c.e. taillefer

September 30, 2016

Get your mind into the gutter: Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics

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If you’re into comics even the least little bit, chances are good the name Scott McCloud has crossed your radar. He’s better known for his comics about comics rather than the franchises he’s worked on, and for good reason – Understanding Comics is something I’d consider required reading for anyone working in a creative field.

Of particular interest to me is the concept of the “gutter” – the liminal space in comics (and arguably, in writing and games as well, and films and TV to a lesser extent) where the reader supplies the details of events between panels/sentences/scenes.

"Now you die!"

“I may have drawn an axe being raised in this example, but I’m not the one who let it drop, or decided how hard the blow, or who screamed, or why. That, dear reader, was your special crime, each of you committing it in your own style.”

This focus on reader participation in Understanding Comics began to highlight the ways in which I exploit similar stylistic choices in my chosen mediums of short and novel-length fiction, and games.  For example, from “Haven of the Waveless Sea”, where Fandral Staghelm relives the death of his son:

   “Again.”
       The meaty rip, the buzzing song, the sound of hope dying.
In fact, once I noticed it, I couldn’t stop noticing how often I used a similar “fade to black” style – as a cover for my own inexperience with elves being torn-apart by giant insect lords, or to give reuniting characters some privacy, a la William Goldman but also to poke fun at the reader’s own sense of imagination. All it takes is the narrator stating, “you can imagine the rest” after the beginning of a gory or erotic scene to get the readers actually thinking about it. (Don’t think of the pink elephant!) It’s a great way to pretend you’re a better writer than you are, since the readers are going to imagine whatever suits them best. It’s also one of the reasons why, a friend pointed out, that good tweets work so well as comic strips: they both make effective use to of the gutter to be funny or scary or poignant.
On the other hand, like any stylistic choice, it can be too often relied on.  One of the storytelling experiments I hope to use in my current Twine project is to write the whole story, regardless of how nonsensical or unreal it may seem, to get at the heart of a personal experience through the nitty gritty details. If the goal of a game is to promote both empathy and the sense of helplessness inherent in being trapped in an abusive relationship, going through the painful details with a fine tooth comb seems to be far more effective than letting the reader imagine for themselves, particularly if the project’s intent is to break down stereotypical media portrayals of abusive relationships.
In particular, I’m thinking of the ending of Watchmen by Alan Moore.  How much of a double gut punch is it for Ozymandias to admit his plan was already completed before the heroes ever arrived to stop him, and then to show, in explicit, bloody detail, what that plan entailed?  Moore’s goal was to play on tropes and stereotypes of superhero comics, and it’s effective both in thumbing its nose at the big Villain monologue (quite literally, Adrian says “I’m not some republic serial villain”!) and the amount of destruction that many superheroes cause in the process of saving the world. (Age of Ultron/Civil War in the Marvel cinematic universe tries this also, to lukewarm effect.) Moore’s got an explicit vision to sell in Watchmen, and sets it up via the non-linear transitions, where the reader can partake in their own version of Adrian’s plan before being exposed to the reality.
September 15, 2016

Where the Devil Don’t Go: Preacher, Season 1 (Part 3)

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(Part 1 and Part 2)

Aka Angel-Demon Baby Daddies and The Bad Stuff.

I left talking about Deblanc and Fiore till the very end for a few reasons – to give more people time to catch up (have you watched Preacher yet? HAVE YOU?) and because I love them so obviously, I saved the best for last.  In the comics, Deblanc and Fiore are barely there cardboard standouts that exist to provide some more jokers for Jesse to beat up in his search for God.  They come to Earth to look for Genesis, but give up fairly early on in favour of the pleasures of doing cocaine and masturbating. Oh, Garth Ennis, you wacky scamp.

Beware the spoilers for all of Season 1 below, as well as a trigger warning for discussions on suicide & racism.

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August 23, 2016

Bruise my knees gettin’ down to pray: Preacher Season 1 (Part 2)

Tulip O'Hare and Cassidy looking at each other
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Last week, I started writing a post about theology in AMC’s Preacher, but as you can imagine, it got a little wordy, so I decided to split it into three parts to cover the six topics I’d loosely defined in the first post. (Part one of this series, if you missed it.)  Today’s post is gonna cover two more: Grace and mercy, and Calvinism, Unfortunately.

Trigger warning in the discussion below for suicide, and pedophilia. As before, spoilers for the entire season behind the jump.

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February 20, 2013

Sorry Not Sorry 1: I read Homestuck

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Sorry Not Sorry is a new series of blogs, dedicated to media I enjoy: video games, movies, books, etc.  I intend for Sorry Not Sorry to open up a dialogue about the line between being a feminist and doing feminist things.  The former doesn’t make everything you do automatically feminist (apologies to Lisa Simpson). The urge to close the gap between the two things is natural, I think, and ties in closely with feminists who feel the momentum of the movement flagging, attempting to flog life into it by expanding the definition of feminism so widely that it’s catching stray insects and the occasional neoliberal in its mouth these days.  It has undermined the concept of subversion to the point of ridicule, where certain online circles take things like leg shaving or nail painting or high heels as a subversion of femme expectations, because they’re feminist and they’re not doing it because they have to!  The average man on the street isn’t going to know that though, nor even are people you might hail as fellow feminists.  It doesn’t mean you can’t do those things. It’s okay to be a feminist and enjoy watching Game of Thrones.  You can be a feminist and read the Dresden files.  It’s just that it doesn’t make those things feminist. Dig me?

So I open Sorry Not Sorry with Homestuck.

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