Part 3: Structures and Stories RT: Part 3

Research Task: ‘Silent Comics’

The two wordless graphic novels I chose for this research task were:

My Book of Hours by Frans Masereel (1919)

The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2006)

Frans Masereel used woodcut prints to illustrate his black and white, graphic novel, My Book of Hours (1919), which creates very bold, definitive lines. I was impressed by how much subtle detail was included in each print, such as expressions and interactions between the different characters, including those in the background.

I found I could follow the narrative most of the way through until about the mid-point when I became slightly confused with how some of the panels linked to one another and the ending was slightly unclear. However, when taken as individual illustrations, the character’s emotional state, e.g. whether it was humour or despair, was clearly depicted by his body language and expressions.

It was also clear when characters were interacting and there was a real sense of movement. Additionally, even though the characters were minimal in terms of design it is apparent that Masereel was very competent at drawing the human form.

A black-and-white drawing of a man leaning out of an arriving train.
The protagonist arrives at the city by train by Frans Masereel (1919).
Public Domain,

I was completely absorbed in the second graphic novel, The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2006). I found everything about the book to be visually and conceptually inspiring. Tan is an incredibly skilled draftsman and the way he has conveyed emotion and intent in each of the individual drawings was truly revelatory.

I felt the story had a cinematic style to it, in terms of composition and framing, for example, and this is also clearly influenced by sepia photographs from the past. There is a fluidity to the narrative and each panel seamlessly leads to the next. The darker mood of certain groups of panels are enhanced by the switch from the warmer, sepia colour to a colder, greyish-blue. I also liked the fusion of the more fantastical aspects with the more familiar in a balanced way.

Overall I found The Arrival was an absolutely successful example of a ‘silent comic’ in which the reader can relate in some way to and empathise with the protagonist’s situation. I am extremely pleased that I chose and bought the book for future reference.


The Anarchist Library, (n.d.). Frans Masereel – My Book of Hours. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 October 2021].

Tan, S. (2006). The Arrival. Melbourne: Lothian Books.

Tan, S. (n.d.). Arrival book – Shaun Tan. [online] Shaun Tan’s website. Available at: [Accessed 26 October 2021].

Wikipedia, (n.d.). Passionate Journey. [online] Available at: {Accessed 26 October 2021].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *