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Home Culture A story told through circles or comics without vignettes: audiovisual journey to the frontiers of comics | Culture

A story told through circles or comics without vignettes: audiovisual journey to the frontiers of comics | Culture

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Simon Hope’s mother has made a cake. She is shown in the first image: she looks delicious, with a pink unicorn in the center. The reader, however, must imagine everything else. Because Mrs. Daisy and her son are drawn as two circles, just like the rest of the characters in The color of things. You go laugh and cry with geometric figures for 230 pages. For this reason, Martin Panchaud’s celebrated first comic has been described as a turning point. They say that it breaks the schemes of the ninth art. In this image the reader can get a small idea:

Cartoon from the comic ‘The Color of Things’, by Martin Panchaud, published by Reservoir Books.

Although, for some time now, more comics have focused on exploring their limits. There are illustrations About loneliness, who teach geopolitics or break down inequality; Colossal designs that become small, strokes on paper and others on a touch screen. There are even vignettes without vignettes: in the famous beginning of the graphic novel Sandman, deNeil Gaiman, Mr. Hathaway lifts a knocker to knock on a mysterious door. It can be seen in the traditional ECC edition. But now you can also listen to it, on Audible. Here is a comic without an image. Some call it an audiocomic. Others consider it an adaptation. Below the reader can judge.

The truth is that the ninth art seems to live in a kind of age of discovery. There are comics for all tastes. And those that remain to be conceived. “It is a medium with very few narrative limits and low production costs,” highlights Panchaud. Which explains, for better and for worse, so much daring. Compared to literature, comics have twice as many possibilities to experiment: in the text, but also in the image. “And the reader himself participates with his gaze. It allows a lot to play,” adds Francisco Manuel Sáez de Adana Herrero, director of the ECC-UAH Chair of Comic Research and Culture. And it is evident that the artist who draws in his house can risk more than the one who directs a filming where many millions and jobs are at stake. Only the independent video game, perhaps, is traveling a path that is as personal as it is uncertain. Freedom, in exchange for precariousness. As an example, one of the most relentless satires on politics and even the monarchy: Spring for Madrid (Autsaider), by Magius, which ended up winning the National Comic Award.

A page from 'Spring for Madrid', by Magius, edited by Outsaider.
A page from ‘Spring for Madrid’, by Magius, edited by Outsaider.

“I have the feeling that there is a lot more innovation in the comics market. But sometimes it is given by the structure itself: an invasion of novelties, of small circulation, which is reasonable for a publisher, but problematic for an author. Although it allows you to address a population group that is not necessarily very broad,” says Sáez de Adana Herrero. For greater dissemination, his institution inaugurated on March 15 a comic library within the University of Alcalá de Henares, with some 600 titles, including such experimental works as Sundays with Walt & Skeezix u Hello Siri, which can be seen below.

Page of 'Hello Siri', by Marta Cartu, edited by Marmotilla.
Page of ‘Hello Siri’, by Marta Cartu, edited by Marmotilla.

Outside of libraries, comics are also changing to reach an older audience. Labels like ECC or Salamandra Graphic introduced a paperback line some time ago, which Marvel has also just embraced (through Panini, its Spanish publisher) under the name Essentials: cheaper and more manageable works, of course. With greater ambition for popular reach. Although with less space for the drawings to show. “It really is like the manga of a lifetime. It makes reading easier and more affordable for everyone. Comics can have many formats, and thus reach the hands of other readers, such as a teenager who cannot afford a certain expense,” emphasizes Natacha Bustos, cartoonist and promoter of debates and conferences on comics. This size comparison serves to give you an idea. Prices, obviously, are also reduced.

Comparison of the original and paperback editions of 'Wonder Woman', by Jill Thompson, and 'Watchmen', by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
Comparison of the original and paperback editions of ‘Wonder Woman’, by Jill Thompson, and ‘Watchmen’, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

The sources consulted, in general, value pocket comics positively. And, of course, the narrative risks are also welcome: the freshness of The color of thingsthe dilemmas of Hometown, Research Green algae, Hidden systems o The dark fingerprint; or the revolution that a work like Making stories, the Chris Ware, a box with 14 comics of different styles and formats, which come together to complete a plot.

Promotional image of the Coconino stamp of the Italian edition of 'Making Stories', by Chris Ware, published in Spain by Reservoir Books.
Promotional image of the Coconino stamp of the Italian edition of ‘Making Stories’, by Chris Ware, published in Spain by Reservoir Books.

More doubts, however, are generated by the sound versions. “It’s capturing its essence,” says Bustos. “I think it’s not a comic, but an adaptation. I say it as a fact, not in a sense of superior or inferior valuation,” adds Sáez de Adana Herrero. To which Chris Jones, production director for Europe at Audible, Amazon’s audio platform, which hosts Sandman and, in its English catalog, some of the most famous Marvel superhero comics:I understand that, first, may seem very strange. But it has something unique. When you listen to a novel, you can’t help but imagine it. From a comic, you know the graphic part. The world you are creating when you hear it is very faithful to what you saw, and at the same time it is a totally different medium from any other. I don’t think that the visual part is missing, it would be like saying it about the music.” In certain cases, yes, the image is so irreplaceable that a narrator describes the context seen in the vignette. Here, another sample of Sandman:

To reinforce his arguments, Jones deploys an overwhelming list: the voices of stars like James McAvoy or Carlos Bardem, dozens of actors, “months of pre-production, weeks and weeks of recordings”, the avant-garde of immersive sound, the melodies of great composers, the deep involvement of Gaiman himself. “It’s a colossal project,” he adds. Something that Ángela Álvarez, director of Penguin Random House Audio, confirms: “It requires a significant amount of time and production effort to be faithful to the work. The comic forces you to replace the graphic part with a sound universe that you have to imagine. In the Spanish market it is still not very clear that it will have sufficient impact to recover such a large investment.” Hence, currently his catalog only has the sound version of Warburg & Beachby Jorge Carrión and Javier Olivares, in addition to children’s works such as Elmer. Álvarez advances some very ambitious idea, although he cannot specify it yet. For now, this is how it sounds and looks Warburg & Beach:

Professor Sáez de Adana Herrero, in fact, believes that there have always been innovative comics, since Krazy Kat, by George Harriman, published a century ago and now rescued by La Cúpula, or even before. But he adds: “His own mass success put limits on him, whether in association with a child audience or in a more traditional narrative.” Stereotypes that, to a lesser extent, still survive, despite the Pulitzer that he won Maus, by Art Spiegelman; to the comic about environmentalism and energy that swept sales and controversies in 2022 in France: The world without end, by Jean-Marc Jancovici and Christophe Blain; or because Zerocalcare’s works have already led the weekly list of best-selling books in Italy, above Ken Follett or JK Rowling.

Page from 'The Endless World', by Jean-Marc Jancovici and Christophe Blain, edited by Norma.
Page from ‘The Endless World’, by Jean-Marc Jancovici and Christophe Blain, edited by Norma.

“Comics provide a wonderful opportunity to communicate through images and text. In fact, it is a type of communication that we find in many other places, almost despite ourselves, whether it is the assembly of an IKEA piece of furniture or the evacuation plan for an airplane. My experience as a dyslexic also confronted me with written language, with the fact that a succession of symbols could give rise to concepts and images very different from their visual appearance,” reflects Panchaud. Although perhaps the best summary is the vignettes of him in The color of things. He himself emphasizes that he did not want to remain an “experimental essay and a curiosity,” but rather for the reader to decode what at first may seem opaque. Like down here.

Cartoons from 'The Color of Things', by Martin Panchaud, published by Reservoir Books.
Cartoons from ‘The Color of Things’, by Martin Panchaud, published by Reservoir Books.

Complexity, risk, ambition, dilemmas. As in the best works of art. Not for nothing, Sáez de Adana Herrero remembers that almost all academic attempts to define comics fail: they end up including works that are not, or excluding others that should be. The professor outlines a list of peculiar and innovative works such as The color of things, 99 style exercise, The adventures of Joselito, Ampo o The good father. And, at the end, he quotes the Argentine critic Oscar Steinberg: “It is the phasing of two languages ​​that, in reality, are untranslatable; and the result is the artistic work. “What’s good about the comic is that it’s impossible!” Just like its borders.

Two pages of 'Ampo', by Martín Vitaliti, a peculiar review of 'El Eternauta', edited by Marmotilla.
Two pages of ‘Ampo’, by Martín Vitaliti, a peculiar review of ‘El Eternauta’, edited by Marmotilla.ROBERTO RUIZ

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