This week we attended the Cartoon Museum as a class although I had never gone, I had wanted to go for a long time as many friends and family had recommended. Since, Penelope knew the curator of the gallery, we had a small talk with him at the beginning of the visit where he explained a brief history of the gallery and the works in consisted. He also chose a few works to single out; an original sketched flatplan of a page from the graphic novel Watchmen and a very large print from Dave Gibbons which was an alternate version of Lichtenstein’s WHAAM! which poked fun and, to some extent, criticized the american pop artist’s work.
Like most in the group, I had never seen this piece and was only familiar with Lichtenstein’s diptych painting and the original from which the painting was created; Irv Novick’s panel from the Star Jockey story part of DC Comic’s All American Men of War. It was quite fortunate that curator pointed out this piece by Lichtenstein because he was able to give quite a bit of insight on when it was made and why. The curator explained that when Lichtenstein created his paintings, he never mentioned or credited the comic artists’ from which he appropriated the panels. He went on to explain that most of the comic artists made very little money and therefore many were quite displeased that this pop artist was making millions of their work. This why Dave Gibbons created a parody of Lichtenstein’s reappropriation and made a few adjustments to the painting to make it reflect what the artist was doing; stealing other’s work to make money without crediting them. The halftone dots in the background were replaced by dollar signs, the ‘WHOOSH!’ and ‘WHAAM!’ were replaced by ‘WHOOSE?’ and ‘WHAAT?’. In the caption, ‘I pressed the fire control…’ was replaced by ‘I pressed the irony control…’ and finally the speech balloon was changed from ‘the enemy has become a flaming star!’ to ‘the copyist has become a pop art star!’. I found this piece extremely clever and I probably wouldn’t have understanded it a well if the curator hadn’t explained it in depth.
Finally we set out to walk around the museum and what I found most interesting was the way they displayed some of the graphic pages; a flatplan with rough sketches by the artist in black and white on the left, and the final printed page as it appears in the published books. This really allowed me to see the thought process which comic artists undergo when designing these narratives.