very cheap miniature  device -- you can shoot any number of images in the context of 'the event' so long as you have a narrative plan and perspective you can later develop further when you come to editing, selecting and organising.

So it's not about the best of all possible shots but how you intend to format the flow and perspective  later when you edit and arrange the images you shoot.

Of course this is how you make a video. But video editing has its complications and for me the two primary ones are transitions from one clip to another and the time length of each clip.This has a lot to do with pacing and what the human eye and its mind can or cannot tolerate before the owner of the eyes protests.

With comics you are not  limited by the pressure of time and transitions  aren't so brutally demanding. Comic storytellers use a lot of  devices to move around both place and time. They also know that if they lose the reader's comprehension for a  moment they  always have the option to go back and re-read what they may have missed. On a film that ready rewind is not an easy choice as it will undermine the flow.

There is a difference, you see between a McLuhanist 'hot' and a McLuhanist 'cold'.

Comics, in contrast, are much more staccato -- panel by panel -- and much more self evidently outside us as a self evident medium -- much closer to reading a book -- than watching a film or video.  The identifier quotient is less and potentially the informational density is more.

It's not as though I've suddenly developed a novel POV on comics. I've been fascinated by narrative art for decades --especially the work of Pieter Breghel -- the 16th Century Flemish painter.

Breghel created 'comics' in the one panel that told stories as did William Hogarth, (another hobby of mine) et al.

So it's like all my chickens have come home...

Comic toolbox 

That said, I'm thinking that aside from a good comic making ap or program -- I use ComicLife -- and a digital camera, maybe the toolbox should also include -- esp for the serious comic journo -- some means to tape audio.

It is hard to shoot  photographs and scribble down quotes at the same time and audio will also allow you to insert 'notes to self.'  A great comic --  Maus -- is resourced from   the audio recording of the reminiscences of Art Spiegelman's father.

Unfortunately, while folk like Dan Archer do do it, converting a comic as is to video doesn't work very well and I really don't see the point for online consumption. Comics may make great movies -- consider A History of Violence, Persepolis, etc -- if animated or acted with flesh and blood folks, but still life images arranged together in a video is just another slide show.

And here's a knee up: comics made from photographs require no drawing skills. That may upset the old guard and and those who can actually draw -- but I think the graphic artsy-ness of comics is a bit over  rated.  A good comic has to rely absolutely on the strength of its  storytelling and the trim of its dialogue.

I likem my art -- and I love a lot of comic art -- but that's dress up for the main game. The irony is that how a comic is illustrated won't decide its message.



 

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