English 430: Literature & the Visual Arts

November 9, 2009

Hergé and Tintin

Filed under: Online Reports — jeremiahm @ 6:00 pm

Georges Remi, began his career in 1929 as an illustrator and writer of comics for Le Petit Ventième, a monthly supplement designed for the the children of readers of the conservative Catholic newspaper “Le  Ventième” (The Twentieth Century).

Remi achieved great success with the character Tintin and over his career produced dozens of comics featuring the stories about the youthful reporter who, along with his faithful and cynical dog Snowy, travels throughout the world always seeming to become accidently involved in intrigue.  Tintin is a diligent if somewhat accidental detective and hero, fighting injustice wherever he goes, no matter the odds, standing up for his squeaky clean moral code.  Plots and secrets seem to fall into his lap as time and again circumstances tend to bring him into international intrigue.
However Tintin started in Belgium, out of the pen of Remi, signing his name as Hergé, (pronounced “Ehr-Jay”—literally R.J., in French Remi’s initials reversed) who sent his young reporter out in his stead to visit even the most vast and remote places in the world.  Tintin and Snowy or “Mileu” as he was named in French, the little white dog with a taste for whisky,became so popular that he eventually was not only featured in every issue of the small paper, but often graced the cover.  Even some of the adults who read Le Ventième began to take notice.
Hergé, (Georges Remi’s initials reversed, in french pronounced “Ehr-Jay”) and Tintin were fated to long out live the influence of the small conservative newspaper that gave them both birth.  The paper eventually folded but Tintin had many more adventures to go on, and publishing on his own, Remi (as Hergé) published hundreds of serials that were later collected into 23 complete Albums.  A rare incomplete final work was published posthumously.
Two Tintin Album Covers, “Le Lotus Bleu” and the English Translation.
Tintin made his way throughout the world, being translated into just about every language.  The original French editions of the albums are of course highly sought after by collectors, but the faithful adaptations especially in English have left their mark on Western Europe and not solely the French-speaking world.
Ideologically Tintin is very Eurocentric and many of the earliest comics have portrayed this to a point that many critics consider if not xenophobia then outright racism.   (See cover for “Tintin Au Congo,” below–this is one of Tintin’s earliest and most controversial works, as the cover art can readily demonstrate).
The turning point for Hergé and Tintin seemed to be when Remi met a young Chinese immigrant in his native Belgium who enlightened him on the myths and realities of his culture and de-Orientalized the subject enough for Remi to take interest in further researching the countries to which he sent his reporter.  The Chinese boy appeared as an important character towards the end of “Le Lotus Bleu” who opens
Tinitin’s eyes just as he did the authors to the romanticism, mythologization and western hegemony over the Orient.
herge-georges-remi-tintin-au-congo-c-19312From “Le Lotus Bleu” on Remi attempted to do as much research as possible on the lands to which Tintin travelled, and appeared to include messages of social sensitivity.
Hergé never really escaped criticism for his early insensitivities and the album to right has seldom been published in the United States and remains to this day a rare collectors piece.
Further controversies included Remi’s collaboration with the Nazi party when Belgium was invaded by the Germans.  Remi was ultimately exonerated of any wrong doing much on the strength that there were relatively scant depiction of politics during Tintin’s adventures during WWII.
The “Clear Line” Style
Hergé utilized an Italian style of drawing known as La Ligna Clara, or “Clear Line” a method by which shadows ae used sparingly and character is expressed through dark broad strokes giving a very cartoonist and clean look.  Hergé himself stated that he incorporated this artistic element into the fabrication of the story and characters as well.  For example the plots though complex are not multi-dimensional, nor psychologically complex.  It is good guys-versus-bad guys, right versus wrong, the just and the unjust.  It may seem a sterile environment for Tintin to and Hergé to play in, yet Remi’s personal politics and conservative, almost boyscout-esque moralizations seem to be arguably just under the terse and deliberately paced plot-lines.
Where is Tintin Today?
Hergé continued producing and publishing Tintin albums until his death in 1983.

Tintin has branched out to other media, including video games, morning cartoons (some of which are very faithful adaptations of the original albums) and even a musical was produced in Belgium.  The ubiquity of Tintin in Western Europe may signify that the once colonizing continent has not lost touch with a childlike and maybe doting but also promise-filled wonder of the world.

On R. Crumb and Some Underground Inspiration

Filed under: Online Reports — ahime @ 5:06 pm

Before Robert Crumb was born in August, 1943, Tijuana Bibles (jo-jo books, gray-backs, fuck books, two-by-fours) were being sold at schools, playgrounds, and parks. Before “men’s magazines” took the market place, the approximately 3.5 by 5 inch stapled paper books, wound up being some of the first media presentations of x-rated material. All are eight leaves and printed on the rectos only, the interior illustrations are always in black and white. The settings are American, and most feature celebrities and cartoon characters. Most are in English, and the story lines range between elementary and childish jokes, to some-what sophisticated caricatures of American culture; raising the assumption that they were most-likely published in America and used the red-herring title as a means to misdirect U.S. authorities.  The Tijuana Bible made its first appearances in the 1920s and the popularity continued until the late 1950s.

Below are images of three Bibles from the 1940s:


The emergence of the typical “Underground comix” coincided with the end of the Tijuana Bible in the early to mid 1960s. In 1963 Vaughn Bodé self published one of the first underground commix (with an anti-war theme as its foundation); Dâs Kämpf:


In 1964, Frank Stack published The New Adventures of Jesus:


In 1964 Jack Jaxson self-published God Nose:


In 1965, the Lenny Bruce inspired comic, Lenny of Laredo (front and back), was self-published by Joel Beck:


In 1962 Robert Crumb left his birthplace of Philadelphia to become a greeting card artist in Cleveland. As a child he produced homemade comics, a hobby he continued while in Ohio. In late 1964 Crumb sent one of these comics to Harvey Kurtzman’s (MAD creator) magazine Help!.  It was received so well by Kurtzman, that Crumb was encouraged to move to New York and work for Help!. Though before Crumb was able to begin work, the magazine stopped publishing in 1965. Crumb remained in New York, drawing for himself and working for Topps, making trading cards(1965)—front of the cards on the left, back on the right:

7toppsLater that same year Crumb returned to Cleveland. It was then that Crumb first experienced LSD: I started taking L.S.D. in Cleveland in June of ’65. That changed my head around. It made me stop taking cartooning so seriously and showed me a whole other side of myself.”

In 1967 Crumb moved to San Francisco, where he began creating comics for a magazine. His work in the magazines was popular to the point that he was asked to make a whole comic book. The artwork was stolen, so what was meant to be the second issue was published as Zap #1:


With Xerox copies of the stolen issue, Zap #0 was published in 1968 (front and back):


Zap Comix became such a big success, that other artists began contributing their work:


Zap #2

In 1968 Crumb began his Snatch Comics series:

snatchFront and back of Snatch #1

9snatch2Front and back of Snatch #2

10snatch3Front and interior of Snatch #3


Bijou Funnies #1 (1968)

In 1969 Crumb published one of his most enduring and famous characters Fritz the Cat.

ComicsR. Crumb’s Comics and Stories (1969)

jizzJiz Comics #1 (1969)


BigAss Comics #1 (1969)


A comic based around one of the main characters in Zap; Mr. Natural #1 (1970)

Robert Crumb moved to Paris with his family, and remains there to this day. His characters continue to endure to this day and his comics are produced on a large scale. Crumb has recently released his version of the Book of Genesis.

The underground comix, with Robert Crumb as the forerunner, where an expression of the time in which they arose. The 1960s in America where a time of emerging free love, free life, free speech, and cheap drugs.  With the counterculture booming, it was only a matter of time before controversial visual arts and media would arise.  Underground comix are a representation of culture in their time and the beginning of a whole new world of visual arts in the Western World. Its origins arise out of the crude depression era Tijuana Bibles, and exploded in the 1960s with the generation the underground was made for. Crumb is the master of what we know as the underground visual arts; it is not merely as a result of his timing or creative mind, but through his artistic genius.

Links for background information

-On Tijuana Bibles

-A great article on the Tijuana Bible by the comic Art Spiegelman

-On Underground Comix

Links on Robert Crumb

-Official Website

-A Timeline of Crumb’s Comics

-A good biography

-A very good collection of images

-A clip from the 1994 documentary on Crumb (to meet the man behind the commix)

November 2, 2009

Alison Bechdel

Filed under: Online Reports — jenniferjoellis @ 6:46 pm

Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel is best known for her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, which began in 1983 and has been syndicated in dozens of newspapers and collected in books. She has also had work published in Ms., Slate, and the Advocate. She has published two books, The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For and Fun Home. Her website, Dykes to Watch Out For, features many of her comic strips as well as a blog where Bechdel posts almost daily. Bechdel lives near Burlington, Vermont.


“I usually draw myself, to tell you the truth.” (Bechdel)

Bechdel1 (600 x 539)

Bechdel gives a link to news and reviews on her webpage, and this features an interview with Eva Solberger for her series “Stuck in Vermont” in the Seven Days newspaper website in December 2008. Here are some of the memorable Bechdel quotes from this interview:

“I love words, but especially, I love words and pictures together in a mystical way that I can’t even explain.”

“Political is personal; personal is political. I never was a political person until I realized I was a lesbian. I was this oblivious middle-class white kid who didn’t understand the powers of oppression or structure or anything. My very existence became politicized for me and that’s what enabled me to see all these things. It wasn’t just me, it was a whole cultural movement that was also doing those things that I was a part of.”

“I always drew. I just never stopped. Most children stop.”

“I created these characters to be my community, to be my family, the type of community that I never felt like I had. I felt somehow cut off, like I was missing the action. It wasn’t like I knew what it was going to turn into.”

Alison Bechdel, in her comic book Fun Home, writes a memoir about growing up gay—and finding out that her father is also gay. Growing up in a small Pennsylvania town, Bechdel tells the story of two generations of gay people. Bechdel’s father commits suicide when Bechdel is nineteen. Ampersand, an online blogger critic, describes Bechdel as not “a show-offy cartoonist; she’s all about communicating the story and the moment, and she usually does it in the least obtrusive way possible.” Barry Deutsch, aka Ampersand, goes on to praise this two-panel sequence from Bechdel’s book for “how well it communicates the emotional undercurrents; the body language and expressions of two people trying not to have any reaction to what they’re saying are perfect.”


Ampersand writes that in his opinion, Bechdel has not received more accolades, like being chosen as one of the “Top 100 English-Language Comics of the 20th Century” chosen by The Comics Journal, is sexism. Ampersand writes that “the critical culture in comics tends to dismiss female-dominated genres as fluff, while male-dominated genres—even extremely fluffy ones, like adventure comic strip and superhero comics—are taken more seriously (and were well-represented on the top 100 list).”


Bechdel has since stopped writing Dykes to Watch Out For, but the legacy of this innovative and provocative strip lives on.

Here are some of Bechdel’s images available online with a link to each image:




Works cited

Bedchel, Alison. “Coming Out Story.” www.oberlinlgbt.org/bechdel/bechdel-1.html. Web. 28 Oct. 2009.

Bedchel, Alison. From Introduction of The Essential Dykes to Watch For.

Web. 28 Oct. 2009.

Bolonik, Kera. “Alison Bechdel Retires Her Infamous ‘Dykes.’” New York Books. 23 Nov. 2008. Web. 26 Oct. 2009.

Deutsch, Barry (aka Ampersand). “Bechdel’s ‘Fun Home’ is Time Magazine’s Book of the Year.” Alas! A Blog. 20 Dec.  2006. Web. 26 Oct. 2009

Resmer, Cathy. “The Essence of ‘Dykes.’’ Seven Days online newspaper. 17 Dec. 2008. Web. 25 Oct. 2009

Solberger, Eva. Interview with Alison Bechdel for “Stuck in Vermont” for the Seven Days newspaper website. Dec. 2008. Accessed through Dykes to Watch Out For. Web. 27 Oct. 2009

October 30, 2009

Synesthesia: The Work of Giuseppe Chiari

Filed under: Online Reports — alyale51 @ 12:18 pm
Giuseppe Chiari, 1997

Giuseppe Chiari, 1997

by Anne Yale

Few artists, contemporary or otherwise, can be recognized as accomplished in more than one medium. Nonetheless, the consummate artist Giuseppe Chiari (b. 1926), who is a musician, composer, and poet, as well as a visual artist, epitomizes the practice of Fluxus art, and is perhaps the most important Italian practitioner within this avant-garde artistic movement. Self-labeled a composer, Chiari is known primarily in avant-garde musical circles for his “sound art.” However, it is his visual compositions which have perhaps made Chiari’s a household name in the history of contemporary visual art.

Fluxus' Manifesto

Fluxus' Manifesto

Fluxus, a late twentieth-century artistic movement begun in 1961 by George Maciunas, and formally named by Dick Higgins in 1966, is Latin for “flow.” Giuseppe Chiari joined the movement in 1962. Fluxus explores and expresses the implications of the theoretical artistic concepts of John Cage through the use (and intentional erosion of the boundaries) of interdisciplinary media including combinations of poetry, music, video, architecture, visual and performance arts. In one of Cage’s most widely recognizable pieces, 4’33” (four minutes, thirty-three seconds), for example, the “artist” arrives on stage, opens the piano, sits down and simply waits for four minutes and thirty-three seconds before rising and exiting the stage. This piece is designed to demonstrate Cage’s theoretical position that even so-called “ambient” noise (i.e. the coughing, talking, and movement within the audience) is, in fact, or can be construed as, a musical “composition.”

Giuseppe Chiari at the piano
Giuseppe Chiari at the piano

Cage’s influence on the sound art of Giuseppe Chiari is evident in his “action pieces,” the most well-known of which is probably a staged event where the “artist” drags the piano across the stage like it was a wheelbarrow or a cart. To be sure, these works are intended to push the sensibilities of the audience and to challenge the limits of what is or can be accepted as “art.” Other “sound art” pieces “composed” by Chiari consist entirely of fragments which the performers are instructed to “collage,” by playing them in any order they choose, including “one on top of the other,” i.e. simultaneously (Strano). This broad application of the term collage, a technique that is one of the hallmarks of fluxus art, leaves us little doubt, then, that Chiari’s musical practice also informs his composition of visual poetry. As a member of the Gruppo ’70, Giuseppe Chiari also composes concrete and “sound” poetry. Yet it is his visual poetry, which has been exhibited in museums and galleries, as well as online, that is of interest in aesthetic studies of contemporary visual art. Additionally, Chiari’s visual poetry makes an unusual and unprecedented contribution to the field of image/text studies.

Ben Vautier e Giuseppe Chiari

As a musician and an arm-chair musicologist, what attracts me to Chiari’s visual poetry is his utilization not only of verbal/linguistic texts, but his incorporation of musical texts as well. By including pieces of musical scores, the viewer is asked to consider not only the image/text relationship(s) between picture and words, but also musical ideas. By the introduction of a third term, the integration of musical “text,” the binary pair of image/text is thereby deconstructed.

The Serenade

The Serenade

Chiari writes that his musical work “as a whole is made of several pieces which have no life by themselves; the pieces are fragments….consequently, each work of mine is a suite” (Strano). Similarly, his visual poetry compositions employ carefully selected and manipulated fragments of musical scores. For example, in the piece above, “La Serenata,” or “The Serenade,” created in 1995, Chiari has chosen what seems at first to be just an innocuous little ditty. However, he has cut off the left-hand side of the score, thus depriving the viewer of the two most essential conventions within the Western musical tradition: key and time signatures.

In further disruptions of the musical language, Chiari has manipulated the score so that we are given a total of six measures of music, though the first three measures and the second three measures are non-sequential fragments which do not appear anywhere near one another in the original score of the piece. Nonetheless, Chiari presents just enough of each fragment to make the piece identifiable as Franz Schubert’s lieder Ständchen, or Serenade, D. 889, composed in 1825 as a musical setting of Shakespeare’s “Hark, Hark, the Lark,” from the play Cymbeline, Act II, Scene 3. The first three measures are a fragment from the opening of the piece, establishing the instrumental, or accompaniment thematic motif (a chief characteristic of Schubert’s lieder), and the second three measures Chiari presents come from the middle of the piece and give us the unmistakable melodic motif.
The backwards eighth rests in the left-hand of the piano score, as well as in the last measure of the melodic line, further indicate that Chiari has manipulated the musical score and is playing with us and our conventional sensibilities. The colored scribbling over the musical text further disrupts the musical language, while adding a synesthetic element: one may begin to hear color and see sounds. It can be no accident that Chiari chose this particular piece of musical text, as a long-standing tradition of intertextuality is once again called upon to “speak” to us (the viewer/audience) through the presentation of this piece, which is highly ironic, in light of Chiari’s statement of each fragment having no life by themselves!

Chitarra 1998

Chitarra 1998

Mixed media collage

Mixed media collage

Untitled 1995

Untitled 1995

Untitled 2001

Untitled 2001

Fluxus practitioners share a distrust of mass media and marketing, while simultaneously disavowing European cultural elitism and espousing mass culture and art for the masses – a populist idea. Consequently, a repeated visual motif in Chiari’s work is the representation of the guitar, historically, the most popular and populist instrument of all time. Another repeated visual, or verbal/linguistic textual motif is the inclusion of the label, “Fluxus,” which, like the bits of musical texts, Chiari manipulates, as in “Humoreske,” a mixed media collage on white cardboard, created in 1996:

Humoreske 1996

Humoreske 1996

The label, placed upside down, has the first three letters “FLU” going in the conventional left-to-right placement, but the second three letters “XUS” are upside down from the first three, thus appearing right-side up again and “backwards”: something happens visually or perceptually that causes us to accept a new convention, which the artist immediately disrupts again!

Sometimes, rather than placing a label of the whole word, Chiari uses what appears to be a rubber-stamp of just the letters “FLXS,” as in this piece, “An den Frühling,” (To the Spring), mixed media, 2000:

An den Fruhling, 2000

An den Fruhling, 2000

The rubber-stamped letters “FLXS” appear on the left-hand side in the middle of the piece, as well as over part of C.F. Peters’ (the publisher’s) imprint, so that Leipzig (Germany) now reads “FLXSPZIG.” Incidentally, it can also be no accident that a C.F. Peters’ edition, traditionally thought to be the best and most authentic publishing house with regard to being faithful to the composers’ intentions, is selected as the perfect “cover” target for Chiari’s ironic and witty disruption of the conventions of the Western (or European) musical tradition.

Decisions, 1996

Decisions, 1996

Chiari’s use of printed materials range from flyers, handbills, newsprint, magazine pages, and advertisements: all sources of verbal/linguistic texts from mass media/marketing. The printed texts he selects, like the musical texts, are purposefully incorporated fragments within a new composition which form a new whole and, as a whole, convey a new message. For example, his “Decisions,” 1996, a mixed media collage, makes use of media text found on two separate pages in which the phrases “Sound & Vision” on the top page is prominent, and brought to our attention by the red marking which appears to be tape holding the two printed pages in place. On the lower page, the repeated word “Decisions” is thus emphasized. The piece infers: Make a decision: sound and (or?) vision – music/poetry or image; it is almost though this is a question rhetorically posed by the artist to himself. Or, perhaps in a total synesthetic artistic experience, both sound and vision are always present for the artist, as he, in turn, presents them for us.

In addition to being a performer, composer, poet, musician, and visual artist, Giuseppe Chiari has published journal articles and reviews, and two books on music theory: “Musica senza contrappunto,” (Music Without Counterpoint, 1969) and “Senza titolo,” (Without a Title, 1971). He has also been a guest lecturer on avant-garde music at the Seminario di Musica in Venice.

Chiari links:




Works Cited:

Carter, Curtis L. “The Artifacts of Poesia Visiva.” Haggerty Museum of Art.

Marquette University. Web. 12 Oct. 2009.

Chiari, Giuseppe. “Giuseppe Chiari.” Chiari. Florence, Italy. Web. 12 Oct. 2009.

“Fluxus.” Fluxus. Wikipedia. Web. 12 Oct. 2009. .

“Giuseppe Chiari.” Sonoloco Record Reviews. Sonoloco Records. Web. 12 Oct. 2009.

Tim Burton

Filed under: Online Reports — ehavey821 @ 12:05 pm

“I remember, I was at Cal Arts and I wasn’t a good life-drawer; I struggled with that realistic style of drawing. And one day I was sitting in Farmer’s Market sketching, and it was this weird, mind-blowing experience. I said, ‘Goddamit, I don’t care if I can’t draw, I’m just gonna draw how I feel about it.’ All of a sudden I had my own personal breakthrough, and then I could draw, and satisfied myself.” – Tim Burton

Sleepy Hollow Photo

Tim Burton was born August 25th 1958, in Burbank California.  While he is very well known as a creative and ingenious film maker, it should also be told that Tim Burton has written and illustrated children’s books and an autobiography.  He started out drawing and painting at a young age and continued on to go to California Institute of the Arts where he studied animation.  Many of his films are adaptations of well known and loved stories.  His first project was a stop motion animated short in tribute to Vincent Price:

The short entitled Vincent possesses the same feel as Edgar Alan Poe’s The Raven.  In both cases the reader is shown a narrator who is falling deeper and deeper into insanity.


Vincent 1982


The Nightmare Before Christmas 1993

It is apparent that Tim Burton is a master at using different forms of art to portray his dark adaptations.  Stop motion, or claymation has been one technique that he has used many times including Vincent, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride.


Corpse Bride 2005

All of Burton’s films can be described as visual masterpieces and many of his adaptations from book to screen are breathtakingly beautiful.


Sleepy Hollow 1999


Alice In Wonderland 2010


Along with his many films Tim Burton has also written a book of short stories and poetry entitled The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories. It was published in 1997 and consists of dark stories, poetry, and images.

Mr. an Mrs. Smith had a wonderful life.
They were a normal, happy husband and wife.
One day they got news that made Mr. Smith glad.
Mrs. Smith would would be a mom
which would make him the dad!
But something was wrong with their bundle of joy.
It wasn’t human at all,
it was a robot boy!
He wasn’t warm and cuddly
and he didn’t have skin.
Instead there was a cold, thin layer of tin.
There were wires and tubes sticking out of his head.
He just lay there and stared,
not living or dead.

The only time he seemed alive at all
was with a long extension cord
plugged into the wall.

Mr. Smith yelled at the doctor,
“What have you done to my boy?
He’s not flesh and blood,
he’s aluminum alloy!”

The doctor said gently,
“What I’m going to say
will sound pretty wild.
But you’re not the father
of this strange looking child.
You see, there still is some question
about the child’s gender,
but we think that its father
is a microwave blender.”

The Smith’s lives were now filled
with misery and strife.
Mrs. Smith hated her husband,
and he hated his wife.
He never forgave her unholy alliance:
a sexual encounter
with a kitchen appliance.

And Robot Boy
grew to be a young man.

Though he was often mistaken
for a garbage can.

I once knew a girl
who would just stand there and stare.
At anyone or anything,
she seemed not to care

She’d stare at the ground,

She’d stare at the sky.

She’d stare at you for hours,
and you’d never know why.

But after winning the local staring contest,

she finally gave her eyes
a well-deserved rest.

The Boy with Nails in his Eyes
put up his aluminium tree.
It looked pretty strange
because he couldn’t really see.

Of all the super heroes,
the strangest one by far,
doesn’t have a special power,
or drive a fancy car.

next to Superman and batman, I guess he must seem tame.
But to me he is quite special,
and Stain Boy is his name.

He can’t fly around tall buildings,
or outrun a speeding train,
the only talent he seems to have
is to leave a nasty stain.

Sometimes I know it bothers him,
that he can’t run or swim or fly,
and because of this one ability,
his dry cleaning bill is sky-high.


Unwisely, Santa offered a teddy bear to James, unaware that
he had been mauled by a grizzly earlier that year


There once was a morose melonhead,
who sat there all day
and wished he were dead.

But you should be careful
about the things that you wish.
Because the last thing he heard
was a deafening squish.

The entire book can be found here: http://homepage.eircom.net/~sebulbac/burton/home.html

It is apparent that Tim Burton has transferred his dark and sadly humorous artistic ability into writing and illustrating this one hundred and thirteen page book.

His Character Stain Boy has become the main character in many animated short films by Tim Burton, and has been accompanied by many of the other characters from his book of short stories and poetry.

On June 10th 2009 Los Angeles Times had this to say about Tim Burton: “When not making movies, the corkscrew-haired auteur has carved out a side career as a graphic illustrator and artist for nonfilm (and highly personal) projects, giving his brush and pencil free license to translate his creepy imagination to paper. Many of these works have never been seen by the public, but starting in November, a career retrospective dedicated to Burton at New York’s Museum of Modern Art will give his legion of fans a chance to observe these creations in person.”

Some of his art work that will be featured for a limited time include:


Untitled (Romeo and Juliet). 1981–84


Untitled (Frankenweenie). 1982

Another very interesting place to see Tim Burton’s art work is: http://www.timburton.com/ there you get to control Stain Boy and walk through some of Tim Burton’s art galleries.

While Tim Burton is more well known for his films, it can be seen that he has been and continues to be greatly inspired by books.  He is without a doubt one the most artistic and visual directors of our time.  You can tell that he really thinks about every shot and many of the images that we see in his movies look as if they are works of art.







October 29, 2009

“Rostam”, a Mythical Persian Hero, comes into Comic Books.

Filed under: Online Reports — mojde @ 10:27 pm


Ferdowsi is one the greatest poets from ancient Persia, who wrote Shahnameh over 1000 years ago. He is someone who has been the inspiration for many people and a great source of Iranian culture. There is a copy of his original epic poetry book “Shahnameh”found in most Persian homes.


They have used different illustrations to accompany and decorate the pages in different editions. The illustrations were inspired by the poems according to the interpretations of the artists. Poems are written in Persian calligraphy which is not readable for people who do not speak Farsi and the book reads from right to left. Ferdowsi is one of the only ones who speaks the pure Farsi not mixed with Arabic words that Persian use today.



Of course the translation of such poems to a different language would be so hard and maybe gives different impression of the actual, but these are some verses:
“Magnificent Buildings will be destroyed
From rain and the radiation of the sun.”
“I founded a great palace of verse so high [The Shahnameh]
That is impervious to the wind and the rain”
“Thus I won’t die that I am the eternal lord
“As I’ve spread the seed of the word”
“Whoever who has intelligence, vision and belief
Even after my death will praise me.”

At schools they have been teaching these mythical poems, the translations, and the stories adapted from the poems, to familiarize every Iranian child with this valuable source of literature. I personally grew up with reading the stories from Shahnameh and reciting the poems and I always had a passion for it and even a dream to make movies from it.


The children version of the book

This was a short introduction about the origin of the comics that these passionate Persians  put together.

Bruce Bahmani and Cameron Douraghy and Jamie Douraghy with collaboration of many other artists created the first comic books about one of the greatest and most famous characters in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, Rostam. Rostam: Tales from the Shahnameh Comic Book wins a Golden Lioness Award, 2006,  from WAALM (World Academy of Arts Media & Literature) in Budapest, Hungary.

bruce and cameronaward


Bruce, which actually his real name is Behrouz, Bahmani lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was born in 1961 in U.S. He lived in Iran till he was 18 and he left there after the revolution.  He grew up reading American comics in Iran. Bruce wrote the very first issue the epic tale of Rostam & Sohrab. He is Half-Ghashghai, half-German. He is now a marketing director of Beyond Persia, which is an Audio Magazine.


Cameron, Kamran Douraghy Cameron is Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Artisan Creative a creative services and design firm, with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He, as well as Bruce, graduated from Parthian School .

While working on “Truth” anti-smoking campaign,as they had targeted Asian-American teenagers who smoke with customizing comic books, they decided to put together the action-adventure story that they grew up with; the stories from Shahnameh. The first book was a success.

In an interview with VOA Bruce and Cameron state that they decided to make this comics because they grew up with the poems and they wanted to introduce it to the world. They said that at the moment they don’t have many readers of the book, but they are hoping that it will expand.

As they mention in the site the books targeted two group of readers:

1) English speaking comic book readers of the world, and …

(2) The youth of Iranians, Persians, Azeris, Kurds, Afghanis, Tajiks, etc. who want to connect with their culture, while growing up in Diaspora.

As 25% of the reader seem to be Americans.

Rostam is the mythical powerful warrior of Iran, son of Zal and Rodabeh who marries to Tahmineh, daughter if the king of Turan and have a son, Sohrab. The father and son are separated and not knowingly confront in a battle. I won’t ruin the story for whom those who want to get their hands on these interesting comic books and read the stories. Rostam has a horse, called Rakhsh.

rostam va rakhsh roughrostamrakhsh

There has been three books published by hyperwerks.com and they are working on their forth. Please click on the name of the books to view the images and enjoy the slide shows.

Rostam: Search for the King

Rostam: Return of the King

Rostam: Battle with the Deevs



Bruce Bahmani,  Cameron Douraghy, and Jamie Douraghyare the creators and producers of the books.

The illustrations are by Karl Altstaetter and writings by Robert Napton, lettering by Jason Levin and Coloring by Eve, Michael Bartolo.

Here is the GrandLan book review:

All the information about the books, some slides from the pages, some videos about the books are available at www.theshahnameh.com

Please check out the video about the book 1:


Who Are You?

Filed under: Online Reports — vegajaneth @ 6:06 pm
Are the product of Capitalism? Are we defined by what we have?

Are the product of Capitalism? Are we defined by what we have?

You Are Not Yourself“I am interested in pictures and words because they have specific powers to define who we are and who we aren’t. And those pictures and words can function in as many places as possible.”  – Barbara Kruger

As we look at our world today, it is not hard to recognize the changes that have taken place in the span of less than a century. Technology has changed the way we view the world and, in so doing, has also changed the way we view ourselves as a society and as individuals living in this society. Who are we? Are we mere manufatured persons freshly out of a cultural factory or are we a

mixture of our a culture and our essential individuality? Are we whole and complete individuals untainted by everything that surrounds us? Is it possible not to be tainted? And if it is not possible to be ourselves without being contaminated by the modes and customs of our society, who has the power to taint us? Who has the power to define us and set us apart? Those are the questions Barbara Kruger adresses with her work. You, her, him, I, we, society are confronted with these questions when we look at the faces and text in Kruger’s work that seem to stare at us right in the face.

Short Biography
Barbara Kruger was born in a lower middle-class Jewish family in 1945 in Newark, New Jersey. We don’t know a lot about her life but, we do know she attended Parsons School of Design where was influenced by famous artists such Diane Arbus and Marvin Israel who encouraged her to pursue a career as a graphic designer. She later dropped out of Parsons and began working for Conde Nast Publications, designing ads for Mademoiselle Magazine. Her work was of such high quality that, in almost a year, she was put in charge of designing the whole magazine. Besides designing Mademoiselle Magazine, she also did free-lance work designing book covers often of political nature. She delved into poetry, publishing some of her work and reading it. In 1976, Kruger became a professor at UC Berkely. Interestingly enough, her initiation into the world of art did not start with images and text. Her first work consisted of fabric wall-hangings that adressed issues of feminity and the work that women were allowed to do. After experimenting with this work, Kruger decided she needed to find herself as an artist. She spent some years in California before she was finally able to find the methods she needed to question/comment/critique the politics, culture, and society of our times.
Her Work
Your Body is a BattlegroundKruger’s work was definately influenced by her career as a graphic designer. Her experience working for Mademoiselle Magazine taught her the power of the interplay of word and image have on the spectator and, in the world of consumerism where short-attention spans dictate what is included in culture and what is excluded, her work uses methods that work to hold the specators to capture the spectator’s view. Consquently, in order to understand Kruger’s work, we need only take a glimpse at our world and how it functions to communicate with us nowadays. Our world is also fast paced which means that the way we communicate has changed. In order to communicate effectively, the methods we use to interact have to change. As a result, our age is using new ways to reach out to us and so are artists. Kruger is an example of how our times have influenced the art world and, although Kruger doesn’t like categorizing herself or anyone else as belonging to any particular set or ‘world’, it is evident that the culture of our day has had a visible impact in her work. However, like she once said: “I dont think anyone exists outside the gravitational pull of power and exchange.” We are all affected and the power that our culture has on us helps mold at least part of our identity. Kruger’s job is to search for that identity – to sift through everything that has tainted us in some way to discover who we truly are. If that is not possible, than question of power and identity should be confronted.

Barbara Kruger’s first attempt to mix text with pictures is seen in the book she published in 1977 called Pictures/Readings. The book consists of a series of photographs taken from different houses. Each house is juxtaposed by a paragraph that tries to depict the kind of people that would live there. Somehow we are made to feel that the house is some sort of reflection of who we are. The spaces we inhabit carry something of us or, like Kruger said: “artchitecture is one of the predominant orderings of social space. It can construct and contain our experiences. It defines our days and nights. It literally puts us in our place.”  The book combines images with narrative. Consequently, the reader is not only involved with the words on the page but is also engaed by the image he sees because it relate directly to the words that juxtapose it.Not Ugly EnoughNot Cruel Enough Not Stupid Enough

Her work began to progress towards what we see now. The bold images with bold text. Her art reflects what we have become but it asks us if this is truly who we are. Kruger uses images that already exist in the vast pool of pictures and photographs that circulate in throughout the world everyday. She changes a few details, maybe a color or the size of the face, or she might use a collage of ensemble of photographs to make her point. The images stare right at the viewer – it’s a face to face confrontation.  Yet, the images are only part of her work. The work would be incomplete if we ignore the text that accompanies it because it is the text that gives the image a makeover. The picture looses it’s original meaning when it is labeled by Kruger’s phrases and slogans. The image becomes limited by that specific text. Yet, interestingly enough, it manages to keep its abstraction,giving interpretation some space to roam around.

When looking at the text, we see a similar case. Kruger usually makes use of bold letterring, either white or black, highlighted by a red background or black background.  She makes a lot of use of Futura Bold Oblique. The phrases, just ast the images, seem to stare right at the viewer. They make an accusation about YOU as part of the society and culture we live in. They also reflect our culture in its promptness and sharpness. They are short and economical yet, the power they have on the viewer is impressive. The viewer is absorbed by three or four words. They attack. They make you think. They inspire. They confuse. They question. They critique. However, there is no way the viewer can detach himself/herself from the work. There is no way the viewer doesn’t feel that the words are adressed directly to him/her. Similarly, we can’t see the text without the image. Although the text has something to say (somthing bold), the text doesn’t possess the same power without the image. The image transforms the text by giving it more power. Consequently, both image and text depend on each other. They are both incomplete if either one is taken out. They both work harmoniously together to try to capture the viewer’s attention and it does an impressive job of doing so.  Let’s not forget that this is a similar tactic used by the media to try to trap the viewer.                                                                                                                                     Your Gaze Hits the Side of my Face

Seeing Through You

Kruger’s work is also very involved with the issues of our time. Feminism is one of those issues she is very passionate about. The notion of women as the receicers of the male gaze is turned over its head when she creates her famous work Your Gaze Hits the Side of my Face. Women in her work are often given a voice throught the silence of image and the boldness of the text. They portray the way women  have been stereotyped and positioned in our society. Capitalism and politics also feature among her works. The issue of money and its overwhelming importance in society is often questioned in work. Does money have such a hold on us that it has come to define us? Are we becoming just a credit card, waiting to be used by our society? The politics of abortion and war are also issues that appear in her work

Besides her work as an artist, Kruger is also a writer. She has written for newspapers, has published her book entitled Remote Control which comments on the same issues that her art work does.Culture She has designed covers for such magazines as Newsweek and House Garden. Her lack of belief in the ‘art world’ has enabled her work to be placed on billboards, buses, toe bags, t-shirts, and mugs. This is her way of reaching out to the public. The whole world is a forum for art. Her museum gallories demonstrate how encompassing her work really is. It completely involves and absorbs the viewer. Bold texts are placed on walls, floors, and ceilings. Images are also used similarly. Her eight solo shows at Mary Boone art gallery, show the scope and enticement of her work. Most recently,  in September of 2009m her work entitled Between Being Born and Dying was installed at the Lever House in New York City. As is apparent, Kruger is still at work, engagin us and confronting us with questions we are probably to afraid to ask. However, she is better apt to describe what she wants to do when she says: “I think that it’s important for me to somehow, through a collection of workds and images, to somehow try to picture –  or objectify, or visualize, how it might feel sometimes to be alive today.”Barbara Kruger











Goldstein, Ann., ed. Thinking of You. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1999.

Kruger, Barbara. Remote Control. The MIT Press, 1993.

Witzling, Mara R., ed. Voicing Today’s Visions: Writings by Contemporary Women Artists. Universe Publishing, 1994.

The Buffy Universe

Filed under: Online Reports,Uncategorized — cja4 @ 3:12 pm

Joss Whedon is an American writer, director, occasional actor, and executive producer. He was born on June 23, 1964 in New York City and was raised in Manhattan with his mother and two brothers. He got his bachelor degree at Wesleyan University in film studies.

One of his most popular television shows is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Whedon also created Angel (A Buffy spin off), Firefly, and recently Dollhouse. Besides writing for television, he has also written for film. For most of the shows he has created he has written a comic book to go along with it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer show is about a girl who struggles with her every day life and being a vampire slayer. The show was first aired in 1997 and lasted until 2003. After that Whedon decided there was more about Buffy he wanted to write about it. He started the Buffy the Vampire Slyer comic book in 2007.  The comic book takes place where the show ended. After the destruction of Sunnydale (the town Buffy lived in) Buffy is now considered a terrorist by the U.S. government for destroying Sunnydale.

The literature in the comic heavily reference the show as does the visual art. Many of the comic book characters( including Buffy) resemble the actors that originally played them on the television series. Whedon is heavily influenced by comic books on his works. He says his inspiration for Buffy is Kitty from X-men.


The visual shows Buffy leaping over buildings like any other comic book hero as is the classic comic book style. It shows the protagonist to be large than life. Whedon says that in comic books “They can recreate the characters, concepts and emotions, and just put that on a grander scale”.  In comic books there no limits on what the character can do while in television there are many. For instance, there is a budget the series needs to maintain, and the technology might not be available to do certain things.


Whedon also wants the characters from the comic book to be recognizable to the readers.   The visual art of the character in the comic book resemble the actors who played them. For example Buffy played by Sarah Michelle Gellar.

The comic book images are from Wolves at the Gate written by Drew Goddard and the artists are George Jeanty, Andy Owens, and Michelle Madsen. Each of images captures the essence of Buffy the television series into the comic book It’s important to Joss Whedon that the artists and writers to capture the look and style of the show.

Drew Goddard has written for a couple of Buffy episodes. He is familiar how the dialogue on the televisions series works. By having knowledge of the show he can create dialogue that fits the writing style of the series. The visual artists have worked in previous Buffy comic book issues and understand the visual look and style both the show and comic book.

Buffy 4Buffy vs Dracula

The mythology of Buffy is still being transcended from the show to the comic book. In season five, Buffy encountered with Dracula. The comic book captures the visual of Dracula portrayed by Rudolf Martin. During the episode Buffy vs. Dracula Xander(one of Buffy’s friends) was made a servant to Dracula and he would call him master. The relationship between Dracula and Xander was used mainly for comedic effect and to show how Dracula has power over people. The same happens in the comic book when Xander and Dracula meet, Xander automatically calls him master. The comic book uses humor from television series in the dialogue.

Buffy needs Dracula’s help in Wolves at the Gate because she needs to find a group of vampires with similar powers to Dracula. Dracula isn’t like most vampires. He doesn’t have demonic face like the original vampires do and he looks more human. He is able to turn to fog and into a wolf. It is here the show meets a pop culture icon, Dracula, instead of changing that icon completely he is used to add to the mythology of the show that is continued in the comic.

Buffy talking

The whole earth may be sucked into hell, and you want my help ’cause your girlfriend’s a big ‘ho? Well, let me take this opportunity to not care.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series Becoming part 2

The conversation Buffy is having in the comic book talking about her previous boyfriends and other characters in the show. The show is not separate from the comic book. Buffy’s dialogue shows her rambling on about her previous relationship. Someone who hasn’t seen the show might not get the joke. In order to get the comic book one needs to know Buffy’s seven year history on the television show. She is referring to her first boyfriend Angel who was a vampire. She had to kill him because he turned evil and he got sucked into hell. Her second boyfriend Riley Finn left town because he thought Buffy didn’t love him.

Joss Whedon likes to make reference in most episodes to an earlier episode. He also does that in the comic book by referring Buffy’s previous relationships and Dracula returning.

Buffy season1Buffy 2 (2)


The scythe is a significant item for Buffy. She gets it in the end of the final season seven. With the help of her best friend, Willow she uses the scythe to turn every girl who might be a potential slayer into a vampire slayer. It becomes a signature trademark for Buffy and still used through the comic book series. Whedon tries to stay connected to the show as much as possible, also trying something new with the comic book. Buffy is seen different in the show than she does on the comic book. In the television series Buffy is constantly shown with a stake in her hand. Whedon is trying to give Buffy a new identity by making her more powerful with the scythe. The scythe is symbolic of her final rite of passage into adulthood. In the comic book readers can see the after math of her owning the scythe. She is no longer a teenage girl who is trying to find her place as a slayer and teenager dealing with school and family. She is now a woman who accepted her calling.

Buffy 5 (2)

Since it’s a graphic novel the comic book is allowed to show more gruesome scenes than in television. For instance, a vampire feeding on a girl  in the comic book uses more graphic images when compared to the television series. The television series writers have to be more cautious because of the censors. In the comic book Whedon has more freedom to what he can do. He can demonize a vampire like he does here. The vampire grabs the victim and there is a close up of the fangs before he will bite her. The comic uses onomatopoeic word “shillicck” to show the reader the vampire killed the girl. In the television show a vampire feeding would just show the victim going down. The comic book not only shows a close up of the vampire’s fangs, but it also shows blood squirting everywhere alongside the writing that is also blood red and seems to be an extension of the victims own blood.

Here are some links to other comic books Joss Whedon also is working on and his autobiography.




Works Cited

“Joss Whedon.” http://www.imdb.com/. Amazon. Web. 20 Oct. 2009.

Whedon, Joss, and Drew Goddard. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Comic strip. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight. Vol. 3. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2008. Print.

Whedon, Joss. “Buffy vs. Dracula.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Fox. 20th Century Fox, Los Angeles, California, 10 Mar. 1997. Television.

Charles Addams

Filed under: Online Reports — corricrystal @ 2:49 pm

addamsCharles Addams is best known for creating “The Addams Family,” and is often referred to as to as the ‘Master of Macabre.’ Born on January 7, 1912 in Westfield New Jersey; no one could have predicted the morbid genius to come. 
















Indeed, as a cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine his topics were usually twisted, brutally honest, and yet very funny. Addams was able to find a whimsical humor in the most sinister of subjects. He consistently pushed the proverbial envelope during a time when etiquette was invaluable, and somehow managed to get away with it. 


“Say, Donovan, do we have one with muffled oars?”
























“For heaven’s sake, can’t you do anything right?”
















In many of his comics he portrayed middle aged married couples with great contempt for one another, but somehow his quirky humor transcended this delicate topic. 


Addam’s personal views on marriage might have been reflected in his art; he was married three times, and was an admitted philanderer. 



"May I borrow a cup of cyanide?"

















Fun Fact #1 Charles Addams created the Addams Family comic that predates the creation of the television show. 


Charles Addams began his career at The New Yorker magazine on February 6, 1932. It wasn’t until six years later, in the August 6, 1938 issue, that the Addams family cartoon debuted. He introduced the world to a strangely fascinating family that lived in a constant state of endearing macabre. 




Fun Fact #2 The Addams family characters remained nameless for the first twenty five years they were in print. 


It wasn’t until 1964, when Charles was approached to write a television show based on his characters that he gave them their famous names: Morticia, Gomez, Fester, Wednesday, Pugsley, Gramdmama, and Lurch. 


family picture 


The characters in the television series closely resembled Addams’ original work; except the illustrated Gomez is much shorter and heavier than the John Astin TV character. 




Fun Fact #3 The character of Morticia Addams was modeled after his first wife, Barbara Jean Day. 




It has been noted that Barbara Day Jean closely resembled Bettie Page. 



"Well, well, Sanford! Congratulations!"









Fun Fact #4 Charles Addams signed his work, Chas Addams, simply because he thought it was more aesthetically pleasing than Charles. 










 Fun Fact #5 Alfred Hitchcock was a fan of Addams, and they eventually became friends. It is said that the Victorian house in Psycho (similar to the Victorian house in The Addams Family) was due to Addam’s influence on Hitchcock. 





House in Psycho















addams family house

House in The Addam's Family















Fun Fact #6 In 2007, almost seventy years after the inception of the family Addams, M&M’s debuted a commercial starring this belovedly ghoulish family. 


I juxtaposed the original Addams Family opening with the commercial for a point of reference. 





This is one of the best commercials I have seen. It truly captures the playful essence of these now famous characters, and introduces a new generation to the genius of Charles Addams. 


Fun fact #7 The “Addams Family Musical” will open in Chicago on November 3, 2009. 


Though many might be skeptical of such a musical; there are actually some heavy hitters starring in this production. Bebe Neuwirth will be portraying Morticia Addams, and Nathan Lane will be playing Gomez Addams. The script is being written by the same writers of the highly acclaimed ‘Jersey Boys,’ so there is hope that it will be a well thought out, entertaining production. Cross your fingers. 




















I had so much fun doing research for this project. Charles Addams’ comics consistently made me laugh. 



"George! George! Drop the keyes!"




"Imagine it, Barclay. Here we stand gazing down at tracks made ten million years ago."












"Now, don't come crawling back asking me to forgive you."





tunnel of love 


















This cartoon is a sweet example of how Addams didn’t always look for humor in the morose.  He was able to find it everywhere, even in the tunnel of love. 


I highly recommend borrowing The World of Chas Addams from the library. Compiled by Charles and his third wife, Tee; it is a wonderful collection of his amazingly unique work. 








Works Cited 


Addams, Charles.  The World of Chas Addams. New York: Random House, 1991. 


Davis, Linda H.  Chas AddamsA Cartoonist’s Life.  New York:  Random House, 2006. 































































































































































































































































































































Reinhard Kleist

Filed under: Online Reports — uhchris @ 2:09 am
Reinhard Kleist

Reinhard Kleist

Not much is known about Reinhard Kleist, at least not in the United States. Kleist is a German artist, born in 1970 near Cologne. He attended the school of Graphic and Design in Münster, where he graduated with a silk screen album entitled “Abenteuer eines Weichenstellers,” (Adventures of a Railwayworker) authored by H. C. Artmann, while also working on two books, “Lovecraft” and “Dorian,” which he later published. Kleist now lives in a studio in Kreuzberg/Berlin where he works with other comic artists, Fil, Naomi Fearn, and Mawil, (Kleist Bio).

Work, Influences, and Aesthetics:

Kleist may best be known as a comic artist, but he is also does wall painting and silk screening. Throughout his career he’s done fourteen graphic novels, seven silkscreen books, and six wall paintings. Several of his works have received much acclaim overseas, including the “Max und Moritz” – award for best German album for his work on “Lovecraft.” His “Cash – I See a Darkness” won the award for the best German comic book in Munich in 2006 and a year later in the 2007 book fair in Frankfurt, and has since been translated into several languages, including English. In 2009, the French version of the book, “Cash- Une vie,” won the “Les prix des ados” at the festival for music and literature (Kleist Bio).

"Lovecraft" cover

Exerpt from "Dorian"

Kleist draws a lot of his work from other artists and authors. Two of his graphic novels are biographies of the famous musicians Elvis and Johnny Cash, entitled “Elvis” (2007) and “Cash – I see a Darkness” (2006). He’s also teamed up with Roland Hueve to create the graphic novels “Lovecraft” (1994) and “Dorian,” (1996) and nine other artists in creating “Elvis,” including Uli Oesterle, Thomy von Kummant, Isabel Kreitz, Nic Klein. “Dorian” is described as a combination of “Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde and “Human remains” by Clive Barker. (Kleist books).

Besides famous musicians and authors, Kleist also draws from life. His graphic novel “Havanna – Eine Kubanische Reise” (2008) depicts his journey to Cuba, a kind of memoir combined with short stories and illustrations he later did back home in Berlin. “Amerika” is a sort of diary with few words that he kept while staying in New York, in which his imagination is reflected through the eyes of a dwarf that speaks with pictures (Kleist books).

Kleist’s work is what I find to be captivatingly dark, unique, dynamically expressive and in many cases, full of angst. His work on “Cash – I see a Darkness” has been described as “restlessly kinetic” (Faber). Many of his comics are done in simple black and white, with a shade of grey for tone. With simple black and white, he creates lush, beautiful, dynamic, and sometimes bazaar images. His color works are even more amazing, tending towards a darker, grittier, and sometimes surreal nature.

scene from "Havanna"

"The secrets of Coney Island" exerpt

"Elvis" exerpt

"Amerika" exerpt

"Amerika" cover

"Havanna" cover

“Cash – I see a Darkness” an Example:

Being a Johnny Cash fan, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read Kleist’s graphic biography “Cash – I see a Darkness.” Kleist depicts the darkness of Cash’s life, narrated by Folsom prisoner Glen Sherley, beginning with his childhood working his fathers cotton fields and the death of his brother, Jack, highlighting his time served in the army. The story takes the reader through his first marriage, his rise to fame, drug abuse, his religious epiphany inside a cave where he crawled to die, and his detox from addiction, aided by June Carter, his devoted second wife. The story leads up to its climax at Folsom prison where he did his legendary performance and most celebrated concert. Kleist ends the graphic novel on the final days of Cash’s career where he worked on his cover album.

"Cash" Folsom prison scene

"Folsom Prison Blues" panel

A boy named sue

Ghost Riders in the Sky

Example of Kleist depicting sung word

As anyone who is a fan of Cash may know, Johnny Cash was an excellent story teller. Interestingly enough Kleist took some of Cash’s most memorable songs and adapted them as shorter, almost mini comics that serve to introduce each chapter, including “Folsom Prison Blues,” “A Boy Named Sue,” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”

While Kleist illustrates the stories of Cash’s songs both visually and literary, he also depicts the actual song lyrics in fragments floating across the panels in diagonal, bending sentences, framed in stretched, word balloons, no doubt to distinguish between the spoken words of the characters and the sung words. This combination of visual and literary work seems to make the story unfold like a movie, with a perfect balance between text and image, both of which drive the story. Words in this example of Kleist’s work, serve to convey dialogue and setting information while the images serve to convey character emotion and expression. In this piece of work there is no battle for superiority between text and image, as we’ve come to see in English 430, but a harmony in which they work together equally to tell the life of Johnny Cash.

Work Cited:

“Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness | Book review | Books | The Guardian.” Latest news, comment and reviews from the Guardian | guardian.co.uk. Web. 24 Oct. 2009. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/oct/24/johnny-cash-kleist-faber-review&gt;.

Kleist, Reinhard. Cash – I see a Darkness. New York: Abrams ComicArts, 2009. Print.

Web. 20 Oct. 2009. <http://www.reinhard-kleist.de/&gt;.

By Christopher Osier

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