Friday, February 27, 2015

What it means to be Graphical

Although "graphic novels" as such are purportedly a late-twentieth-century development, if we see them as a form in which literary texts are told, in large or significant ways, through images, then it seems that we've had them around for quite a long time, at least since our ability to print images alongside text. Many literary texts had illustrations, at least a frontispiece (an illustration printed opposite the title page), and quite a few had a number of in-text illustrations. Artists such as William Blake took this to the next level in the late 1700's; he illustrated all of his books, and indeed every word of his work was engraved on copper plates alongside or within his own illustrations. The William Blake Archive has all of his works, in all their many printings; the plates were hand-colored by Mrs. Blake, and so each copy is essentially unique. His "prophetic books" were the darkest and densest of his works; in the case of Jerusalem The Emanation of the Giant Albion, this summary from Wikpedia may be helpful

In the nineteenth century, it became common for an author's books to be illustrated; the novels of Charles Dickens were all illustrated with engraved plates; his partnership with the artist "Phiz" (Hablot Knight Brown) was the stuff of legend. Dickens's contemporary William Makepeace Thackeray was himself a capable artist, and illustrated his own novels. Around that same time, illustrated magazines such as Punch, and even newspapers such as the Illustrated London News, moved images from the back seat to the front of their publications.

By the twentieth century, it was less common for "serious" literary fiction to have illustrations, though some publishers, such as the Folio Society and the Limited Editions Club, specialized in commissioning illustrations special editions of literary works. In one infamous case, Henri Matisse was called upon to illustrated James Joyce's Ulysses -- it wasn't until he was nearly done that the publishers realized he'd mistakenly been illustrating Homer's Odyssey. And, although he was more exception that rule, the writer Lynd Ward, in addition to working as an illustrator, published a number of works of wordless illustration, some of which have recently been reprinted as Six Novels in Woodcuts.

So what of a graphical story in which the text and the illustrations are folded together, as with Blake? What of an illustrative story, where the novel is external to the whale's tale? Your thoughts here.


  1. Personally I think that the images created by Blake in "Jerusalem" were very dark. I couldn't exactly figure out the story the images were telling though. I feel like adaptations in a graphic canon should be able to tell the story without there being words to support the pictures. Reading the quick summaries of this piece by Blake helped me understand it better but the pictures alone definitely don't tell me a story. I feel like Blake had made the pictures to go along with the text where as I feel as though the pictures should be that text. The colors of the pictures (yellows and reds) makes the story feel gory, dark, or creepy.
    The checkerboard frames in the "Auguries of Innocence" helps tell the story of the text. Although at first it was hard to tell which picture frame went with which text but I think that after looking at it without the text, it didn't matter which picture came first. I think that the pictures accurately portray the visions Blake was having.

  2. The story of “Jerusalem” by Blake has very beautiful graphic work. I find his art unique and it almost has a sense of a ancient Rome/Greece feel to it. The actual text in the art is annoying and tedious to read. I showed it to a friend of mine who also agrees with me. It’s said to say the text of the story can ruin the appreciation of the art as well.

    As of Auguries of Innocence, I was able to enjoy the poem and the art. The font was legible and after reading it, I focused more on the art after. I definitely enjoyed the art more on Blakes other story than I did with Innocence, but I did appreciate the check board style of it, it looked almost like a prophecy of some sort.

  3. When opening up to Blake's piece, I was immediately taken away by the amount of text, as well as the awful blood red color. I had the hardest time reading and following along with the story simply due to the lack of spacing throughout the text. I quickly lost interest, and began to solely look at the imagery. The graphic aspect of this piece I found to be very enticing. The colors alone are very dark which goes hand in had with the text. If I could summarize this work in one word, it would have to be disturbing.
    As for Koch's piece, I really enjoyed the colors as well as the water color feel. It is a much cooler tone compared to the previous piece. This adaptation is also much easier to read and lighter on the eyes so to speak.

    Marissa Deroy

  4. When we were first told in class to look at William Blake’s adaptation of “Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion” I was initially very confused by why we were even challenged to read such a thing. To be honest, the red cursive text is extremely difficult to read. I honestly had to get a magnifying glass to try and make out what the story was saying. The illustrations, however, were very unique and creative in their own way. Like Remson said, it had a Roman or Greek feel to it. I liked the illustrations, not the text. As for “Auguries of Innocence” I really enjoyed it. The text was so much easier to read and the pictures that went along with it made the story flow even better. I think that Blake and Koch really created something that was ten times better than Jerusalem.

  5. Out of both stories, "Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion" stuck out to me the most because it was so dark and its the first story I read that was laid out like this and had such a dark drawing to go along with it. But I felt like this story was very hard to follow because of the text being written in red. In the end, I didn't enjoy either of the stories like the past readings we have been assigned but it was also a very good and different read. - Brandon Men

  6. I found “Auguries of Innocence” to be very intriguing the reason being the author dictated every act no matter how little to be have a consequence. Such as “the boy who kills the fly shall feel the spider’s enmity. It shows that there are many consequences for even the smallest of things. I found his art style to be very simplistic, however it fit the story quite well. While in Jerusalem the art style was very dark and reminded of satanic things. I preferred reading the auguries of Innocence, I found more appealing even though it was stranger.

    Bryant Ayala

  7. The artwork in "Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion" is very dark and detailed. I find the artwork to be intriguing, but I'm not sure as to what the artwork does for the story itself. In other words, I cannot grasp if the images truly help tell the story or not. I cannot even read the text in this story. The red cursive font is attention capturing, but is a bit of a mess when it comes to reading.
    I enjoyed reading "Augeries of Innocence". The artwork in this adaptation is an array of bright, water colored-like images. I enjoyed reading the poem along with the visuals. I found the combination to be very appealing. I did enjoy reading this work much more than "Jerusalem". I also liked the font that was used in this adaptation. It was almost hand written in capital lettering and the color of the font was also water-colored-like.

  8. Dense and dark are two very accurate words to describe William Blake's "Jerusalem". "What do we have here" was my first thought looking at through the pictures and deciphering though the red text. It is a unique approach that Blake took to interpret the story with those illustrations. I will say, this was not my favorite read.


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