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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Art of Strip-Storytelling...

funny & famous - Archie
Comics!
To begin with, comic-reading takes up quite a chunk of our time spent reading. Be it grandma ushering a child through the picture belts of Amar Chitra Kathas or generations of teenagers who continue to be amused by the funny & famous Archies.


Shikari Shambu 

TinTin from Russia, or Anant Pai's Tinkle from India - we enjoy reading them all with great fervor. Comics  form an essential part of our lives and somewhere even determine the kind of readers we finally become. 

Once we graduate to higher forms of reading, the appetite for the heaps of comic books shrinks, satiable by an occasional glance at the comic strips in the daily newspaper


Comics are typically organized collages made of sequences of pictures strung together like a movie reel. Their fundamental aspect is that they tell stories, following the convention of one picture succeeding the other. Each one is a ‘still frame’ out of   a moving sequence.

Suppandi

What amazes me is the ability of a comic to condense time within a single image; and we learn to read so many elements in the sequence, recognizing and being guided by the practice of the comic strip art.


Comic-writing, now, has evolved & accumulated  various methods, making it easier for still frames to represent an enormous range of things. Right from speech, movement, relationships, emotions, to cause and effect, the fictional nature of the comic itself and its characters. 


What I enjoy most is the subtlety, complex construction and delight of the art of strip-storytelling.

Comic books are generally favored by picture peekers because they usually dislike lengthy text. They prefer reading graphic novels as the speech bubbles next to the cartoons make the story easy to follow. 

The balloons play a significant role in helping the reader understand the comics better and also help them ‘hear with their ears’.

Comics have the delightful advantage of being quickly-readable; and they stay still when one looks at them thus helping one analyse the details better and also absorb in a lot more. 

Dennis the Menace
This implies that one can understand  the complexities much quicker without feeling overwhelmed by detail. The pictures, sketched to fit the scene perfectly, also help retain the flavour of the character better.

Comics provide innocuous & attractive material for beginners, an impetus to start reading. Apart from the ‘non-serious’ part, today we have more serious comic strips like the Amar Chitra Katha stories, which are an effort to convey and teach the Indian mythology to the young generation. 

In the course of time, enterprising publishers seized this opportunity and published comic versions of world classics like- Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables,” Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” and Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book” and the like.  
                
                         

Albert Einstein had once remarked that good science requires an intellectual love of the object being studied. If something fascinates a researcher he/ she is going to take the pains to unravel its complexities. Sadly for comics, those who criticize them show least interest in understanding them.

A noted thing about comics is that young readers subconsciously  tend to acquire certain linguistic characteristics from their graphic heroes. This is mirrored in the language he/she adapts, how he punctuates, the grammar he uses both while writing and speaking. 

The effect is more conspicuous in the expression, the gestures used & sometimes a slight resemblance to the activities of the comic character.

Although comics aren’t looked up to as serious reading material, what the vast majority tends to overlook is that due to the raw & seminal age in which comics are read, they play a very important part in the formative stages of a reader’s language. 

They heavily influence the reader’s grammar, shaping it well, and help him come to terms with the casual language used. Thus, comic reading forms concrete basis of both formal and informal language.
Garfield
Correspondingly, many schools include comic books in their curriculum simply because they are able to inculcate critical thinking, self expression and writing skills. Also, due to their imaginative benefits, they are employed by therapists in several mental institutions to treat learning challenged, autistic and trauma patients.

All in all, comics are an indispensible part of our lives. They take us to a whole new world of text and image, marrying both fact and fiction in a uniquely visual way that appeals to both the young and old. Well after all.... ‘A picture is worth a thousand words!’

Sunday, May 22, 2011

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