By Darryl Ayo
I’ve been giving some thought to solitude and its many faces in visual storytelling. Films and comics, for today’s purposes, can be referred to interchangeably.
This has been brewing in my head for a few months. I’ve been reading Charles Schulz’ Peanuts and thinking about the strange way in which the characters interact and share space. After weeks and weeks of reading Peanuts and mimicking Peanuts art, it began to occur to me that Schulz’ comic is extremely cerebral, but not in just the themes.
What I began to find compelling is the way these large headed characters share small spaces together. Many of their scenarios have established a code of recurring situations, locations and relationships. The strips that I like best are those such as the episode above with Lucy leaning on Schroeder’s piano. Lucy has a crush on Schroeder and Schroeder cares only for his piano. Over time, this recurring scenario magnifies with intensity because the characters never overcome this impasse. The piano is literally “between” Schroeder and Lucy and it will always be the boundary and parameter of their relationship.
On the other hand, this interaction between Charlie Brown and Lucy is also shared among several members of the Peanuts cast. Leaning on the stone wall, which I somehow believe is a bridge over a stream. The relationship is different but the depiction is similar. Time and again, Charles Schulz brings us to a familiar location and places his characters in close quarters to hash out their differences or listen to each other talk. These motifs are common in Peanuts and in a large way, they establish the worldview that Schulz puts forth, particularly as it pertains to us humans talking and sharing our experiences with one another.
One thing that I began to pick up on is the length of the Peanuts characters’ arms. Their arms are very short and stubby. Their fingers are almost insignificant. Most of the expression (though not “all,” mind you) is derived from their faces and their regards of one another. Cerebral. But the bare earnestness of the characters’ dialogue combines with their relatively restrained socialization to create the idea of a familiarity and closeness that resonates with me. Probably because I don’t have friendships quite like this.
In many ways, David Fincher’s Lisbeth Salander is a continuation of the exploration of character that he started began with Marla Singer. Neither character is Fincher’ creation but they appear in his films The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Fight Club as developments of the same archetype.
Most significantly, I was fascinated by Lisbeth Salander’s cohabitation with Mikael Blomkvist within the frame. Not the characters’ literal cohabitation but their shared existence on-camera, within the same shots. Salander comes alive in surprising ways due to her interactions with Blomkvist. The film intrigued me due to how strong a visual argument it makes for how people effect one another.
Since December 30th, 2004, I have worked on an art project/comic series called “Little Garden.” Very early in the series I began to explore the ways in which characters shared proximity (proximity, represented by the confines of the square panel). Panel borders are not a part of the reality of characters in a comic strip, but they are part of our contextual perception of their reality. From our standpoint, the panel borders are the comic strip’s borders of reality.
Also, I should note: Valentine’s Day is the anniversary of the publication of the first two issues of the original Little Garden minicomics featuring the first twenty four cartoons (twelve and twelve). The titles of the books were “Wildlife” and “Old Friends.” Published by me on February 14th, 2005.
Happy Valentine’s Day.