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Today on the site, we have an excerpt from Kate Polak's Ethics In The Gutter: Empathy and Historical Fiction in Comics, published by Ohio State University Press. This particular section deals with a storyline from Hellblazer.

“The Pit” opens with a panel depicting several British soldiers standing atop a trench, text boxes overlays explaining that “Every night they dig the pit. They dig it for the first time. Its sides almost vertical. Stakes just below the edge, pointing down, to stop anyone from climbing out” (121). This first panel already gestures towards what is ventured in the plot: the conflation of temporalities and the crucial dimension of point-of-view. In terms of temporality, while this is a fictionalized account of a past event, it is recounted by a nameless, third-person narrator in the present progressive tense, indicating a continuous action. The narrator aligns herself with neither the soldiers nor the Aborigines, referring to both as “they,” while the reader views the ditch from inside, looking upwards towards the men standing at the top edge, already ensconced within the potential victim’s perspective. The second and third panels show the Tasmanian Aborigines being forced down into the pit from holding pens, the narration shifting in focus between panels. The second panel shows the Aborigines from the perspective of the British soldiers, the point-of-view including their shadows as they look down into the holding pens, the external focalizer remarking that “they say to the prisoners ‘move quickly, jena, jena. We’re taking you to a new place’” (121), while the third panel depicts the Aborigines being forced down into the pit. The narrator tells us that “They don’t want to go down that steep slope. But there’s a wall of men with guns” (121). The shifting point-of-view in the first three panels coupled with the externally focalized narration destabilize the reader’s identification with characters at the outset. Rather than offering an individual’s perspective of the massacre that is represented, the images are framed by a textual recounting. The pictorial element serves to illustrate the textual, but simultaneously, through perspective, offers brief windows into a variety points-of-view.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles.
All Ben Katchor interviews are good interviews, and this new one is no exception.

At the end of such a successful life, Katchor ought to be happy, right?

"I feel like we're replaying World War I, with the Espionage Act being revived and journalists being threatened for merely doing their jobs," he tells me. "And on top of that, the ecosystem is collapsing. It's a nightmare, quite honestly. It would be one thing to have a dictator in power ... but unbreathable air on an overheated planet? There's no escape."

This was not the Ben Katchor I had expected to interview.

The most recent guest on the Ignorant Bliss podcast is Whit Taylor.


—Reviews & Commentary.
On the occasion of a new collection of Philip Guston's Nixon drawings, Chris Ware writes about the artist's "graphic novel" for the New York Review of Books.

What surprises me most about all of the “Poor Richard” drawings is not their recognizable imagery, their directness, or even their satirical and political subject matter, but the fact that Guston apparently intended them to be assembled as a book. He even put together “large black pocket binders” with Xeroxes of the drawings to schlep around to potential publishers. Philip Guston was working on a graphic novel?! Well, not really. Though it tells a story, loosely threading together vaudevillian gags about Nixon’s coming of age (both he and Guston were born in 1913), Nixon’s college years, early political career, his “Checkers” speech, disappearance/reinvention, and election, his trip to China (with it all petering out somewhere in Asia with the characters pictured as spongecake and cookies), one passes through the images much as one might flip through an illustrated children’s book—without actually reading the text. The earliest frontispieces (Guston tried different versions—the original title was “Satirical Drawings”) show a hairy ink bottle with a Nixon-genie rising out of its uncapped top, highlighting it as a collection of cartoons. Perhaps later, after he got into it, he seems to have gone back and drawn something that focuses on his cast of characters qua characters: Nixon, Spiro Agnew, John Mitchell, and Henry Kissinger reclining on a Florida beach surrounded by the paraphernalia of American idleness. (“Reclining” might be too generous of a description, too, since only Nixon himself has a body; Agnew and Mitchell are lumpy, dumpy heads and Kissinger appears simply as a pair of thick glasses; he is the “eyes” of Nixon throughout the latter part of the story, seeing him to ruin.)

Françoise Mouly presents and writes about a selection of Lorenzo Mattotti's New Yorker covers.

Lorenzo Mattotti’s covers for The New Yorker are featured in an exhibit at the Italian Cultural Institute, which runs from February 6th through March 8th. The artist’s covers are created using oil pastels, his medium of choice. The pastels’ bright colors reproduce well—which is important for a magazine that prints more than a million copies weekly. They also create a texture that helps viewers to imagine the artist’s hand layering color over color. All of Mattotti’s images pack the graphic punch of a poster by expressing a strong idea through a perfectly poised composition. A viewer’s eye is skillfully directed to a snowball, or a central figure, or a road that winds through a colorful landscape.


—News.
Drawn & Quarterly has announced a new publishing fellowship program, beginning this summer.

Drawn & Quarterly is pleased to announce a publishing fellowship that will focus on all facets of the book business: editorial; production and design; marketing and sales; and retail. The paid position will be in the company’s Mile-Ex office in Montreal, Monday through Thursday, 32 hours a week, 9:30-5:30. The fellowship will be offered biannually: a winter fellow (mid-January through mid-June) with an application deadline of October 1; and a summer fellow (mid-July through mid-November) with an application deadline of March 1. The fellow will interact with all departments and be invited to sit in on meetings.


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