Tuesday, June 21, 2022

An excerpt from my abstract graphic novel, "Universe A," in the new issue of "Shenandoah"

A 20-page excerpt from Universe A appears in the new issue of the literary journal Shenandoahhttps://shenandoahliterary.org/712/universe-a/

I also wrote a pretty long explanatory text about it, and about abstract comics in general, which may interest the more theoretically minded readers. It's linked to from the front page of the excerpt. Here are a couple of highlights: 

Universe A arose out of a desire to overcome what I saw as one of the limitations of all abstract comics up to this point, including my own earlier ones: being relatively short, they tended to chronicle one formal event, a simple set of changes, one basic formal arc, then politely get out of the way. I set myself the goal of a two-hundred-page continuous abstract narrative as a challenge, to see how such formal transformation could be kept going (hopefully in an interesting way) at a much greater length than heretofore practiced. The idea, if you will, is similar to writing a symphony when everything done so far has been in basic song form. Composers were forced to develop new forms that could carry musical development over stretches of twenty or thirty minutes rather than three. A good example of this is the sonata form, as practiced by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, which, simply put, complicated things by contrasting themes, breaking them up, and interweaving them, rather than simply repeating them once or twice then stopping. Since music is always on my mind in some form or another, you will find in the excerpt here an interweaving of different sets of visual shapes—blobs and blots and conduits and more—that is not so different from what I just described; and indeed music provided a model for how to structure a lengthy abstract visual narrative, for which I could find no other models elsewhere.  


An abstract comic exists as a comic, as an act of visual narration, only in the transition between panels. Therefore, the visual juxtaposition of panels is crucial to its functioning, and that readerly phenomenon, noticed in representational comics, of eclipsing the rest of the page while focusing on a single panel is no longer an option. The abstract comics page forms a differential visual field inhabited and structured by differences and deferrals that can only be perceived within its gestalt. As the comic is unable to fall back upon a represented temporality, the implicit directionality of its visual field is essential to it. Arrayed along that directionality, yet also modulated by other juxtapositions that go beyond simple linear sequencing, the set of panel-to-panel differences constructs the sequential dynamism that scans the page.


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