Monday, October 17, 2011


Norris Hall: Sequential Art Department @ SCAD

Talk about great fodder for posting: aside from the cartoons + coursework (some of which can double-dip as material for the feature up north) I'm stepping up production of the thesis paper. My newly re-formed committee chair, members, and department head have all officially signed off on the synopsis, and the bibliography has sprawled out to over forty cited works. And no cartoons even. Yet.
There will be some funnies, as I'm marshaling a defense of my own chosen field, that of the single-panel, or "gag" cartoon. There is a subtle irony in making a case for comics to be, well, taken seriously if you will. Within comics there has been a concerted effort amongst practitioners and academics alike to lobby for the artforms legitimacy, and, if not somewhat begrudgingly, the medium has increasingly become accepted into both art and literature. Two key advents of this are the exponential offerings of "graphic novels' in the market, and the proliferation of "sequential art" courses and departments into college-level curricula. However, that being said, this paper aims to address a pet peeve of mine (ie. an admitted bias) (natch): the subtle slighting of the "subgenre" of single-panels, an oversight that I intend to address through a variety of perspectives. Rebutting some of the conventional wisdom and territorial pissings has been a challenge, and a real kick in the creative ass. Focusing my energy and sustaining output over such a writing-intensive project is rewarding in many ways, as it consolidates the mulch-pile of miscellaneous resources and personal anecdotes I've uncovered and accumulated over years of experience in the field, in the trenches, and in the classroom (on both sides of the easel). That and I still managed to learn a whole bunch more cool stuff, which is always a bonus. Now if I can just avoid writing like it's another extended blog post... and as my father has pointed out, growing up on a steady diet of Moorcock and Lovecraft does wonders for the adolescent imagination but leaves a lingering literary stench that spawns pustular prose and other execrable opuscular aspirations.

 *Update: as of today the first draft, all 27-pages (+ another 13 in supplemental material) has been put out for review, and is undergoing editorial revisions and proofreading by some editors. In the meantime, below the fold, here's the synopsis...

Norris Hall: backyard

“Getting It: Gag Cartoons as Sequential Art”

James T. Smith
September 2011

This thesis explores arguments both for and against the consideration of single-panel (“gag”) cartoons within the medium of sequential art. A key question examined is exactly where the gag cartoon fall along the continuum of comics, and to what degree can they play a role in understanding the field of both narrative and sequential art. Varying definitions of comics and perspectives on the single-panel cartoon will be examined as to their relative merits on whether or not they “count” as legitimate sequential art.    
     The thesis will analyze the physical and perceptual process behind creating and reading a single-panel cartoon, present methods of panel design and the deliberate compositional arrangement of elements within a frame, examine the relationship between the image and the text, the sequential nature of the single-panel cartoon, and discuss how these factors cumulatively effect the “getting” of a cartoon.
     The aim of this thesis is to buttress the position that single-panel cartoons can rightfully be considered a viable and valuable component of the sequential arts.


List of Figures 
I. Introduction
II. Definitions
III. Panel Design
IV. Image and Text
V. Narrative Art
VI. Creators and Careers
VII. Conclusion
Cited Works
Visual Component  

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