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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

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

More specifically Reykjavik street art, which you may or may not agree should be called ‘comics.’

This sequence is across from the Hlemmur Matholl, where we ate dinner our second night.

Though not a comic according to a medium-based definition (it’s not on paper, it’s not reproducible, it’s not hand-held, and it’s not been published by an entity that identifies as a publisher of comics), the three-image unit is is a comic according to a form-based definition, which boils down to two wonderful words: sequenced images.

The division of the building windows (which reverses the typical panel/gutter relationship) physically separates the three images, but I suspect viewers would likely still identify them as separate images even if they were painted edge-to-edge because the image content produces recurrence: it’s the same figure pictured three times in three evolving states.

That evolution also makes is a sequence with a viewing path and not just a series open to any viewing order and direction. Though the three states need not be chronological, the middle image seems to be a mid-point between the two outer images, implying a step-by-step transformation. That combined with a left-to-right reading habit (whether reading in English or Icelandic) is enough to establish order and direction.

This next one offers a different formal challenge:

That’s two sides of the same building. If a comic is formally two or more juxtaposed images, are the sides of a building continuous and so part of the same surface and so not juxtaposed? Or are does the 90 degree angle mean a change in canvas, producing two images that are juxtaposed like two facing pages in a book? And, more complexly, what if the image content is continuous between surfaces?

Those continuous four-part arms wraps all the way around the four sides of the building. Does that mean it’s one image, the way a tri-fold page folds out from a book? Would it be four images if each side instead featured no connecting lines between the four sides?

If you want my opinion, I’d say yes to both questions. But what about definitions that require an image to include text to be considered a comic?

Fantomas is an early 20th-century French pulp, so good proto-source material. The use of the top hand as a word container is a nice effect too, but what about images that include only words?

Words are always images, and the use of green, blue, and red is significant to the content, differentiating time periods and (I’m guessing) countries in feminist history. Is that enough to make the image an “image”? Personally, I’d say no, but other words are clearly more image-focused.

Not quite sure what this says, but I assume those are all letters:

Google translate failed me for “Andrymi” posted on the sign in front of the yellow arms house, but apparently “STRAX!” means “IMMEDIATELY!” I’m not sure if the graphic elements are enough to push the word-image into word-image art, but if you think conventions are enough to make a comic a comic, check out the word balloons embedded in this one:

Or the sound emanata painted around the figure’s mouth:

Or maybe a cartoon style is enough?

Or conventional Marvel/DC house style plus conventional subject matter?

Check out the manga chin:

Or maybe you don’t care what they’re called and just enjoy looking at street art?

By the way, you just took about a five mile hike around Iceland’s capital. You deserve to rest with a cup of tea in your two-night rental apartment before heading out to explore glaciers, waterfalls, and volcanoes tomorrow morning. Please enjoy this three-image photocomic as you relax.

[BONUS IMAGES! If you’re suffering from jetlag and light-induced insomnia, this is what the Reykjavik sky looks like a half hour after the midnight sunset. Fortunately, I don’t know what the 3:10 sunrise looks like.]

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