Discussion question for Tuesday

There will again be no new reading for Monday. The deadline for responding to the discussion question will be Tuesday at midnight. The question is:

Discuss the difference, in terms of materiality, between reading a superhero comic book (such as Promethea) and watching a CG-animated superhero movie (such as The Incredibles or Iron Man). In what ways do the aesthetics of superhero comics depend on the physical properties of paper and ink? How do these aesthetics have to change when superhero stories are adapted for CG film?

Published in: on February 28, 2010 at 5:30 pm  Comments (18)  

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  1. With the comic book “Promethea,” Promethea becomes a different representation everytime she is reborn or created by another viewer who comes to know her. This is not the case with superhero comics and the genre. Superheroes are the same or their composition remains the same everytime to every reader/ viewer.

  2. In terms of materiality… comics books have to spell everything out literally! To a sound, action, and dialogue of characters. And that is the biggest difference I can examine between CG animated graphics such as Pixar’s Incredibles and Monster’s Inc. With the CG rendering of superheroes or characters, they do not need ink and paper or even the lines for borders or dialogue bubbles. The border lines are erased and transformed into the lines of the screen or the size and format the CG is meant to be showcased upon. Dialogue bubbles are erased and not needed because of digital effects and editing. But with cgi the characters are already in their own world and imagination is less needed than with the comic books. Within the comic book, the reeader has to create the surroundings that are not on the page. They have to re-create the situation and it sort of places the reader in a different type of intamcy than with cgi rendering.

  3. Aside from the explicit differences of comic and film materiality, super hero narratives which are adapted into computer-generated film (whether mixed or not with live-action actors and settings) tend to meet specific challenges of their own.

    We are able to measure a film as 2 and a half hours or 30 seconds long, but would find it quite difficult to do so for the vast majority of comic narrative. The sense of time between the panels of a comic is not controlled by an automated mechanism as in film, but by the migration of the reader’s eyes across the pages. The added dimension of an explicitly presented temporality complicates super hero tropes such as the common internalization of a character’s thoughts. Spider-Man can pause and contemplate or explain for the reader that he is in a perilous situation, but to do so in a film would result in a slowing of the pace demanded by the Hollywood studio system. Expository background detail is often communicated through forms familiar to the film, such as a musical accompaniment, visual body language or expressive editing.

  4. The difference in materiality between a comic and a CGI film are many and far in between. In a comic one has the pages, the story physically in their hands. In a sense you are holding a transcript informing you of someone’s exploits. The panels dictate only a few movements or action which leaves many of the stories actions up to a reader’s imagination. In some occasions one even gets to understand the mindset of the character in a thought bubble or internal monolog. While in a CGI film the story is on a projection and only feels like you are watching from afar. Every bit of action in a fight scene is shown and sometimes extended for entertainment purposes. What is up to your imagination is what the character is thinking as only his facial expressions or gestures allure you to their inner thoughts. Though both tell the same story a film has the advantage of sound and music which enhances the involvement of the viewer. While in say a comic the soundtrack is up to you with the occasional sound effect bubbles provided on the page.

  5. When one reads a comic book,
    the reader’s relationship to the story and the superhero involved is much more intimate. Each moment, whether it be in the form of an expressive action or panel depicting the setting, is more focused and meditative. The reader flips the pages at his own leisure, and with his imagination, connects the panels into a cohesive story and seamless experience.
    A CGI-interpretation of a superhero and subsequent story enables an expressiveness that is quite different from its comic-book forebears. The movements are fluid, there is an element of sound in both the dialogue and accompanying soundtrack, and the story unfolds whether or not the viewers takes part in it. This is distinctly different in both experience and materiality from comic books, in that it is more a performance of the medium than of the the imagination.

  6. The difference in materiality in comic books and CGI animated superhero films comes from the mediums each is using.
    In comic books, we cannot hear the superheroes speaking, so dialogue bubbles are needed in order for the readers to know what the characters are saying. Comic books also rely on the imagination of the readers. When reading comic books, we must be able to fill in the action between panels, since each panel is a still image. For example, when we see Batman and the Joker talking in one panel, the next panel may be Batman punching the Joker. We never see Batman lifting his arm up for the punch, or his fist heading towards the Joker’s face; we have to imagine that action taking place.
    In CGI superhero animated films, however, we do not need any word balloons because we can hear what the characters are saying, nor do we need to use our imagination to fill in moving action because all the action is shown before us.

  7. Comic books have created a unique style that is recognizable in most households today. The font Comic Sans is known for its similarity to font seen in comic books and speech bubbles have become associated with comics as well. Words such as “pow” and “kaboom” are commonly seen in comic books. As comic books are adapted to CG animated movies, they lose all of the attributes that are commonly associated with them. No longer are there speech bubbles, boxes, or comic-style art. The reader can no longer read what the character is thinking. Instead the super hero now must show their feelings through facial expressions, dialogue, or voiceovers. In The Incredibles, the only similarity that the movie maintains with comic books is the super hero mentality. Just like Batman and Superman, The Incredibles too have a mission, identity, and powers. However, the speech bubbles and comic art are gone. In movies, creators have to put more purpose behind character’s dialogue and action to get across the intentions and feelings of the hero.

  8. Reading a comic book seems to be much more immersive than watching a CG super-hero movie, for several reasons. When reading a comic book such as “Promethea” the user is free to use his/her imagination as to the voices of the characters and the scenes between panels. Everything follows in a chronological order; however, it is also possible to look ahead and to see how the characters get to where they end up. The same holds true for the sound “effects” that are present in a paper-and-ink comic book, in which the reader’s imagination is free to imagine the extent of the sound and even its volume, and in fact, the sound becomes an integral part of the panel and page on which it is placed. When adapting comic books to form CG movies, this immersiveness is replaced with a sort of engaged passivity – the viewer is seeing something happen; not partaking in the action. The viewer cannot imagine him/herself as the hero of the movie, nor is he/she free to use the imagination- every scene is completely filled in, everything follows in a chronological order with no possibility of seeing what happens in the future, and even sounds take on a background effect, as just an effect for a cause (something explodes = big boom).

    When adapting a comic book to a movie, a lot of the original engagement of the pen-and-ink comic book is lost, mostly in terms of the imagination of the readers.

  9. Comic books and computer-generated movies have completely different limitations. Comics are limited by their panels. The ink outline is used to show the reader that an instant in time is over. There is no real temporal component. Films have this temporal component. comics have to break up the action so that it feels like a natural, smooth progression, even though the reader is actually jumping from moment to moment. The reader suspends his disbelief and sees the work as cohesive if it is done well. The cg film deals with this problem differently. There is a real temporal element. The animators have to create movement between frames that is processed as a cohesive whole instead of a quick succession of pictures. Because of this the cg film is more transparent. Comics strive more for hypermediacy because hypermediacy is more attainable using paper and ink. The reader is supposed to appreciate the art and style of the comic along with the story.

  10. The main difference between paper-and-ink comics and comic book adaptations for film lies with the action of the superheroes within the physical world. In a comic book, panels display brief glimpses of the action that is implied and imagined in the reader’s mind. Because nothing exists in a three dimensional world, real or virtual, the constraints imposed by basic laws of physics do not apply. In such a case, certain visual signifiers display the effect one’s actions (punches, flight, etc.) on the surroundings. These signifiers must be accentuated using means that work within the medium. One example for instance, would be in this panel from Batman (http://www.comictreadmill.com/CTMBlogarchives/2008Images/FnFKapow0401-thumb.jpg) in which small explosive marks accompany Batman’s punches.

    Within a digital film, these signifiers may still be present for a stylized aesthetic, perhaps as a nod of respectful nostalgia to the comic book predecessor. But this is not necessary. Because the films operate at some level within the confines of the physical world, actions have no need for visual signifiers. Instead, sound effects and camera movements accompany actions.

  11. Comic books are meant to allow the reader to imagine much of the action of the story. It is up to the reader to combine the panels of a comic to make a cohesive story. The personality of the characters is also dependant on the imagination of the readers as well as the way they are physically portrayed on the page. Often a character’s personality can be depicted through the colors they’re illustrated with- evil characters are often colored with darker colors. Also the proportions of certain body parts in relation to others, for example superhero men often have very broad upper bodies, while villains are often shown with less powerful bodies. The Joker in Batman comics is often very thin and almost scrawny compared to Batman. Their personalities are also shown through written dialogue and it’s artistic aspect, in the Sandman comics, Sandman’s voice and personality is mostly shown through how he speaks with other characters as well as the way the words are written with white script on black speech bubbles.

    CG superhero movies, like Iron Man, eliminate the need for the viewer to use their imagination, and it leaves the idea of the superhero to the imagination of the director. This then translates in various ways, one of which is how the personality of the superhero is then portrayed which is also determined by the actor playing the character, or speaking the part. Differences between good and evil are shown through costumes and makeup which can create more grotesque characters with more realistic deformities, the Joker in The Dark Knight is portrayed with scarring giving him a permanent smile (based on Brian Azzarello’s joker) and white makeup and died hair. In comics, the Joker is often portrayed as actually having white skin and green hair. Comic books allow for an alternate world while movies are more closely based on our own reality.

  12. While the basic principles of superhero plots are present in both mediums, there are several inconsistencies that occur due to the respective constraints of each. In terms of aesthetics, the comic book enjoys more freedom (in a way). Aside from the few panels that set the foundation, much of the setting is left to the mind of the reader. The artwork and dialogue can be analyzed and appreciated, and the movement of the story can flow with the reader’s pace. However, in CGI animation, whole of the action is determined by the vision of one person: the director. Also, in comic books, the nature of the movements and events are left to the infinite imagination (and artistic skill) of the illustrator/writer, an existence where literally anything can happen. While this gap is slowly closing due to the technological advances in CGI animation, it is still limited by the movements of actors, the boundaries of software, and the resources available.

  13. There are evident differences in the structure of a superhero comic book, and a superhero movie. Some of these differences include the fact that a comic book is printed material, therefore, the characters communicate through speech bubbles. Since the dialogue is not spoken, the type font of the speech bubbles can be materialized in order to portray what the particular character represents (i.e. in Promethea, the monsters’ type font is messy and cryptic). Furthermore, comic books use different line styles to represent motion in the scene. When a superhero comic is made into a movie, visual representations of movement are used.

  14. One of the most important differences between the two mediums of comics and films are the senses that they engage. The comic book engages the visual senses, while film engages auditory plus visual.

    This requires the author of a comic book to recognize this drawback and incorporate creative strategies to work around it or use it to his or her advantage. The use of onomatopoeia sound effects are one of the most common strategies for engaging the reader’s auditory channels. In superhero movies spoken dialog takes the place of the speech bubbles of traditional superhero comic books. The speech bubble is the most prominent tool of creating the illusion of engaging the reader’s auditory sense.

  15. When you read a superhero comic book, because the characters aren’t really moving, fighting, flying and because they don’t make any noise, much must be left up to the imagination to fill in. You have to imagine how things that don’t exist or are impossible might really look and operate. Even though there is a drawing in front of you, it is only a drawing and its hard to imagine what that might be like if it were in real life. Especially because it is a drawing, you leave those incredible and fantastic things to the realm of comic books and can only imagine them as the drawings in the comic book world. But Iron Man makes all those imaginary elements real, behaving and appearing as if they could happen in our world. It does seem really real when he uses the hologram desk thing to create the body suit and it seems real when Pepper touches the glass to reveal the secret code and so on. There is less left to the imagination when computer graphics fill it in and make it look incredibly real in front of you.

  16. Comic book aesthetics depend on the materiality of paper and ink, tools which are limited in expression only by the imagination of the artist. Thoughts, emotions, and motivations must be conveyed through external speech and thought bubbles which are themselves artistic elements of the image. As such, these forms carry visual and aural meaning within a single signifier. When the same event is depicted through computer generated graphics, the work is split between the audio and video contained within the film. New elements are showcased such as tone and intense variable facial expression which possess a dwarfed representation in the comic book medium. Tone may only be illustrated by emblazoning the textual characters with bold or additional punctuation. Minute changes in expression, while easily observed in film, must be drawn in increased detail and sometimes across multiple panels. Overall, the evolution towards computer generated art offers a more realistic approach towards the portrayal of the world, whereas comics maintain a stylized view.

  17. Artistic mediums are defined by their limitations as a creative space.

    Comic strips are composed of static, visually punctuated, hand drawn images. These material factors contribute to, and constrain the freedoms of the artist. For instance, hand drawn pictures are perhaps more detailed and expressive than the individual frames of a CG film, but they are limited in their ability to capture motion, or simulate sonic effects. A CG film incorporates a more linear temporality, and is therefore able to convey movement, but CG rendered graphics lack the gesturality that drawings retain, and may therefore be considered less humanistic, and perhaps less artistic.

  18. In a superhero comic, as we discussed in class, there are many more factors that lead to the use of the reader’s imagination. As we read a comic, we automatically set individual and original voices to each character based on the style of writing that “describes” their voice. There are a lot of things we don’t know about the character that the reader has to fill in from his or her own insight of the readings. Readers can’t hear what’s going on in the background, or fight scene but are given written clues as to what it may sound like.
    In a superhero movie, everything is spelled out for the viewer. The producer fills you in on the background history, so that even if you aren’t a comic book reader, you will still understand and enjoy the plot. Viewing a superhero comic based movie compared to reading the same comic is a brain dead (yet enjoyable!) experience. Everything is in front of you without the use of your imagination.

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