Category [Comics] as Reading
I am not going to get into an extensive post mortem of [Comics] as Reading at this time. I do not yet have the distance from it to accurately assess whether I believe now that it was worth the while or how I should have approached things differently. I will say, on a purely visceral level, that I am far more satisfied, emotionally that is, with this effort than many of my previous endeavors.
It is a question incumbent upon you—not some hypothetical “you” but rather you reading this statement at this moment—to answer, even if only imperfectly and provisionally, and that answer may very well guide you toward vectors of understanding I have yet to see or may never see. For Rakuten’s [comics] mirror within, with many facets, as well as without, to a larger world as well as to yourself as reader, because the many potential readings his [comics]—really all [comics] and therefore all texts—seem to anticipate are only there insofar as you are primed and willing to see them.
The question of textual subjectivity, then, is not distinct from questions of reality or, if we must, ontology. The contradiction of being subject of one’s own experiences while being also the object of others’, of understanding how texts are both embedded in an array of media while also manifesting that array in part, finds a satisfying if still imperfect resolution in this reading of Mizuki’s-after-Bechdel’s text, in a mutual reality. This reality in which [comic] and human subjects might co-exist is neither strictly empirical—though it can be observed—as with something purely objective, nor strictly subjective, in that it is solely a conceptual construct superimposed upon the material encountered in the world. It is mutual, because it is shared and therefore depends upon our invigorating it and investing it both with that which we are and that which we presume others to be. It is not dependent upon us, though, or a particular subset of us, since it has the potential to live and breathe anywhere it might forge or be used to forge interconnections among us.
[Editorial Note – Today’s post apparently coincides with the third anniversary of the existence of this blog. Hurray? Anyway, I have to apologize for the interval between when I finished posting chapter 4 and now, but I was just not satisfied with what I had originally written, and so proffer this much longer and hopefully […]
Nimona, then, is a clear example of [comics]-as-web, a mode of [re]production in texts whose many historical iterations make apparent how textuality is not merely an empirically observable and objectively verifiable essence to be deciphered (even if, in the particulars, we might still observe and verify, as, admittedly, I have here) but rather as an interpretive construct, an ongoing project of re-arrangement and contextualization in which texts develop, in time, as they are read and re-read both by human subjects and as a function of frameworks in which they come to be embedded and re-inscribed.
In drawing together early debates in the history of [webcomics] with early developments in HTML, as well as with ideological-as-methodological orientations in typography and computer programming, I have tried to show how, contra the isolating tendencies of book- and future-think, beginning from an assumption of widespread interconnection and articulation between seemingly disparate forms, we might account for certain observable textual phenomena for which both future- and book-think are wholly ill-equipped and which, as a result, both forms of thinking tend to dismiss or address only in passing.
What is not readily apparent in any given webpage, its code, or even in the proclamations of principles and best practices is how the historical fact of what happened in the early history of HTML reflected a clear choice, if not always a conscientious one, of one design ideology over another, an ideology of form that was not merely an expression of a base or lower order, in the present example the “code itself” and in McCloud’s the presumed “nature” of computer hardware, but rather conditioned it to be a certain way, meaning the code conformed to the ideology, not the other way around.
I would argue, then, in parallel to my argument in Chapter 2, that the unconscious of web design is the print periodical (sing.), what with its non-necessary but nevertheless enticing relationships between textual/visual elements in close proximity to one another. McCloud’s reading of the underlying framework for digital texts, which largely extrapolates from and makes a metaphor of hardware (while also ignoring the software platforms these texts have to run on) is simply dead wrong. It actually makes perfect sense that the first [webcomics] to emerge would be so clearly modeled on and derivative from newspaper strips, because their respective textual infrastructures have clear affinities with one another.
[T]he present and, presumably, the near future are times in which we have to deal now with the lingering problems of a complex of technologies that have yet to realize their speculated potential and, I hasten to add, may never do so as a result of interactions that cannot be foreseen. Moreover, the compromises necessary for reading [comics] on the digital platforms that actually exist may, in fact, impede other kinds of reading that require a level of detail that scaled down, compressed images simply cannot offer.