Are comics micromanaging imagination?

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jshamblin
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Are comics micromanaging imagination?

Post by jshamblin » Thu Aug 23, 2007 8:23 pm

I thought this might be an interesting topic to post here for discussion. I would go more in-depth, but I'm curious to what responses I might get to an open question.


If you choose to tell your story panel by panel, do you feel you are micromanaging the imagination of your audience?
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Re: Are comics micromanaging imagination?

Post by jdalton » Fri Aug 24, 2007 12:55 am

jshamblin wrote:If you choose to tell your story panel by panel, do you feel you are micromanaging the imagination of your audience?
More so than prose, but less so than film.

Film is a very passive medium. A dog can watch TV (no offence to TV officionados...) The way things look and sound are handed to you and though it still requires the viewer's imagination to piece it all together into a story, make it 3D, make it take the amount of time the story says it takes, and give the characters feet, still, the director has an awful lot of control over the audience's perception of events.

Prose is the opposite. Audience participation is a huge factor and without a large dose of imagination, all you have are words on paper. No two readers will experience a novel in the same way. Maybe not even remotely.

Comic is somewhere in between. It requires audience participation to transform text into sound or ideas and to fill in all those gutters with action. (Somebody wrote a book on that. Scott somethingorother, wasn't it? :P ) But still, a lot more is given to you in terms of how things look. For me at least, comics are "just right."
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Re: Are comics micromanaging imagination?

Post by neil » Fri Aug 24, 2007 3:52 am

jdalton wrote:
jshamblin wrote:If you choose to tell your story panel by panel, do you feel you are micromanaging the imagination of your audience?
More so than prose, but less so than film.
Huh? I really disagree. When we watch a movie, we may all be in agreement as to what everything looks like, but we can have huge disagreements as to what the characters are thinking and feeling (look at the discussion about Ratatouille that Kazu's reaction provoked, for example). (And actually we can debate the look of a film as well--some people may find the cinematography of a particular film to be obtrusive and awful, and others may think it's sublime. For example, there's a lot of debate going on about whether the shaky-cam in The Bourne Ultimatum is gripping and realistic or nauseous (I haven't seen this movie yet).) Whereas literary prose can penetrate the characters' minds and casually provide omniscient narration, word for word. I think that authors have much, much more control of their stories than movie directors almost ever can.

But I still don't understand the original argument; can you flesh that out a bit? How exactly is representing a story panel-by-panel "micromanaging"? There is quite a lot that you can elide and hide between panels, and the art of cartooning allows for a great range of simplicity to realism. And the same is really true for all storytelling mediums; to me it's all in how the artist makes use of it. I think I'm not understanding the thrust of your argument at all. Can you give us an example?
Last edited by neil on Sat Aug 25, 2007 2:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Ashwara » Fri Aug 24, 2007 4:26 pm

In all the mediums it takes your imagination to get into the story and make you think it's real. I think that's the biggest thing. "Suspension of disbeleif" and all. Feeling for the characters and empathizing with them, even if you know they aren't real.

But I don't think I'm really answering the question, ha ha.

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Post by smaragddrache » Fri Aug 24, 2007 10:13 pm

I don't know if this is surprising, but I actually took, and later was a TA for, a college level class addressing this very question. It was a research writing class with the topic of the new place that graphic novels hold in literature/media/etc. One of the biggest disagreements was about whether or not graphic novels were appropriate in education due to the very idea that jshamblin brought up: if images are spoonfed to readers, then how are they learning to read and interpret anything? And after MANY discussions, a consensus was reached that although images are delineating some of the reader's imagination, there is actually more information for the reader to compute and digest, and therefore imagine. This is probably not true of all readers, but it's an interesting point of view.

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Re: Are comics micromanaging imagination?

Post by Blom » Sat Aug 25, 2007 12:43 am

jshamblin wrote: If you choose to tell your story panel by panel, do you feel you are micromanaging the imagination of your audience?
It depends on both the story and the audience....
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Post by jshamblin » Sat Aug 25, 2007 3:15 am

neil wrote:But I still don't understand the original argument; can you flesh that out a bit? How exactly is representing a story panel-by-panel "micromanaging"?
I would like to think of this more as an open-minded discussion, rather than an "argument." My reason for starting this conversation is to simply widen my perspective on the subject. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. I'm just interested in learning what others think.

"Micromanaging" might have been too strong of a word, but I don't think I was wrong to use it. The level of control a comic artist has over his/her work is phenomenal. If you think about it, there is very little the artist doesn't have some form of control over and as a result, what benefits are the reader left with? Hopefully, the answer is a good story, but I want to encourage imagination with my readership and I want them to benefit from them as much as I have by creating it. I wonder if other artists consider these things.
smaragddrache wrote:I don't know if this is surprising, but I actually took, and later was a TA for, a college level class addressing this very question. It was a research writing class with the topic of the new place that graphic novels hold in literature/media/etc.
That sounds interesting. Is it documented? I'd like to read it.
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Post by neil » Sat Aug 25, 2007 10:13 am

jshamblin wrote:I would like to think of this more as an open-minded discussion, rather than an "argument." My reason for starting this conversation is to simply widen my perspective on the subject. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. I'm just interested in learning what others think.
Ah. Sorry if I worded that too strongly--I'm seeking an open-minded discussion too. By asking if a panel-by-panel representation of a story is necessarily "micromanaging" that story (i.e. exercising too much control over it, to its detriment), you're implying that an argument could me made that it is, and I was just wondering what that argument would be (regardless of a "right answer"), because I think the argument itself might be something more to chew on and discuss. Otherwise, I'm just left kinda shrugging and saying "it depends."
jshamblin wrote:"Micromanaging" might have been too strong of a word, but I don't think I was wrong to use it. The level of control a comic artist has over his/her work is phenomenal. If you think about it, there is very little the artist doesn't have some form of control over and as a result, what benefits are the reader left with? Hopefully, the answer is a good story, but I want to encourage imagination with my readership and I want them to benefit from them as much as I have by creating it. I wonder if other artists consider these things.
Yeah I think about this, sort of--I guess my perspective is that the creator should use both the literary and visual elements of comics as efficiently and as generously as possible, and that should mean preventing these elements from becoming redundant to each other. If you keep a lively interdependence going on between them, and make great choices as to which moments in the story you're showing, I think it results in a more active reading experience that actually stirs the imagination. (To master this is another story, of course.) If you abide by that, I don't think you're ever preempting imagination by feeding the reader more information (either visually or through the text), as long as the information is relevant to the story. There's still a universe of possibility between the panels, and between your cartoons and real life, and between the things that can happen, and what does happen in your comics. I enjoy seeing an author/artist whittling away at these universes of possibility by making choices (as we also do by defending an argument, hehe), and I'm excited when I see really interesting choices.

Am I totally rambling now? 8)

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Re: Are comics micromanaging imagination?

Post by jdalton » Sun Aug 26, 2007 9:01 pm

neil wrote:Huh? I really disagree. When we watch a movie, we may all be in agreement as to what everything looks like, but we can have huge disagreements as to what the characters are thinking and feeling (look at the discussion about Ratatouille that Kazu's reaction provoked, for example). (And actually we can debate the look of a film as well--some people may find the cinematography of a particular film to be obtrusive and awful, and others may think it's sublime. For example, there's a lot of debate going on about whether the shaky-cam in The Bourne Ultimatum is gripping and realistic or nauseous (I haven't seen this movie yet).) Whereas literary prose can penetrate the characters' minds and casually provide omniscient narration, word for word. I think that authors have much, much more control of their stories than movie directors almost ever can.
I never thought of it that way. Hmm.
jshamblin wrote:"Micromanaging" might have been too strong of a word, but I don't think I was wrong to use it. The level of control a comic artist has over his/her work is phenomenal. If you think about it, there is very little the artist doesn't have some form of control over and as a result, what benefits are the reader left with? Hopefully, the answer is a good story, but I want to encourage imagination with my readership and I want them to benefit from them as much as I have by creating it. I wonder if other artists consider these things.
"Very little the artist doesn't have some form of control over?" I don't know. I think there are a lot of things the artist only ever has partial control over. How characters sound, for example. In film you can hear them and in prose you can have it described, but in comics it is unusual for a person's voice to be described in any way. Except perhaps with the font, but that's difficult to achieve. The passage of time, too, is only ever vaguely controlled.

Sometimes not being in control can be very useful though.
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Post by smaragddrache » Mon Aug 27, 2007 11:35 am

jshamblin wrote:That sounds interesting. Is it documented? I'd like to read it.
I don't think the content of the class was documented in any official way. I couldn't really find anything. They have the class description, but not anything else. Sorry :( It was a really awesome class... it really opened up my eyes to the world of graphic novels and the place they are beginning to fill.

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micromanagement

Post by caroline » Wed Aug 29, 2007 10:35 am

The more people involved in the project, the less control any one person has over the readers. In a traditional comic book. the writer, the artist, the inker, the colorist and the letterer all bring something to the finished product. So I don't think it's possible for the creator to micromanage a project created like this

This can be great- but I sort of like comics produced by just one person because they /can/ control everything..it's like taking a walk through a small part of someone's brain.

Cheers
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Post by geckochan » Thu Oct 25, 2007 6:58 am

In any medium so much is dependent on the creatory though. An intelligent, subtle film is going to require more imagination and brainpower than an amateurish novel with an obvious plot and stereotyped characters.
I do agree with Caroline that comics by just one person are something quite special - very intimate - as is a novel. But those who are storytelling in any medium will be told that they should show and not tell; there are ways in all mediums of pulling back and allowing the reader to inhabit the space and make connections - the methods just vary. But all successful storytellers learn to employ them.

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Post by Frank Stockton » Thu Oct 25, 2007 2:45 pm

I've never finished a comic and thought to myself "wow, that was good--but I feel like I was spoon-fed my emotions and interpretations a bit too much."

Have you?
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Post by jdalton » Fri Oct 26, 2007 5:45 pm

Frank Stockton wrote:I've never finished a comic and thought to myself "wow, that was good--but I feel like I was spoon-fed my emotions and interpretations a bit too much."

Have you?
Good comics don't spoon-feed. Is that a good rule?
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Post by jshamblin » Sat Oct 27, 2007 1:34 pm

Frank Stockton wrote:I've never finished a comic and thought to myself "wow, that was good--but I feel like I was spoon-fed my emotions and interpretations a bit too much."

Have you?
I haven't, but my initial post wasn't directed toward readers.

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