The tradition of serialized comics

In Spiegelman’s discussion of old-timey comics, he doesn’t dwell much on the serialized nature of most comic strips, but I feel as though this is very important to the comparison he invites between these comics and his own art. He talks a bit about Krazy Kat and how its “daily variations” invited psychoanalytic readings but ultimately “presented an open-ended metaphor that could contain all stories simultaneously.”

 

No comic I know of is as deeply open-ended as Krazy Kat, but it seems to me that because they’re serialized, comics have the potential to tell all stories eventually, if not simultaneously. One of the charms of comic strips, and probably one of the reasons they’re associated with nostalgia, is that characters don’t age; the events of one day’s strip need not have anything to do with the next days. With a limited number of characters, most of which are clearly defined, strips end up exhausting their narratives, and presenting the same narratives again and again. For example, Dilbert has been making fun of bureaucratic absurdity for 24 years: it’s still funny because it’s still relevant.

 

In the Shadow of No Towers, of course, stops at ten strips. Spiegelman’s introduction calls his book “a slow-motion diary of what I experienced while seeking some provisional equanimity,” noting that the political atmosphere began changing after his strips. By foregrounding the political, Spiegelman intentionally limits the scope of his project compared to serial comics, which turn politics into topical humor and leave it at that. Even the largest shadows disappear with the sun (Spiegelman 10).

1 thought on “The tradition of serialized comics

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