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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

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

That block of text is my 2017 essay “Refining the Comics Form” published in European Comic Art, which has since evolved into my book manuscript The Comics Form: The Art of Sequenced Images, which I just finalized and submitted to Bloomsbury for copyedits today.

It includes a discussion of word-images:

“The word ‘word’ has at least two definitions. In alphabet-based writing, a word is a combination of letterforms, and it is a set of meanings including connotations linked to that combination of letterforms and experienced in a reader’s mind. Neither refers to a specific instance of a word’s appearance as an image, which may be termed a ‘word-image.’

The same chapter discusses word-image art, including extreme cases where “word-images’ non-linguistic qualities don’t add meaning to their linguistic content; they replace it.” In one example, the “layered words are not legible and so arguably are not word-images but the equivalent of paint strokes that produce the non-linguistic content. … Instead of word-image art, the page consists of images composed of word-images that are only minimally graphic when not layered to produce non-linguistic content.”

While letters-as-tiny-paint-strokes is already its own visual arts genre, I’ve been developing my own approach by exploring (yet again) the usefully limited yet somehow oddly expansive possibilities of MS Paint. The following images use the above text as both canvas and palette. I begin with the block and then select and scissor segments free-hand with the mouse, overlapping them either transparently (which creates white lines and spaces) or non-transparently (which creates darker lines and spaces).

I’m calling them “text-ures,” which is probably too corny. Each surpasses the adage: ” Every picture is worth a thousand words.”

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