October 14, 2012

Comics and Color

After reading El Rassi's Arab in America, I found myself wondering how color or the absence of color would affect how people read comics and how that affects the message an author of a comic is trying to send. Arab in America is solely in black and white, save for the cover and the back.

In Arab in America, the lack of color doesn't detract from what is trying to be said, yet if it was added it might have added another dimension to his text. El Rassi relied heavily on shading to portray emotions and feelings like isolation, anger, and disbelief. Also, without color we have no way to accurately guess what race or skin tone El Rassi is trying to portray. We just assume what we think we know what the people in this reading look like. He has to rely more on outlines and different nuances of black ink to portray race and emotion. How would that change if he had used color?

An example of this is on page 38. El Rassi talks about how Western culture is replete with stereotypes. He uses Jean Auguste Ingres' painting "Odalisque and Slave" as an example of how the West depicts the East as "a land of exotic wonder, full of flying carpets, genies, and lusty harems." Because this painting isn't in color you might assume that the two women in the two picture are Arab because this what El Rassi seems to be trying to push. However, both the women in this painting are white. The one one the left is olive-skinned and the one on the right is white, really really white with flowing blond hair. Not exactly the ethnicity of an Arab like El Rassi.

What I'm trying to say is, I think he misused this painting and tried to skew it into agreeing with his views. Because he only used black and white in the novel, someone not familiar with this picture probably assumed the woman reclining on the ground was Arab because of the black color used to shade the hair.  Why wasn't her hair shaded more lightly? It's a bit misleading.  Here's the picture in question: http://artchive.com/artchive/I/ingres/ingres_odalisque.jpg.html.

1 comment:

Kathrynn Ward said...

This is such a good point to bring up. I am fascinated with this inquiry. I do not think that I would have thought about adding color to El rassi until you brought it up. I will say that I agree that adding color would make the story VERY different. For instance, the color of people's clothing Wouldn't adding color to people's clothing alone add so much more detail to their personality as a character in the story? If a lady is wearing neutral colored clothing, would we assume she is a more earthy or boring person, lacking spunk and personality? And the same going for someone who is wearing bright vibrant colors, would we assume the opposite, that she has lots of spunk and is a happy vibrant colors?

I actually just walked out to my living room to get water, and I noticed lady on the TV that looked like she had a little bit of Indian decent in her. I was imagining if someone had drawn her in black and white, and I am thinking that if it were the case, we would not be able to tell her slightly darker skin.

Thank you for raising this discussion.

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