Spiderman and Ivy the Terrible

The Spiderman comic is quite typical of the comic genre and in particular the superhero sub genre. Spiderman, the superhero, is different to most other superheroes in that he, like Batman, struggles in the web of his own angst. He does, despite this, follow many of the conventions of a superhero in that he has a costume to carry out his good work in, he has an amazing power in using his web to swing building to building in and trapping the villains in. He is devoted to the cause of good though by destroying evil. However he hasn’t got a sidekick like most, but in some episodes he may discover someone with common goals.

The framing too is quite conventional. From the first frame to the second frame is transition from one scene to another and there are gutters between frames for us to supply the missing information. There is evidence of movement lines when Spiderman throws out his web to show us it is moving. Also in the explosion movement lines all over suggest it is a big explosion. there is evidence of breakout frames which help us recognise that time shift takes place in this non-linear narrative. Ivy The Terrible is much more typical of the genre.

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The lettering styles are in full evidence with “kerrash”, the letters aren’t in a line to suggest a heavy collision and “SHOVE” is slanted to suggest something is moving as a result of the shove. It was words like these that George Gale criticised, he believed it was clear “deformation of language”. Iconography also comes into play as the stars above Dennis head show he is dazed and bewildered. All movement lines are shown in this extract, there is streaking of the object as the bin is rolling down the hill and streaking of the background as the bin falls over.

The other classic convention is how Ivy stops, it is shown by her feet being slanted on her heels, like a car coming to a halt, and puffs of cloud and movement lines behind her suggest this sudden halt. Again between frames we are left to supply the missing information ourselves, as in one frame the bin is starting to tipple and in the next it is on the floor, beginning to roll, so we presume that the bin as fallen over. There are three transitions from one scene to another, here linked by the words in the top left corner of the frame in a rectangle.

Both stories give us narrative signifiers which are picked up later, the spider frame is one example of this. Such things help the audience predict the closure of the story. The element of time shift in Spiderman is brought to us via Spidey’s own recollection of the incident. We are thus placed as empathisers and this to some extent counters our natural reading to dislike the geek who is into science wears awful tank tops and (unsurprisingly) has no friends. This rebirth into a successful personality would echo the same insecurity felt by some of his teenage readership.

Ivy The Terrible follows the narrative model of Todorov. It starts at an equilibrium with Ivy being happy. The disruption is caused by Minnie The Minx and Roger The Dodger saying she is to small to “minx” or “dodge”. Then we as the audience recognise that she is going to set about repairing this rejection by causing as much trouble as she possibly can. She repairs the destruction by knocking over Roger The Dodger, Minnie The Minx and Dennis The Menace in one go by rolling a bin into them.

There is a bit of pleasure for the audience here because as soon as she gets thrown in the bin we know she will get revenge, so from there its easy to forecast the closure. Interestingly we are given a clue in the frame before the bin hits that none of these characters who are favourites of the readership is actually being really horrible to Ivy, rather playilification by cutting down on essentials, lead to greater universality of meaning. It is other things that build character recognition. We know Minnie The Minx is a girl as she has bows in her hair and is wearing a skirt.

Ivy also has bows in her hair, and has long hair. Ivy could be characterised as ‘an imp’ by Meehan in her female character types, the dungarees she wears accentuate this. She doesn’t behave as a society would expect a young girl to behave, she does not follow the cult of femininity. Dennis has his jagged hair and Roger The Dodger has his chequered jumper. They never wear different clothes so character recognition is now instant. The use of red and black has now been accepted as the sign for mischievous behaviour. In Spiderman the people are much more life like, they represent one person.

The narrative in Spiderman is much more complex, with the relationships between frames being much more difficult to understand. There is a need for a much more sophisticated reading of conventions and familiarity with the form to follow the frame transitions and pick up the necessary visual and narrative signifiers. The characters still follow some conventions, the man shown in the second, third and fourth frame is clearly the geek, he wears rounded spectacles and has a rounded jaw, all this suggests he his timid and weak.

The man in the fourth frame has slick blonde hair a square jaw and more definite cheekbones, all this suggests strength and a certain degree of confidence. Clothes in Spiderman will vary unlike in Ivy The Terrible as it is the faces that represent one person, they haven’t been as simplified. The narrative structure in Spiderman is left open, to be continued. If any this narrative structure is most like Propp’s and we leave it in the struggle stage, we presume from all the narrative signifiers we receive that Peter, or Spiderman, will survive and repair all the damage and we will arrive at the final stage, the return.

There are more than one narrative strand in this, the conflict with his peers, seeing science as the cure to his problems and the strange doctor all have possibilities for further narrative development. Those that know the character will be aware that this struggle to return to normality runs through many of his other adventures and as such this is an open narrative. The potential target audience of Ivy The Terrible would be much younger, with Spiderman having a more sophisticated narrative structure, aiming itself at a slightly older age group, although the social classes being targeted would be the same.

The use of a female lead character is unusual, a content analysis carried out in class seemed to indicate that twice as many male characters as female characters appear in comics like the Beano, but may be designed to appeal to females more and using a younger character in the lead role may likewise seek to involve younger readers. Ivy The Terrible identifies with its audience by the process of simplification. It also identifies with its audience by using more colloquial language, what George Gate would called “non-words”.

Much of the young audience will be able to relate to Ivy’s dilemma, as she is supposedly to small to do things, so a degree of empathy and individual focus is built of with Ivy, so the audience will cheer as she establishes the new status quo in which her battle has been won at the end. All this makes the narrative believable, and the chain of events is logical, all this ensures good audience response. The simple linear closed single strand narrative for which we as audience are voyeur makes such a storyline approachable for a younger audience.

Spiderman identifies with its potential target audience by building up a degree of empathy with Peter Parker who is now clearly struggling in the web of his own angst. Spiderman clearly offers its audience escapism from mundane things, with the explosions and numerous characters that have a difference to mark them out from society, so by looking at ethnology and the various groups like the resigned poor and the struggling poor they will find a world away from their own by reading Spiderman.

Maybe some people may identify with how Peter Parker struggles in life, he is never free. Children read Spiderman for fantasy and action as their parents often prevent them from having an element of action in their lives, so the narrative doesn’t have to be so believable, which is normally essential if a comic is to give the audience pleasure. The two comics do follow typical genre traits but are very different in their methods and in how narrative and characters are constructed, but both I feel are equally effective.

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