Moving Images: Comics and Travel (conference)
5 July 2019
Oxford Comics Network
University of Oxford
Traveling to other dimensions, mapping alien lands, and exploring the unknown both within the the mind and in one’s (new) environment are common topics of SF comics, yet in Jesse Jacobs’ comics these topics are handled in very different ways. In By This Shall You Know Him (2012), Safari Honeymoon (2014), and Crawl Space (2017), neither space nor creatures are static, they are constantly in a state of becoming. Their morphing is paradoxically simultaneously organic and mechanical, it is actual and hallucinatory.
I argue in my paper that the never-ending morphing of biological and constructed forms is just as important in exploring the motif of travel as is an actual narratable and verbally constructed story (of gods practicing creation in By This, of a couple exploring a jungle in Safari, and of a new dimension in one’s washing machine in Crawl). I use close reading to analyze the organic changes of alien life forms’ bodies and alien dimensions, and I show that these transformations are guided by the changes of panel design and by the geometry of the page, and not simply by a plotline.
In Safari Honeymoon and Crawl Space, travelling does not simply happen in space or between dimensions, it also takes place within different forms of creatures who are constantly in transition. Jacobs’ amazing visual logic uses repetition, sequencing, isolation, morphing, as well as playing with representing multidimensional spaces and reinterpreting what makes a figure a figure. In his most recent work, Crawl Space, colour is added to this experimental visuality, by which Jacobs does not simply represent the journey or psychedelic trip of the characters, but invites readers to think of comics narratives and narration in new, not easily verbalizible ways.
The paper relies on secondary works by James Elkins, Jared Gardner, Simon Grennan, Charles Hatfield, among others.