Cydney Grayer: The Crow by James O’Barr

James O’Barr’s The Crow is one of the many pop cultural and graphic novel characters and stories you hear about growing up. But as this was my first time actually reading the book and getting a good look at it, I can understand why. I would most likely chalk its popularity up to the art style and overall presentation of the story in general. For starters, the book’s segments are notified by poetry: Every chapter ends with some sort of verse that correlates with some aspect of what is to happen in the next chapter. Maybe this was added in the later years? Even if it wasn’t, the antihero, Erik, holds enough dramatic characteristics on his own. Erik himself is poetic in a way that only a fictional character (or really wordy and dramatic real person) could be, describing himself as being able to feel pain “at a molecular level” and that it “sings to [him] in an alphabet of fear” (seriously, who says it like that?). It doesn’t help that his image mimics that of the masks Shelly had used to decorate their home. Though, to be honest, the art that Erik’s Crow persona is stylized in makes him look more like a cross between the Joker and David Bowie. Come to think of it, I suppose the phrase “caught-between” would be appropriate to help describe this comic: It’s constantly caught between things. The style in general looks like some sort of fusion between two different styles of drawing; like if western-style cartooning got caught between with Japanese-styled manga. (I mainly draw that last one because of the peculiar eye formation and some expressions carried by the characters.) But I digress. In addition to Erik’s very 80s aesthetic, the way his body is constructed is very reminiscent of a dancer’s. What comes back to memory is the previously shown interview with James O’Barr himself, explaining that rather than using models or whatever else other artists were using to learn to draw bodies, he taught himself how to draw using Greek statues. While this may not be as apparent in some frames, this because very clear in panels that tend to have Shelly in them, considering that whenever Shelly is present, the strokes become smoother and the bodies become softer and curvier-looking. Whether or not this was intentional is anyone’s guess. However, as The Crow was the result of O’Barr grieving over someone extremely important to him, this was possibly highly intentional to convey to the audience just how he and Erik (his avatar) saw the world when their respective women were still alive. The only pages exampling color were splash pages located in the back of the book, meaning everything else was entirely black and white. For the time The Crow came out, this would have been passable but nowadays, with more graphic novels being printed in color or having a style that at least uses minimal color for indication, it stands to say that O’Barr had to be very certain of his designing. The shadows have to work just as well with the light to properly convey a figure. All in all, however, these characteristics work quite well to convey the dreariness and grittiness I’m sure O’Barr wanted to get across (even if it’s through such a peculiar-looking and hammy character).

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Chanler Brown: One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry

For this paper, I read the graphic novel, One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry. Barry’s novel is similar to Kochalka’s series, American Elf since her life is the main plot and focus. Like the title, Barry divulges into instances from her life that could be considered a demon, or something negative. For example, the first demon she discussed was about her first love and how much he differed from one of her boyfriends. This was considered a demon to her because of how he treated her and how she felt better off without him. In a way, this novel is Barry’s method of expressing her negative moments and sharing them to the public. Not only does this graphic novel encourage others to speak about their demons, Barry is healing herself from her negative experiences while sharing them so others can relate to her story.

The front cover of One Hundred Demons reflects the art style and subject matter of the graphic novel. Designed in a scrapbook like fashion, Barry has an array of colors and medias that make up the front cover. A reader can see a collage of paintings, glitter, photographs, scraps of paper, lace, string and ink that give the cover a disorganized feel. Like the rest of the novel, the art functions as a collection of memories thrown together. The cover follows a color scheme that is used throughout the book as background colors and colors frequently used in the illustrations.

The inside of the book is similar to the cover with the expression of Barry’s imagination. In the first few pages, the collage-esque theme is continued with the use of mixed medias to design each page. The colors; orange, purple, green, and pink are used in these illustrations and for the background covers. On the borders of these pages are doodles of monsters and animals. This clash demonstrates Barry’s childhood innocence and the negative experiences she endured.

The structure of this graphic novel is fluid and diverse. The front cover, the title of each chapter, and a few pages in between, have the collage/scrapbook type style. The actual chapters and strips are more uniform and structured. Each page had 4 panels and each chapter was 12 pages long. Collaborating with the chapter title pages, the background of each chapter matched. For example, if the title chapter pages had a color scheme of green, then the actual chapter had green backgrounds to fill the space in between panels. This method makes each chapter, or situation, more isolated in comparison to the other chapters.

Plot wise, each chapter wasn’t in chronological order, but told by the instance. By isolating each story, it continues with the scrapbook theme and tone by explaining each situation in moments. Traditionally, when organizing a scrapbook or a memory book, one goes about this by picking out key memories or putting them in chronological order. Putting them in chronological order can be confusing when telling a story, fiction or non-fiction in the way Barry does, since too much information will be told without a real purpose. Barry’s structure organizes her life experiences in such a way that her readers will be able to understand her demons and how they affected her.

Goliath is a simply designed comic with a unique perspective on the story

from the bible.  The story of Goliath usually makes the main character, Goliath, out to be a vicious monster, hellbent on defeating anyone who gets in his way.  In this telling however, Goliath is shown not only as human, but also as a hero.  The bible version, from what I remember, painted Goliath as a murderer. Anyone they (the Israelites? It’s been so long) sent to stop him would fail and get killed. Until one day, a small, almost sickly­looking man came along and shot him with a slingshot (I think his name was David).

He killed Goliath, because God had prophesied as such.

The message of the comic, I think, is that every coin has two sides. Every individual person has their own version of what happened at any given time. To Goliath’s own people, he wasn’t a monster. They knew him to be a sweet, kind­hearted clerical­type who would rather take notes in a strategy meeting than fight.

For a book about a giant, the actual book itself is not that big.  The hard cover, if looking at both sides, easily adds 33% thickness to the book.  The pages were a nice, thick quality, but unfortunately one of them was torn and bent near the binding.  Luckily, though, this did not hinder the ability to read the story.  The art was extremely simplistic, and used only one or two colors.  Crosshatching was used to do shading, so that the color palette of brown did not get too large.  The text was very far and few in between, which allowed the simple­shaped characters and buildings tell the story.

 

Sherrel: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis depicts an Iranian childhood using solely black and white, no gray area. The lack of color has the association of the past, like a black and white television show, we know the events are not actively happening. They are instead being reflected on by the artist. The use of blacks, highlights the culture and ethnicity. Iranians are known for long black hair. Since the head scarves in this graphic novel are also black we can see how the hair cover almost mimics the women’s natural hair. The use of black and white also helps indicate the mood of the text. At times only Marjane is white, and the adults tower over her as black blobs. We can visually see the intimidation she feels. The lighter panels, using mostly white images, shows a more whimsical mood, like when Marjane is imagining climbing through a herd of sheep.

The color and size of the panel are related, the small squares reminiscent of the funny pages in a newspaper. Instead of the classic four panels horizontally, the majority of Persepolis are three horizontal panels, with three vertical. This eliminates the beat panel. Although we have been taught the beat panel is used in comedic texts, the fourth panel can be used dramatically, to give the reader a break, a moment to digest. Persepolis offers no such catharsis, the reader is constantly eating information and images together and this slight deviation allows us to think about panel structure. Perhaps the lack of a fourth panel allows the reader to experience the image as intended, since this is based on life, with no time to comprehend while it’s unfolding. Also, we see the contrast between the events of Persepolis and the funnies. The funnies begin and end in those four panels, and say something pun worthy. Meanwhile, Satrapi is attempting to give us full characters, full wonder, full drama, and maybe a few chuckles.

Continuing the similarities in style, Satrapi’s icons are simplistic and help lighten the weight of the story. All of the characters have round heads, similar bodies, and their only distinguishing marks are something like a mustache, or height, the only real clothing marker being Satrapi’s leather jacket. Most of the icons are black using the white negative space for highlights, indicating shape or texture difference. The simple icons help make the story less real, less anatomical. This lessens how harsh some of the subjects are, such as war, sickness, and death, this allows some separation from the reader. We might also attach the icon style to Satrapi’s age. We associate cartoon images with childhood television, it follows that we might connect cartoon images with a childhood reflection piece. It shows just how normative struggle was for the author, how often her family faced issues of political strife and at a young age it was as normative as watching a cartoon.

Eli F.: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

For my third response paper I’ve decided to write about the book Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. My first observation would be that it definitely has some similar qualities to the original fairy-tales that most people are familiar with.

For example, the very last short chapter “In conclusion” shares similar characters like Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. However, Carroll makes it different as the red hooded little girl makes it through the woods without the “beast” attacking her.

She then goes to bed thinking that she got home so safely that the beast is just a myth. The beast goes to her window and says “I’ll be waiting for you tomorrow” which totally caught me off guard when reading that whole chapter.

Another observation I noticed is that that each story always has a certain twist towards the end of each chapter. Some of them I did see coming, but others I had no idea what to expect. The endings were well-written as I believe this is what Carroll intended for her audience reading her work.

I personally liked the art work throughout the book and Carroll never seemed to be scared of having the color black as her main background to present her stories. When reading this you can obviously see a more gothic style of drawing as Carroll presents some interesting imagery.

For example, the chapter “The Nesting Place” presents this images of worm-like creatures coming out of Rebecca’s face or the chapter “A Lady’s Hands Are Cold” as the lady digs out the dead body of her husband’s ex-wife and comes alive as this zombie creature.

It seems that a common idea that Carroll presents in each chapter is that the woods are a place were bad things always happen. All these stories have a certain climax that has something to do with a certain character doing something through the woods.

My first thought when I finished reading this book it brought me back to the moment were we all had to look up a certain fairy-tale from the Grimm Brothers. Both Carroll and the Grimm Brothers both have this certain pattern in each of their stories that they all end in a dark twist.

Some of the structures of the comics are all a little different than one another. Some have two or three panels and then this huge space occurs presenting this important part in the story.

I also noticed that it’s not all the same as Carroll mixes it all up and never uses the same basic 4-panel you see in comics.

Overall, all the stories are very well-organized as they have a beginning where the main characters are introduced.

We learn about more about the characters as the story plays out and while some are predictable, some you can’t quite put together.

In addition, they all have a different sort of problems that we as humans face in our lifetime. Whether it’s being jealous of your brother, hating your brother/sister’s fiancée, or maybe even noticing strange behavior from your friends.

Sophia Moretto: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

For this essay I read the graphic novel, Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. Her novel consisted of an introduction and conclusion with a collection of five short stories between. The stories had a dark sense of beauty with each story presented in this novel. All of the stories presented in the novel were mostly focused on paranoia and the horror of discovering the imaginary becoming reality. Throughout her individual stories, Carroll was able to successfully capture the discomforting feeling darkness and uncertainty place on an individual’s wild imagination. She did this through her choice in color, type placement, and panel layouts.

One aspect Carroll presented that made her work successful was her choice in color. Her color palate, when color was used, consisted usually of red, blue and yellow. Having a simplistic color palate made it easy to work with in terms of what each color would stand in for. She allowed the color to usually become part of the mood of a certain panel when certain events occurred. One example was when something horrific was occurring the entire panel would be in red and when something sad was happening, blue would be a dominating color. The color filters and supplements allowed Carroll the freedom to choose to display the gruesome scene occurring or if she wanted to make the viewer assume what was occurring based on the color and the preceding panels. In my opinion I would say she was successful in setting up the correct assumption through her colors.

Carroll also presented her ability to work with type placement to keep the story moving. She used what I am assuming was her own handwriting to add a sense of suspense in her narrative. The shock of horror in the dialogues would not have been as strong if the type were in a traditional typeface, serif or san serif. I was mostly impressed by the way she expressed the enchantment through the type in the story A Lady’s Hands are Cold when the dead woman was singing to the young bride. Another great example of Carroll putting the type to good use was during the last short story The Nesting Place when Bell would drone out the conversations between her brother and his fiancé. The type would run off the page to where the viewer had no idea what they were talking about, neither was it important, similar to what Bell heard. These stories truly showed how much of an impact type can have on a mood in a graphic novel. Carroll definitely used the type to her advantage in her stories.

Carroll was also powerful in her panel layouts. The most common panel layout that she worked with was open paneling. What I mean by this is she would completely remove the panel outline to create a sense of discomfort, a fear of the unknown, for the viewer. It gave the action occurring more room to creep throughout each spread. Carroll was then able to play with size and tension more freely per page. She did not ever crowd anything that did not need to be. I thought overall it was a successful approach for the idea that we are not comforted when it comes to the unknown, the darkness and the monsters hiding around us in our daily lives.

James O’Barr’s “The Crow” is an interesting and unique book. It follows the character Eric as The Crow as he gets revenge on the men who killed his fiancee and attempted to kill him as well. The first thing that stood out to me about the story was that it was choppy and the art at times seems inconsistent. I’m figuring that this is attributed to the span of time that the story was drawn in. This is an enjoyable element to the story. The story was created over a long period of time so it becomes apparent that after all those years the pain didn’t go away. This is important because I believe that is an essential theme of the story. The focus on the pain that the character The Crow feels is a strong component of the story. It is addressed in such depth and frequency to get the reader to understand the extent of his pain, and that it is something continuous and undying (like him). Even after he starts to get revenge the pain still does not appear to be alleviated. This struck accord with me personally so I feel as if the demographic O’Barr may be trying to reach is people who have felt immense and unbearable pain, because they will truly understand what the character is feeling. The story has the ability to come more alive that way.

Stylistically, the story is dark and poetic. There are many poems about pain, death and other related themes in between scenes in the story. They are related to what is happening in the story at the time, and I believe that they act as small interludes. This allows the reader to take in what had just happened while reading something on the calmer side (as opposed to all the action that happens in the scenes). While this interlude is in the same theme and is related to what happens in the story, it solidifies that theme in a beautiful and artistic way. This keeps the story from becoming all about the gore and violence of The Crow killing (since that happens a lot in the story). This keeps the story in tune with the emotional aspect since that is an important component and is the core of everything that is happening. As for the drawing style, as I mentioned before it is dark. At certain parts and important moments there is a lot of detail in the panels. I believe this device is used to get the reader to look at all the detail and spend more time in that panel, making the moment come off as more important and effective. Those panels were also better rendered usually. The inconsistencies in the art caused some of the less important panels to feel somehow “off” or almost in a different style. This caused an interesting dynamic to the story so I wouldn’t necessarily refer to it as a bad thing.

The story had a supernatural element to it that felt notable. It seems as if the character Eric should have died along with his fiancee (considering that he was shot in the head twice) however the story suggests that he was able to endure all of this and survive because of how strong his will for revenge was. This does not feel too extreme but rather is believable in the context of a comic book. The Crow as a character is super hero-esque, but is only avenging himself and has a blatant disregard for hurting others. His similarities to super heroes are that he has an origin story that made him this way, and he seems to by supernatural means overcome a threatening situation. This is another reason the supernatural element is not off-putting. We as reader take the story for what it is: A version of a story used to convey the emotions that were felt by the person who experienced it.