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tag: comics

Daredevil Is in the Details

New creative teams stake their claim to the rare blind superhero

Whatever comics commentary I may have is generally going to be lagging behind fresh releases. In particular, my Marvel Comics reading is almost always off by six months or so, since that’s about how long it takes, I believe, for a comic to make it from the newsstand to Marvel Unlimited’s digital subscription service. A new Daredevil series just popped up, story by Chip Zdarsky, art by Marco Checchetto, and color by Sunny Cho. Any time there’s a new Daredevil creative team, there’s the opportunity for a new take on this rare blind superhero (with heightened hearing, among other senses).

In this early scene from the first issue, just two pages in, Zdarsky gives us a glimpse of Daredevil’s own perception of his super-senses. (Origin story in brief: as a kid, Matt Murdock “lost his sight in an accident involving radioactive chemicals,” and rather than dying of cancer like the rest of us would, he became an infamous New York City vigilante and, by day, a crusading lawyer). The pills depicted are pain medication for a recent injury. (I don’t know if there’s an addiction plot line coming, like the classic Iron Man alcoholism one, “Demon in a Bottle.” I’ve only read this first issue.) His comment gets at the diminished role that listening plays in dark, loud places (he’s in a dive bar at this moment, perhaps the last dive bar in the Epcot for aesthetes that is modern Manhattan), how it levels the sensory playing field. I especially like how other senses are of particular use in such situations, how “the smells fill in the cracks.”

Now, when he says, “Places like this are a picture,” he’s saying one thing to the woman he’s in the process of picking up, and something else entirely to the true-believer reader. To the woman, it’s an artful observation. To the reader, it’s a consideration of how echolocation gives Daredevil a sense of whatever space he’s in, a detailed sense, a “picture” as it were, due to his superpowers.

While the “picture” is largely inside Daredevil’s head in the comic, it becomes fairly literal in a tasty little treat in the back of the book, where there’s a four-page comic, both art and story by Zdarsky.

For example, spend a moment with these three panels:

And then compare that sequence with this one:

See how the first is a sound/echolocation depiction of the “visual” sequence? See how the tiny, lowercase (i.e., quiet) sound effects in the second sequence are dwarfed by the larger, all-caps effects in the first sequence? This back-section, four-page comic in Daredevil is actually two pages repeated twice: once as visual, and once as sonic. Interestingly, all four pages are not depicted from Daredevil’s point of view. The depiction is omniscient, with Daredevil in the frame. There are two standard pages, which is to say: two pages drawn as a sight-normative narrator/reader would experience the activity. Those pages then alternate with the same sequence as if the narrator/reader were viewing it in Daredevil’s blind-yet-enhanced state.

These distinct reproductions of the same sequence bring to mind Matt Madden’s excellent book 99 Ways to Tell a Story, while the focus on disability, as always, stirs memories of the great “deaf Hawkeye” work by Matt Fraction and David Aja, not to mention such characters as Alicia Masters, the blind secondary figure in the Fantastic Four comics, and Black Bolt, the nuclear-voiced Inhumans leader, and … well, the list goes on and on. Sound and comics, it’s a thing.

Anyhow, that’s just a peek into the way sound is depicted and employed in this new(ish) Daredevil series. I’m looking forward to the next issue.

. . .

After posting this initially on Twitter and then to my This Week in Sound email list, I was reminded of some earlier, related posts I’ve made in to Instagram, from two other first issues of Daredevil runs. This panel is from a 2014 issue of a different Daredevil #1, written by Mark Waid, drawn by Chris Samnee:

And panel this is from the 2016 Daredevil #1 issue from writer Charles Soule and artist Ron Garney:

This post is lightly adapted and expanded from a version first published in the August 26, 2019, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).

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Encountering the Console

A panel sequence from Ebony Flowers' Hot Comb

Discovering the pleasures of vinyl in Ebony Flowers’ recent book, Hot Comb (Drawn & Quarterly), which collects short, very personal comics. I love how oversized the stereo console is when initially compared with the young girl learning to use it. It’s bigger than her, bigger even than the bed, or so perspective makes it seem. It’s all about perspective, whether geometric or emotional. In Flowers’ depictions, the shapes of everyday objects are just as loose and ever-shifting as are the lines that give form to her all too human characters. There’s a palpable messiness, always tactile, sometimes joyful, often heartbreaking, to the stories she tells.

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What’s in a Name?

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

In Grant Morrison’s comics, even the tiniest thing is extravagant — unfolding in hyper-dimensions to reveal internecine complexities of psychedelic detail and epic ramifications — and this was apparently the case as early as his first serialized series. (This panel is from the first collected edition of Zenith, with art by Steve Yeowell, from characters designed by Brendan McCarthy. I’m catching up with very early Morrison comics, thanks to a friend’s recommendation. I’ve read much of what came after Flex Mentallo, but I’d never read Zenith, which was serialized in 2000 AD beginning in the summer of 1987.)

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Listening to Kate Williamson’s Comics

Caught between pop music and ephemeral sounds in At a Crossroads

There is a lot of sound, a lot music, in Kate T. Williamson’s 2008 graphic novel At a Crossroads: Between a Rock and My Parents’ Place, but there are few if any actual sound effects. There are some “thump thump thump”s written into the panels during a brief anecdote about a squirrel infestation, and three little musical notes are rendered during a karaoke scene, where they could almost be mistaken for crumbs on the carpet. That’s about it. Yet despite the relative paucity of drawn sound, the book abounds with sound. It appears in the form of the sounds around her that she shares with the reader in keen descriptions that also reveal her state of mind. There are also numerous references to her favorite pop music, which serves as an emotional support structure.

Williamson, in the context of this story, could certainly use some support. She’s back home, living with her parents, and trying to finish a book. At a Crossroads is certainly a graphic novel, but it could easily be read as — mistaken for, considered — something other: a series of portraits and landscapes of suburban ennui rendered with captions and word balloons. The captions do tell a story, about a young woman dealing with Gen X dropout anxiety, and there are clear comic-book moments, multiple panels on a page or across pages that combine dialogue and figurative drawing. However, much of the book is comprised of extended, often silent or near-silent instances, like a two-page spread showing a house buried in snow, or another two-page spread of leaves on a few branches, or a New Jersey street scene depicted at night. Only the last of those examples features any text, a sentence or so at the bottom of the page in casual script. These spreads occasionally bring to mind the photographs of Duane Michals, who would write snatches of description onto his images, like scenes in a film — or, as it were, panels from a live-action comic.

It’s tough to publish a book about the anxiety about publishing a book, because the whole time the reader is thinking, “Uh, I’ve got the book in my hands. And the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, is pretty respectable.” This is the rare situation when the book itself is kind of a spoiler for the book. Still, Williamson’s analysis of her own heightened emotional state is handled solidly. The frequent appearances of pop music provide social filters (litmus tests for possible new friends), and acts of self-expression. One minute she’s doing karaoke, the next attending a Hall & Oates concert. It can be fun, and the presence of all the radio fodder is balanced by her meditative consideration of the near silence that exists around her most of the time. If the pop music is Williamson reflecting on her old self, the person she was when she previously lived with her parents, then the everyday noises are her consideration of loneliness, of her current, temporary, transitional state.

She is caught, in other words, between pop and her sonic awareness of place. The book moves back and forth between those very different sonic terrains: packaged pop on the one hand and quotidian soundscapes on the other. It feels meaningful, as a result, that at the very end of At a Crossroads Williamson listens to the soundtrack to a movie, a Wim Wenders film, Paris Texas, whose score was composed by Ry Cooder. In other words, at the close of a memoir in which the narrator either pays attention to ephemeral background noise or focuses on highly crafted pop music, Williamson takes solace in recorded music intended to serve as background.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0268: Walking Music

Take a stroll and describe it in sound, paying tribute to the late manga great Jiro Taniguchi.

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate. A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required. There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Tracks will be added to this playlist for the duration of the project:

This project’s deadline is 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, February 20, 2017. This project was posted in the late morning, California time, on Thursday, February 16, 2017.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0268: Walking Music
Take a stroll and describe it in sound, paying tribute to the late manga great Jiro Taniguchi.

Step 1: This week’s project pays tribute to Jiro Taniguchi, the great Japanese manga creator whose numerous works include an adaptation of a Natsume Sōseki novel, dark crime stories, and a widely celebrated and largely dialog-free volume titled The Walking Man. The Walking Man in particular is the inspiration for this week’s Junto project. Taniguchi died on February 11, 2017, at the age of 69.

Step 2: Take a leisurely stroll and record — whether through sound or observation, or both – what you see and experience.

Step 3: Create a short piece of music that reflects the route and experiences of your walk in Step 2.

Five More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: If you hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to include the project tag “disquiet0268” (no spaces) in the name of your track. If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to my locating the tracks and creating a playlist of them.

Step 2: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 3: In the following discussion thread at llllllll.co please consider posting your track:

http://llllllll.co/t/in-tribute-to-jiro-taniguchi-disquiet-junto-project-0268/6533

Step 4: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 5: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is 11:59pm wherever you are on Monday, February 20, 2017. This project was posted in the late morning, California time, on Thursday, February 16, 2017.

Length: The length is up to you, depending on the approach you decide upon.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0268” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, and be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Download: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 268th weekly Disquiet Junto project, “Walking Music: Take a stroll and describe it in sound, paying tribute to the late manga great Jiro Taniguchi”:

https://disquiet.com/0268/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

llllllll.co/t/in-tribute-to-jiro-taniguchi-disquiet-junto-project-0268/6533

There’s also on a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

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