First and foremost, I have to again thank everyone for such interesting questions. I’m going to do my best to answer them in the short time I have.
RLS: You are very correct that there is not nearly enough literary criticism on Watchmen, so, in order to situate the book in terms of what is out there, I first start with a chapter on the history of the reception of Watchmen. I went back and read 100s of reviews, newspaper articles, etc. on Watchmen and the dawn of the “graphic novel” starting in the mid 80s all the way up until today. The point of the chapter is to not only show how the graphic novel (and more specifically, Watchmen) has gained popularity and acceptance, but also to show how the way in which some readers (i.e., some book reviewers) read Watchmen was based on a pre-determined hierarchy or stratification of literary value. For example, in Watching the Watchmen, Dave Gibbons notes that a landmark time in Watchmen’s history was when it won a Hugo Award from the WSFS. He refers to this as being acknowledged in the “next ghetto up” (263). Gibbons clearly demonstrates and acknowledges this stratification of literary value, something which many reviewers of Watchmen and reporters on the graphic novel craze failed to do. That is, I found that many of these writers were using language to suggest that the graphic novel was “too much this” or “not enough that” to show how the work either did or did not live up to some preconceived standard of what they felt “literature” should be.
So, I agree that there should be no need to argue for the legitimacy of the graphic narrative form today; however, as Vynson points out, this was something very real and very necessary not too long ago, and unfortunately, I suspect this is still the attitude in some scholarly circles.
As I explain in the introduction, the book is targeted to a wide-ranging audience, for those never exposed to literary theory to those who have had their first exposure to the graphic narrative, and of course, for those who have read many graphic narratives and are interested in literary theory’s application to the text. With that said, chapters 2 and 3 begin with some VERY basic aspects of the graphic narrative form (i.e. composition, color, word balloons, the expository materials at the end chapters 1-11, etc.). The main point of this is to ensure that all readers have a foundational knowledge and vocabulary in order to understand chapters that follow. I use McCloud and Eisner to explain these aspects of the text in terms of Watchmen’s narrative in order to demonstrate how they affect THE READING PROCESS, something I discuss in much more depth later on. Chapter three is based on Robin Varnum and Christina T. Gibbons’s criticism of McCloud’s work and how they believe he is contradictory in his description of comics as “a language all its own” and as a “dance” between images and words. Here’s an excerpt from the book to explain where I think this confusion stems from:
“In his earlier publication Understanding Comics, McCloud identifies the ‘most common’ interaction [between words and images] as the interdependent word/picture combination (‘words and pictures go hand in hand to convey an idea that neither could convey alone’ ). However, in his later work, Making Comics, McCloud retracts his statement and writes that these interactions ‘aren’t as common’ as ‘intersecting’ ones, which ‘readers could partially make sense of without the words, and partially make sense of without the art’ (136-7). Why does McCloud change his interpretation of these previously fixed categories? It is perhaps because the former is an attempt to explain the function of the words and pictures, and the latter explains the function of the reader: his or her interpretation of what is on the printed page. This confusion is also a result of McCloud’s attempt to classify interactions that, for the most part, elude concrete categorization because all interactions between images and words are partially dependent upon the reader’s interpretation of their juxtaposition” (48).
So, what the chapter does is use McCloud’s categories of word/image interactions NOT as concrete categories, but as WAYS of reading to demonstrate how words and images function as both text and context at any given moment. I am really trying to consolidate a lot in a very short response, so I apologize if that is more confusing or leaves more questions, but I hope that helps a bit.
Here’s a list of some of the other scholars that inform my work throughout the book: Gerard Genette, Hayden White, Fredric Jameson, Joseph Campbell, Paul Ricoeur, and Ferdinand de Saussure. (Campbell may stick out here for some of you. I use Campbell to demonstrate how the text deconstructs Cambpell’s sweeping assertions about heroism.) Oh yes, and I do discuss the construction of the page in relation to Peeters and I believe also Cohn.
And finally … my spleen is safely tucked behind my ribcage, so I’ll unfortunately have to say I cannot answer that right now without the help of perhaps a time lock test chamber and the ability to reconstruct myself bit by bit.
Have a nice day, everyone. I hope that I’ve answered a few questions.