Monday 9 April 2012

Toronto Comic Arts Festival paean: the Fantastic

For those readers in Toronto, or able to get there, I will simultaneously express my envy and draw your attention to the upcoming quite-salient-to-fiction-and-psychology Toronto Comic Arts Festival kick-off event (May 4th at 7pm at the Toronto Reference Library -- free but ticketed): a three way conversation between Jeff Smith, Gabriel Bá, and Fábio Moon on Noir and the Fantastic in Comics and Graphic Novels.

I am a long-time appreciator of the storytelling potential of both graphic novels and the fantastic and, coincidentally, have just finished Daytripper, Bá and Moon's fantastic exploration of (minor spoiler warning: skip to the next paragraph if you wish to leave the narrative structure of Daytripper intact) an obituary writer's multiple possible deaths. Daytripper presents a focused meditation on, in the authors' words, "a story about quiet moments ... about what you can tell from somebody's eyes," via both a story and images that epitomize the fantastic.

Similarly, Jeff Smith's graphic epid Bone tells a story that is so overtly fantastical that it often satirizes fantasy -- and yet is, at the same time, filled with feeling and characters the reader cannot help animating. All three of these authors play with forms of storytelling that toy with our expectations about the way a story is told, almost picking those expectations up while we are reading and turning them over so that we can see them more clearly in the story -- a rare art, especially while we are held entranced, wondering what is happening with the characters, with the plot, with the setting. As I have written about comics before, the comics form can enable surplus space for narrative metacognition: room to see the relationship between these components of our experience of fiction in a way that we usually look past as we read through stories.

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