Another round for “Don’t move around much anymore”

When I first met Art Spiegelman some 40 years ago in the fall of 1976, I was blown away by his enthusiasm for comics. We were hanging out with a group of avant-garde filmmakers who gathered around the Archives du film d’anthologie and the Collectif pour le cinema vivant. . He spoke fervently about his chosen medium and gave a series of lectures to the Collective that promised “an idiosyncratic historical and aesthetic insight into an art form”. It seemed like a radical idea. The perception of the medium has changed a lot in recent decades. Now it is seriously considered and has many avid fans and readers. Yet the most exciting parts of the comic book creation process can be opaque. Learning to watch comics, seeing how a cartoonist constructs a narrative with words and images, remains as electrifying as when I first discovered it.

At the time I met him, Art was composing “Breakdowns”, an anthology of the comics he had published in underground comics in previous years. These tapes were dazzling examples of formalist works, on par with the work of the avant-garde filmmakers or French writers I grew up with – including Georges Perec, Nathalie Sarraute, Roland Barthes and members of the Oulipo – but they were also entertaining and easy to read. Simple on the surface, each page could be peeled like an onion to reveal ever more translucent layers of meaning. One of my favorites was “Don’t move around much anymore”. I loved its understated black and white Art Deco-inspired look. Reading it was transporting, like listening to jazz. I knew this artist was something special. (That was before he created the Pulitzer-winning graphic novel”Maus”; also before I married the guy.)

At the time, Art rarely wrote or lectured about his own work. He quoted an aphorism widely misattributed to Abraham Lincoln: “Better to be silent and look like a fool than to speak up and dispel all doubt.” But when “Breakdowns” was published, in 1977, to a resounding lack of attention, he broke his rule and wrote a simple explanation of my favorite one-pager, explaining the techniques he used to create the moods. and the powerful metaphors of this tape. A new edition ofDistribution: Portrait of the artist as a young %@&*!comes out next month, with 1977’s “Breakdowns” at its center, and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” at the center of that. The following is adapted from the new edition.

Francoise Mouly

“Don’t Move Much Anymore”, a guided tour by Art Spiegelman (1978)

I’ve been told that “Don’t move around much anymore” is depressing. I don’t see it that way. “DGAMAis, among other things, a meditation on depression and alienation.

The text was written in a single flash – an excretion in a notebook, not originally intended as material for a comic strip. Since it’s mostly descriptive, it may seem unpromising for a psychic with a reputation for frantic actions. Maybe that’s what attracted me. The text gave me the opportunity to develop the idea that comics represent time in space. That is, a time gap is usually implied between each panel, although they all exist simultaneously on a page. The only movement (the only frenetic action) when reading a comic is in the eyeballs of the reader. We are trained to read a comic from left to right, top to bottom, one panel at a time. “DGAMAattempts to derail this formation.

I tried to adopt drawing techniques and manners – a style – appropriate to the subject. The Rapidograph pen, a tool used for mechanical rendering that creates lines of invariable width, seemed a good choice, as did the shading of the parallel lines and the general sharpness of the black and white. I wanted something angular in the artwork – a metaphor for feeling ‘enclosed’, a visual pun on the title, ‘Don’t Get AROUND Much Anymore’.

The drawing is very schematic. All comic book designs should function as diagrams, simplified word-pictures that indicate more than they show. The first two panels, the first row of panels, are diagrams of the rest of the strip – diagrams of diagrams. I often try to summarize my strips in the first panel about before the start. They function like “splash” panels in more traditional comics – the main panel which outlines the theme or climax of the action to follow.

Panel 1

Panel 1 shows the narrator in relation to most of the objects highlighted in the rest of the page – an overview of which the other panels are details.

Panel 2

The floor plan is another abstraction, situating the objects and space that serve to define the narrator.

Panel 3

Panel 3, the title, is taken from a blues song by Duke Ellington. The lettering is based on a specimen from an obscure lettering book from the twenties. The square shape of the letters, the initial difficulty in decoding them, the mechanical tones, reinforce the themes of the tape. The detail of the narrator’s face is redrawn from the panel above in a small box almost the same size as the letters and can function as the word “I”.

Many parallels are drawn between comics and cinema. (Both are folk art forms that synthesize other media, both are children of late 19th century technology, etc.) The differences between them should be respected, but I’ve sometimes regretted that , unlike cinema, comics do not have a soundtrack. Referring to Ellington’s song is a step towards creating a mental soundtrack; asking for a dripping faucet as an attendant is even more emphatic. The dripping faucet line is meant to both be taken seriously, but also function as a conscious joke about my forward-thinking aspirations.

Panel 4

Panel 4, referring to cable television, is a close-up of the space between the narrator and the television in panel 1. Window bars create subdivided panels.

Panel 5

The text in panel 5 is out of sync with the visual. It more directly references the image of the previous panel by pulling the reader’s eye back, or at least mentally connecting the two panels. (This device – disengaging the image from the text it illustrates – is a reaction to the many unsophisticated comic strips in which the image is little more than an illustration of the text above.) The figures on the collage Life cover were squared off to satisfy visual harmony and a personal penchant for graffiti. The impulse of collage, a tactic borrowed from Cubism, is fundamental to the strip’s pervasive references to media as extenders of experience.

Panel 6

In Panel 6, once again, the text seems out of sync, sending the reader back to the Life magazines illustrated in the previous panel, although the Life the magazine’s logo in the lower left leaves ambiguity. The dual-image record player sets up a back-and-forth eye movement in the panel, in an attempt to create a visual equivalent to the sound of a skipping record. (More on that later.) Now that a new pattern has been established – a block of text appearing a panel after the image it describes – it’s my job to break the pattern. Therefore, panel 7.

Panel 7

The text at the top refers to the television in panel 8, while the text in panel 8 again refers to panel 7. The text at the bottom of panel 7 again refers to the folder in panel 6. The cupboard in the le upper left corner of panel 7 is empty.

Panel 8

The laterally mismatched face on the TV in Panel 8 was found, as is, in a Life magazine ad highlighting the benefits of a larger cathode ray tube. I am amused by the connection between his smiling, empty face and the phrase “The refrigerator is empty”.

Panel 9

In panel 9, for the first time, words and image are firmly linked. The top text box refers to the crackers and cupboard placed directly below. Note that the cupboard now has a box of crackers, probably Ritz. Water pours over the text box describing the faucet.

Panel 10

In panel 10, the text and image are detached again. The image is a throwback to panel 4. The text in panel 11 draws attention to panels 10 and 11. The phrase “He’s been bouncing that ball for hours” gives duration to the action of the strip – this it’s been hours since the reader first encountered the child at the top of the page. Our narrator has been motionless for quite a while. The closest thing to an event in the band is the kid bouncing his ball, the roundest comic book object, the one most emphatically depicted as living or moving. It exists outside the narrator’s bedroom.

Panel 11

By keeping the two images almost identical in panels 10 and 11, the eye – always looking for differences – focuses on the “movement” of the ball. The back and forth motion already established in the tape bounces the ball repeatedly (accompanied by a dripping tap, slowly).

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