In his work 'Transfiguration of the Commonplace', Danto asserts that philosophy, as a system of thought, is a unique subject-matter in which not everything is appropriate to its nature of inquiry (Danto, Section 3, p. 54). Art, however, he contends, has proven, throughout the ages, to be “spontaneously susceptible to philosophical treatment.” (Ibid.) Since a definition of art, he asserts, has, up until the present, ultimately proved impossible to discern in that, as a concept, it excludes the possibility that there is a criterion for artworks (Danto, Section 3, p. 58); its distinguishing classes must be understood conceptually, thus lending itself as an ideal candidate for philosophical investigation.
There has been much inquiry into the nature of visual arts as well as poetic writings; the medium of comics, however, as a mode of representation and communication, remains, for the most part, untouched. Whether this is because of the medium's nature, as a combination of words and images, that is difficult to characterize; or, rather, because the medium lends itself to immediate perception that requires little theoretical analysis, remains, for the most part, unclear. However, for whatever reason, the language and medium of comics remains largely untouched with regards to aesthetic contemplation. For this reason, my primary aim in this paper lies in an investigation of the aesthetic issues at work in the medium of comics.
I will begin by striving to arrive at some sort of definition, generally speaking, of what qualifies comics as comics – namely, a sequential narrative account that relies on both images and words to tell a story – followed by an analysis of both of these mediums (image and text) individually, and then, in relation to the other. Thus, I will endeavor to differentiate the medium of comics from other representational art forms – painting, photography, film, poetry, prose – and investigate the unique aspect of comics with regards to expression, function, and aesthetic experience.
[...] (Ibid.) What is interesting about the medium of comics then, irrespective of its incorporation of words into the images, is its sequential unfolding. For, given that each panel exists on its own as well as in a sequence, the viewer is able to contemplate the image of a single moment, and then, consider this isolated moment in relation to the image that preceded it and follows next. Furthermore, the very nature of sequential panels, allows for the possibility of alternate meanings in empty space separating the framed drawings ( ) literally the ‘gutter'.” (Gewertz, Chute on Graphic Narratives). [...]
[...] Ultimately, words are easily forgotten as they are a means to arriving at an image; put pictures, on the other hand, stay in the mind because they are the end that interpretation of language strives towards - and in fact require the reader, or viewer, to make us of their own language to examine the visible relationships, conditions, feelings, etc. that are given by the image. Thus, comics maintain the universality of the visual, enabling the author to cut across cultural and national barriers, while incorporating the language of context (words) to guide the reader's interpretation of the image. [...]
[...] In viewing, or reading, comics, being that the images are drawings and not photographs, the reader neither sees the world nor a direct representation of the world; what they see, rather, is the artist's or author's interpretation or transformation of the world, “with aspects that are exaggerated, adapted, or invented.” (Wolk, 20-21) So, the world presented in comics is not just an inaccurate representation of the world, but a deliberately constructed world designed to convey some feeling, idea, or tone. [...]
[...] You can maybe discuss Danto's assertion that are has lent itself to philosophical analysis; comics on the other hand, are immediately accessible so theoretical stipulations of the form are much rarer. The full integration of words into pictures in the speech balloon creates a new art, which raises novel aesthetic problems. The speech balloon is a defining element of the comic insofar as it establishes a word/image unity that distinguishes comics from pictures illustrating a text. It is not just a story through words, nor through pictures, nor through illustrations of a written story, nor the mere titles above an image. [...]
[...] Broadly defined, though there is no doubt dispute on this, comics are narrative works that take the form of “sequential - meaning, a form in which action is expressed in frames, or panels, which need to be read in a sequence (Sadokierski, "Word and Image in Contemporary Fiction."). Furthermore, comics can be discerned as ultimate combination and unity of word and image” (Brandl, Philosophy, and Comics: Beyond the End of Art History”). Thus, from this, comics can be taken as sequential art in which the narrative unfolds through text and image. [...]
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