“Mixing Words and Pictures”

This week we have been considering Tan Lin’s “The Patio and the Index,” an online narrative prose piece–he calls it a “sampled novel”–that draws on a variety of images to accompany the text.

I want to call your attention to a recent interview with Art Spiegelman, a man “who helped elevate comics into an art form.”  Comics are, of course, a familiar form which often mixes text and images to interesting effect.  Here are some excerpts from the interview:

I think of comics as a kind of amazing distillation. One’s allowed only a few words, and relatively few marks to make the picture compared to oil paintings or something that’s more overtly visual. You’re forced to strip it down just by the nature of what it is as a medium. One of the attributes that I like in comics is how things can be distilled to their furthest point, and then re-expand once they hit your brains through your eye. So the process is one of distillation, and it’s usually seeing how efficiently one can make something incredibly inefficient and complex, like an emotion and a thought, happen.

I’m fine with the word “comics” even though it’s a total misnomer, but it’s the misnomer that got there first. I’ve been spelling it “co-mix”…Comix with an X was what the underground comics were called because they were X-rated very often. And if you mispronounce it “co-mix,” then you get to mix together the words and the pictures and you have something that’s actually sort of accurate and belonging to its roots. But I’m not pitching for another marketing term…. Whether I like it or not [the term “graphic novel”] is useful, because it communicates to people the notion of an ambitious work that stirs words and pictures together. Me, I just call myself a cartoonist, and I’m making co-mix.

In the video clip below, there is an exercise by cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, which may help us think about narrative in relation to images:


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