Part 4: Genres & Styles RT: Part 4

Research Task: Autobiographical Comics

After reading throught the short story by Daniel Clowes called ‘Nature Boy’, I considered the questions as provided:

Does the nine-panel grid create a rhythm and structure to the story?

I felt that the nine-panel grid did indeed create a rhythm and structure to the story. There is a steady beat to each panel, particularly for those on the first and second page, which it adds to the sense of the character progressing through the woods in each frame.

The repetitive structure, after the initial three-panel introduction, increases the reader’s focus on the surreal story.

Additionally, although the panels were divided by gutters, they seemed to blend into one another, which added to the feeling of the character being surrounded by his environment (i.e. the woods).

Could any of the sequences be described as from a ‘point-of-view’ perspective?

I thought three of the panels suggested they were from the ‘point-of-view’ perspective of the main character.

  • Panel 6 (page 1), which includes one of his legs as he looks down at the cotton bud on the ground;
  • panels 1-3 (page 2) is most likely the character’s POV as he looks down on the squirrel. This was implied by the panels directly before and after the sequence in which the character notices the hole and leaves it behind, respectively.
  • panel 8 (page 2) the set-up of it being a POV is established in the previous panel;
  • and panel 8 (page 3) is confirmed as POV due to the the characters looking directly at the reader.

Panels 3 and 6 on page 3 initially appear to be POV perspectives until the direction of the character’s eyes in the panel is noted, i.e. looking away from the reader.

How does the silent nature of most of the story affect its reading? Would captions or thought balloons change the feel of the narrative?

I found the silent nature of the first two pages added to the sense of surrealism and bizarreness of the narrative. It also enhanced the atmosphere of the character being completely alone in the woods, apart from the sound effects of animals, etc. I would have thought that adding captions/bubbles would have detracted from this effect, although it does mean the at the reader is left trying very hard to understand what is going on, particularly with the squirrel and the cotton buds… There are only two panels that include speech, which break the spell (and add to the strangeness), before returning to the silence again.

What is the visual style of the story – modern or old-fashioned? Simple or detailed?

I thought the visual style of the story resembled either woodblock printing or etching, which could be considered an old-fashioned technique, but the rendering of the comic is modern, e.g the clothes of the character.

I found there was a strong contrast between the two settings in the story in terms of detail. The artist used a great deal of detail in the wooded environment, utilising hatching and adding depth with the trees receding into the background. Comparatively the trailer setting is more sparse with details, which is also reflected in the inflated characters sitting on the sofa.

What, if anything, do you think is the point or moral to the story?

I found the story quite sad as it seems to imply that the character is bound to be forever stuck in a situation he is desperate to escape from.

It appears that the character becomes more despondent as the story progresses, e.g. his posture becomes increasingly slumped by the final page, where he accepts his fate.

Additionally the fact that the bloated character suggests he will miss the flight which would ultimately result with him returning anyway, reinforces the sense of being tethered to a family for some reason, such as guilt or expected duty. It seems impossible for the main character to escape.

I also thought that the depiction of the woods in the final panel could either suggest that the possibility of escape is still out there or as a taunt that there is no escape – a bit like a fairy tale with enchanted woods from which it is impossible to leave.

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