I love Scott McCloud: Understanding Comics is an absolutely awesome book. I came across this recently posted video of a talk he did at TED in February 2005. A fabulous presentation: Vannevar Bush, J.C.R. Licklider, Marshall McLuhan, visions of the future, truth, beauty, 4 basic principles for living your life, temporal maps, spatial relationships, durable mutations, and, yes, even comics. Smart, funny, and still ahead of the curve. What more can you ask for?
This will be something of an incomplete report because I deliberately missed the morning session—most of which was not really relevant to my area of interest—and went walking around Edinburgh in the rain: right across the southern half of the city to Bruntsfield Place, up and down Morningside Road and back to Pollock Halls in time for lunch.
The afternoon session was given over to an extended presentation by Dr. Mel Gibson entitled So What Is This Mango Anyway? Comics, it was about comics… And talking of comics Dr. Gibson was something of one herself, with a very extrovert personality and presentation style: highly amusing and anecdotal, and yet with an obvious deep love—and encyclopedic knowledge—of the form.
Attempting to capture the contents of the 3-hour session in any detail would be nigh-on impossible, so here’s a list of some of the points she brought up:
- Comics are highly specific geographically (i.e. US, Japanese, and British comics have very separate identities). These geographic differences often manifest themselves as distinct genres.
- Comics are excellent for reaching across generations.
- Comics can embody a strong feeling of nostalgia in adults.
- Characters may exist in different media (what she termed “intermedia” existence).
- Comics translate very well across cultures (e.g. Asterix, Manga, Tintin).
- Comics are a useful source for the investigation of anthropomorphism.
- Comics are good for illustrating issues of literacy and semiotics, e.g. the way Japanese comics read backwards (from our point of view).
- Comics were arguably at the vanguard of the reemergence of serial narrative in the 20th century.
- Comics can be a useful source of experimentation with character and story development, e.g. casting Marge Simpson as an action hero.
- Comics can be a useful source of material for issues such as gender, identity, etc..
Dr. Gibson also brought along a huge selection of Manga novels, graphic novels, and various other comic collections for us all to look at (polite scrum above, sample below). There was some fantastic stuff, with my particular favourite being Death Note: I didn’t get to read all of it but the from the opening panel it was obviously a stunning piece of work.
Finally, from my own personal point of view, Dr. Gibson had some useful ideas about using comics in a teaching practice. This next list is a personal memo to myself, really:
- Design idea: “A cover for a comic I would like to see”.
- DC Thomson’s guidance to comic authors: the story extends over 3 pages with 6-9 panels per page. 2 speech balloons per panel. No more than 1 thought bubble or information box per panel. The last panel on the page must be a ‘page turner’ or ‘curtain’.
- Fold an A4 piece of paper and create a ‘6-minute comic’.
- Interactive comics: investigate!
If you’d like more detail on Dr. Gibson’s presentation here’s the permalink from the NILE 2008 blog. If you desperately have to catch up on the sessions I missed the complete NILE 2008 blog is here. Dr. Gibson also has her own site which is packed with useful stuff. Highly recommended.
Thanks Dr. Mel Gibson for a really interesting session. More on NILE 2008 to follow.