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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics




This began as a photograph of Trump taken the day that the transcript of his phone conversation with Ukraine’s president was released. The transcript is five pages long, so I incrementally distorted the photo with gaps and overlays and new gaps, and then superimposed each version over one page of the transcript. I’ve been drafting a book on comics theory during my sabbatical, so I’m inclined now to bore you some terminological analysis.

There are at least four competing definitions of the term “comic,” and this hits three of them. It’s a comic in the formal sense of a sequence of juxtaposed images. It’s a comic in the publishing sense since I’m posting it at a comics-focused blog and calling it a comic. It’s even a comic in the cartoon sense because it distorts its subject into a caricature. It also hits the original cartoon genre of political satire. It is not, however, a comic in the conventions sense. I suspect some viewers might look at it and not mentally register “comic.” That’s because it avoids many conventions: it’s photo-based instead of drawn; there are no talk or thought bubbles; no moment-by-moment action happens; the column arrangement doesn’t evoke the layout of a comics page; and the gaps between the images don’t look like the traditional gutters of most comics.

Here it is combined into a traditional 4×3 grid layout, complete with discrete panels and consistent gutters:

I’m guessing it still doesn’t say “comic” to some viewers because there’s not a clear reading path, a convention present in most comics. While you can “read” it starting in the top left corner and following the rows down to the bottom left, I suspect many viewers will let their eyes wander freely.

I do think it tells a story, one of the most common comics conventions. It’s the story of Donald Trump’s incremental destruction.

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