Comics and Narration

Comics and Narration

Thierry Groensteen

Language: English

Pages: 216

ISBN: 149680256X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This book is the follow-up to Thierry Groensteen's groundbreaking The System of Comics, in which the leading French-language comics theorist set out to investigate how the medium functions, introducing the principle of iconic solidarity, and showing the systems that underlie the articulation between panels at three levels: page layout, linear sequence, and nonsequential links woven through the comic book as a whole. He now develops that analysis further, using examples from a very wide range of comics, including the work of American artists such as Chris Ware and Robert Crumb. He tests out his theoretical framework by bringing it up against cases that challenge it, such as abstract comics, digital comics and shojo manga, and offers insightful reflections on these innovations.

In addition, he includes lengthy chapters on three areas not covered in the first book. First, he explores the role of the narrator, both verbal and visual, and the particular issues that arise out of narration in autobiographical comics. Second, Groensteen tackles the question of rhythm in comics, and the skill demonstrated by virtuoso artists in intertwining different rhythms over and above the basic beat provided by the discontinuity of the panels. And third he resets the relationship of comics to contemporary art, conditioned by cultural history and aesthetic traditions but evolving recently as comics artists move onto avant-garde terrain.

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Manufactured in the United States of America First printing 2013 ∞ Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Groensteen, Thierry. [Bande dessinée et narration] Comics and narration / Thierry Groensteen ; translated by Ann Miller. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-61703-770-2 (cloth : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-1-61703-771-9 (ebook) 1. Comic books, strips, etc.—History and criticism. 2. Narration (Rhetoric) I. Title. PN6710.G757 2013 741.5’9—dc23

Spiegelman, and Chris Ware. I also enter into dialogue more often with English-language critics and researchers. Finally, where System 1 approached comics from an essentially ahistorical standpoint, attempting to draw out some universals from the language of the medium, Comics and Narration is much more closely involved with its recent developments. This is not only because it takes account of phenomena such as abstract comics or digital comics that have only become established in recent years,

B) The actorialized narrator who nonetheless remains extradiegetic. In the cycle of “Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec” [The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-sec], Tardi used, up to and including Momies en folie [Mummy Madness],56 a non-actorialized narrative voice, that of the reciter. But in the following album, Le Secret de la Salamandre [The Secret of the Salamander],57 responsibility for telling the story is laid at the door of a delegated narrator, an old man in a

the succession of frames. This is a basic beat that, as in music, can be developed, nuanced, layered over by more elaborate rhythmic effects emanating from other ‘instruments’ (other parameters of the medium) …,”2 and I described the process of reading comic art as a “rhythmic operation of crossing from one frame to the next.”3 Given the above, one of the six functions that the frame was deemed to fulfill was, precisely, the rhythmic function: “Each new panel propels the narrative forward and,

indecisiveness of their protagonists, by non-communication and aphasia. As Jacques Samson writes, in Ware’s work, “time moves sluggishly, and displays its sluggishness.”47 The visual translation of the miring of the action—which amounts to an antirhythm—is achieved by a constant recourse to seriality effects: avoiding shotcounter shot sequences and pointless changes in framing, Ware cultivates instead the systematic, reiterating the same angles of vision over and over again. To which is added a

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