The Cartoon Museum

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.


Dating Profile

After our lecture one Tuesday which was on illustrating our work, we were asked to create a dating profile for ourselves in comic format. The profile did not have to be realistic or true to true to who we actually were and since I’m more used to reading graphic narratives and comics which have a primary objective of being amusing and lighthearted, I wanted to create a profile to be seen as a joke rather than a serious attempt at describing myself in the hopes of impressing someone. This approach in the end was quite successful at representing me because I would assume I have quite lively and humorous personality and I felt this reflected well in my graphic narrative. Also something which I found interesting about using a comic format to create a dating profile is actually very relevant and effective because dating profiles are usually a list of facts, and values about yourself and panels are perfect stylistic feature to do whilst still keeping an interesting and constant flow throughout. Furthermore, the fact that comics and graphic narrative include illustrations is quite handy as when one looks at another’s dating profile, they are essentially trying to create a mental image of who the person is and what better way to do so then by illustrating yourself. This can also be a way of manipulating whoever reads your profile to see you in a specific light. In my profile I made up a few obviously fictional hobbies of mine, and end with a real hobby; ‘making shit up’. What I was trying to communicate in this humorous denouement was that I have a light personality and that I enjoy having a laugh.


I tried to create a grid for my profile which would allow me display all this information in an interesting and creative way. Since the main information I wanted to communicate were a list of hobbies, I decided to have all my fictional hobbies on the same tier (single row of panels) using very long but narrow panels. These panels would then be boxed in by two wider panels on either end of the page and this actually helped frame the focal point of my profile and guide the reader through my story. The long narrow panels next to each other gave a sense of enumeration which made it seem like my life in more exciting and fast pace than it actually. I believe this is done through the increase in gutters between the many narrow panels which increase the pace of the narratives.


House of Illustration

This week, our class met at Central Saint Martins, a campus from the University of the Arts London which I attended for my foundation year. This was quite nostalgic as I hadn’t gone back on site in over a year. There was a small museum just outside the campus which we went to visit; the House of Illustration. The exhibition on was one dedicated to promoting the work of  women comic artists as the comic world is mainly dominated by male authors and illustrators.

There was a whole section of this exhibition which was dedicated to artists who included sexual content in their work. However, unlike most sexual depiction in comics and graphic narratives written by men, these extracts seemed to only portray men and in a more repulsive than attractive way. Although this might just be my opinion and these illustrations might not be intended to attract a heterosexual male audience, it seemed to me like these works were trying to depict men as dirty, repulsive, sexually obsessed figures. Although I did not particularly agree with this depiction, I found it quite interesting to see this happening from a woman’s perspective.

One of my favorite piece of work in this exhibition was from the narrative Ambient Comics by Nadine Redlich. This publication featured extremely simple but line drawings in a short series of panels which depicted very ‘ambient’ or insignificant events such as rotating chicken in a rotisserie or an ice cube melting. The entire narrative stays loyal to same grid and panel layout which create a beautiful cohesiveness and sets a steady pace throughout the book. An interesting aspect of this chosen format was the absence of substantial gutter to separate the panels. Instead all panels were adjacent to each other, on three tiers, which reduced the gutter to a single line which in term makes you see and read all these events, separated only by a few seconds, in one continuous motion. This is probably the first time I see this style of gutter be used in such an effective and relevant way to the context of the story.



Stylistic Devices of Graphic Narratives

Monalesia Earle gave a very interesting lecture this week in which she covered many of the different stylistic features which make up a comic. We first looked at what makes up the skeletal structure of the comic; panels, frames, and gutters.

There were many more different kinds of panels one can see in comics than I expected and there was one which I found particularly interesting; the creative panel. The example Monalesia gave to demonstrate this panel in action was one from Jaime Cortez’s Sexilio. This panel shows the view from inside a closet a boy opens it and in this case the closet doors are used as used to frame the content of the panel rather than the actual frame. I found this quite interesting because it got me thinking of how one might use this technique to slow or speed up the pace of story or even to intensify the focus of certain panel.

Monalesia then covered different visual techniques which had been first used by Mort Walker. These three techniques were solrads, squeans, briffits. Solrads are the lines which you often see around an illustrated sun to show it is hot. Squeans are the little starburst or circles that are used above a character’s head to show intoxication, dizziness, or sickness. Briffits are the clouds of smoke which are used to indicate speed.

Finally we looked at the different speech balloons and the surprisingly there were many which I had never noticed or seen such that radio/TV, and telepathic balloons. Another interesting balloon was for whispering speech because there were so many different ways of drawing them; normal speech balloon with smaller than average text inside, dotted balloon, and grey balloon.

I feel like simply having a better understanding of these stylistic feature will help my understanding comics and also make me see comics in a slightly different way, looking at the choices made the comic artist in more scrutiny.



Introduction to Comic Narratives

For our second session of Penelope, we were all asked to bring in one of our favorite comic narratives to show and briefly describe to the class. All the publications were then assembled to into a timeline and it was very interesting to see general trends and patterns in the way these comics were designed and compiled based on when they were written.

Seeing all these chronicles compiled together made me realise that one most popular and recurrent genre or theme was violence. This is of course not surprising for most hero comics like the marvel series or even japanese mangas, but even in autobiographical narratives like Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Maus by Art Spiegelman.

One of the obvious distinction was in the illustration. Most narratives, on the very beginning of the timeline, had quite different colours and illustrative techniques than those on the end of the timeline. Obviously the illustration styles would be more polished off and realistic over time as well as the quality of the paper and ink. I find it a pity that most contemporary comics looked like television cartoons rather than some of the older comics like Maus because the illustration style is very similar to most French and Belgian comics which are what I grew up reading.

superdupont-tome-1-renaissanceWe each took a few minutes to introduce our narratives and talked a bit about why and how it was written. The comic I chose was Superdupont Renaissance by Gotlib. Although it is not my favorite comic narrative, it was the only one I had with me in the UK. After re-reading it before bringing it in too class. I realised something very interesting in the authors narrating style. What Gotlib often does in his chronicles, is he breaks the fourth wall and gets the characters to talk back to the narrator and even get into arguments. This is is quite a witty technique because I feel that most narrative voices in fictional comics are quite dramatic and the fact that characters realise how exaggerated it is really shows that the author is awareness and subtle humour.

From the all the comics brought into class, the one I am really looking forward to reading is Watchmen by Alan Moore as I really enjoyed the film and everyone has told me so far that the narrative is a better delivered and more complete.



How to Sell Crisps

The article, Authenticity in America by Joshua Freedman and Dan Jurafsky, looks at the different methods and techniques used by advertisers to sell products to a specific demographic. Freedman and Jurafsky analyse the packaging of expensive and inexpensive potato chips, pointing out different techniques and characteristics which make the packet more appealing to different social classes. The four main techniques discussed in the article are highfalutin (amount of text), health, distinction, and authenticity.

Highfalutin is described as the level and amount of text on the chip packagings. It is based of the idea that someone buying a less expensive bag of chips will want less text and at an easier level than someone who chooses the more expensive bag. ‘Don’t use highfalutin words for the non-highfalutin audience’ – David  Ogilvy. For example, some common words found on inexpensive chip packagings include fresh, light, basic, and extra whereas an expensive chips include words like flair, fluorescent, savoury, and culinary.

The second factor is health. Although most chips are a not a healthy snack, most packagings include a few words addressing the healthiness to reassure the buyer. This is something which can be observed in both expensive and inexpensive packagings with words such as 0 grams of fat, less fat, never fried. However it is found that expensive chips do this six times as much as inexpensive chips by emphasising their lack of msg, gluten, and trans fats. This is not because the chips are actually healthier but rather because it is believed that people who buy more expensive chips are more inclined to care or be worried about the health factors.

Distinction is also mentioned as having a big influence socioeconomic groups and what products they buy. ‘In matters of taste, more than anywhere else, all determination in negation; and tastes are perhaps first and foremost dictates, disgust provoked by horror or visceral intolerance (‘sick-making’) of the tastes of others.’ – Bourdieu. Bourdieu work on sociology of tastes and culture illustrated that peoples’ tastes are strongly correlated to their class position. In a survey Bourdieu took in the 1960s, he noticed that the popular choice of music for the working class was Blue Danube Waltz  and Well-Tempered Clavier for the high-status class. In chip packagings, it was noticed that expensive packagings use lots of linguistic negations such as never baked and nothing fake to persuade its consumers. This implies that advertisers use negative language to emphasise product differences.

The last factor that was mentioned was authenticity. This has been called ‘one of the cornerstones of contemporary portray marketing. This is most seen in alcohol such as wine and beer because quality is usually associated with age, tradition, and historicity. Older firms will emphasise their early founding, long history, and their links to Burgundy wine auctions whilst smaller firms will focus on their recent founders, relationship to place, traditional methods of production and ingredients, and the downplaying of commercial motivations. All these factors are used to depicts luxury wines as authentic. Similar techniques are used for food products especially when the product is from a different nationality such as Italian tomato sauce, and French cheeses. Using phrases from different languages like bon appétit and speciale help bring up the authenticity of the product.


11/15 Museum of Branding

Last Thursday I visited the museum of branding and advertisement. However, only 20% of the museum was opened and this was dedicated to showing the evolution of packaging design for different iconic products such as chips, candy bars, and washing products. It was great to be able to see the different editions of the design over the years next to each other and this helped to compare the design styles of the time.

One of the things I noticed that was changing over time was the simplicity of the design. The oldest designs seemed to be extremely simple and efficient. As the designs got more recent, they got more complicated and the packagings started incorporating shading, 3d effects, and gradients. However, in the most recent designs, the simplicity and ‘flatness’ started become more popular again and even logo designs seemed to be returning to the original style. This is probably when 3D became less popular because of the feeling of clutter o it tends to give to the design.

Another aspect which seemed to be changing quite drastically over time was the typography used. It seems that in the earliest designs, regardless of what kind of product it was, most companies used the same, or similar, condensed grotesk sans-serif typeface. This is probably because the typeface was popular at the time and it wasn’t popularly known that different typefaces evoke different emotions which might incline someone to buy a specific product.

The products, however, that seemed to have the most effective designs where those that didn’t seem to alter much over time. This also related  with the idea of timeless design being the most effective.