“No Escape” by Patrick McEown, CAN, 1999

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“No Escape” by Patrick McEown. Click on pic for full size. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown


No Escape by Patrick McEown (CAN), in: Dave Cooper’s Weasel #1, Fantagraphics Books, US, August 1999.

©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown

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Excerpt of a 10-page non-linear/loop/polyptych comics. Pages 4, 5 and 6 of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. Arrows not in the original. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown

To read the story in diaporama:

 

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To read the story in a full-size continuous polyptych, click on the picture below:

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“No Escape” by Patrick McEown. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown

By two pages:

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Pages 1 & 2 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown
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Pages 3 & 4 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown
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Pages 5 & 6 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown
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Pages 7 & 8 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown
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Pages 9 & 10 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown
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“Glenn Ganges in: ‘Time Travelling'” by Kevin Huizenga, US, 2006


Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga (US), in GANGES #1, Fantagraphics Books, USA, 2006. More on Kevin Huizenga’s website (over here) and blog (over there).

Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga

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Page 1/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga
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Page 2/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga
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Page 3/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga
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Page 4/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga
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Page 5/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga

The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012


The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin (aka Mathieu Baillif, CH), in SplendeuRs et MisèRes du VeRbe, L’Association, France, 2012. More on Ibn al Rabin over here.

Copyright ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin

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Page 1/6 of The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012. ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin
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Pages 2 & 3 of The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012. ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin
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Pages 4 & 5 of The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012. ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin
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Page 6/6 of The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012. ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin

“Prayoon Chanyawongse’s Cartoon Likay: Amalgamating Likay Theatrical Form and Comics into a Unique Thai Genre” Scholarly Paper

Figure 1 (New)
Inaugural strip of the Cartoon Likay adaptation of Chanthakorop by Thai cartoonist Prayoon Chanyawongse, published in late 1938 in the newspaper Suphapburut. Reproduced from the 1940 collection Katun Likay Rueang Chanthakorop Phak 1, Samnak Ngan Nai Metta, Bangkok. Illustration provided to the author by Soodrak Chanyavongs. © Prayoon Chanyawongse Foundation.

On June 1, 2018, The Comics Grid published my first open-access scholarly paper dedicated to a lost chapter in the History of Comics Art; the creation in 1938 -and 30-year development- of the Cartoon Likay signature comics genre by Thai Comics master khun Prayoon Chanyawongse.

Paper abstract: “By launching in 1938 a series of adaptations of folktales in comics form, Thai cartoonist Prayoon Chanyawongse established the Cartoon Likay genre which places the reader as a member of an audience attending a Likay performance. The local theatrical form frames his graphic narratives where scenes of a play performed on a stage continuously alternate with sequences taking place in the vast realms of epics set in the Ayutthaya period. By introducing key Likay conventions such as recurring humorous interruptions and asides, Chanyawongse could effectively address contemporary social issues and political topics within traditional folktales. This paper explores several Cartoon Likay narratives in the context of the Likay theatrical form and the local folktale repertoire to discuss the nature and development of Chanyawongse’s signature comics genre.”

If I had to compare Prayoon’s Cartoon Likay comics to a better-known comics, it would be to René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo‘s Franco-Belgian series The Adventures of Asterix for their shared humor centered on puns, caricatures, anachronisms and modern-day allusions in period adventurous tales. If Cartoon Likay predates Asterix for about 20 years and if Prayoon’s social & political criticism and aesthetic of disruption (through fascinating fourth-wall breaks yet to be fully explored) are more apparent, Prayoon Chanyawongse and René Goscinny do share a love of language, of often-disregarded ‘common folks’, and such a playful & witty (and kindred) spirit. So much more is to say about the Cartoon Likay comics genre (and about the “Lost Continent” of Thai Comics), as a complete exploration of sophisticated Likay rhymes and play of words is yet to be undertaken, not to mention the dozens of other folktales adapted in comics form by Prayoon Chanyawongse.


My thanks go to The Comics Grid, and the Research Funding  Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to my former and wonderful research assistants mesdemoiselles Tanchanok Ruendhawil & Suttiarpa Koomkrong for their invaluable help and commitment, to Dr. Sukanya Sompiboon for introducing me to Likay, to p’Soodrak Chanyavongs for her time and insights, and to my better-half. My thanks also go to Colin Cheney & Dr. Jirayudh Sinthuphan for suggestions to the content of this paper.

Nicolas Verstappen

Full paper is available in open access on this page of The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship.

Figure copyright 02
The twenty-fifth strip of the Cartoon Likay adaptation of Chanthakorop by Thai cartoonist Prayoon Chanyawongse, published in the late 1938 in the newspaper Suphapburut. Reproduced from Sooklek/Prayoon Chanyawongse (Chanyavongs and Chanyavongse, 2015). © Prayoon Chanyawongse Foundation.

“Adjacent Panels” part 1/2; parallel Comics Open Studios led by Belgian cartoonist Ephameron and American cartoonist Anders Nilsen, with students in Communication Design, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.

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Belgian cartoonist Ephameron’s Graphic Narrative Open Studio at CommDe, Thailand
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American cartoonist Anders Nilsen’s Comics Open Studio at CommDe, Thailand

On May 14-17 2018, some 40 students at the International Program in Communication Design (CommDe, Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand) attended in two groups to 4-day parallel “Open Studios” led by Belgian cartoonist and illustrator Ephameron (aka Eva Cardon) and American cartoonist and illustrator Anders Nilsen.

〈Anders Nilsen wrote his own account of the 4-day “Chulalongkorn Comics Workshop Phantasmagoria” on this blog post.〉

“It was a remarkable experience in about a hundred different ways, but in particular the students were amazing.” Anders Nilsen (blog post here)

The current post presents the two first days of the Open Studios, and a second post will soon display pics from the last two days of workshop. Students were able to experience two completely different approaches in comics composition during these Open Studios, as Ephameron focused on capturing the essence of a short story and its breakdown and visual adaptation in comics form while Anders Nilsen explored “non-standard” panel layouts and constrained comics exercises (inspired by OuBaPian experiments from the Pierre Feuille Ciseaux international comics residency-laboratory) in order to generate unexpected characters and plots. I do apologize here for the far too invasive presence of my noisy camera, and thank all participants for the patience and understanding. Nicolas

Here are the presentations of Ephameron and Anders Nilsen’s Open Studios by the CommDe program which invited the two artists and hosted the event.

L’image contient peut-être : dessin

Eva Cardon leads CommDe Open Studio on Graphic Narrative. In this open studio on Graphic Narrative each student chooses one of the short stories from American author Raymond Carver collections What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and Cathedral and turns it into a graphic narrative that explores the limits of comics, and experiments with storytelling techniques. Eva works under the pseudonym Ephameron and is based in Flanders. She publishes and exhibits internationally.”

L’image contient peut-être : dessin et texte

Anders Nilsen leads CommDe Open Studio ‘Where Do Your Ideas Come From: A Comics Workshop.’ Anders will lead students to explore their own creativity in developing characters and narratives. Anders Nilsen is the award-winning artist and author of nine books of comics and visual narrative including Big Questions, Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, The End and Tongues. His work has appeared in the New York Times, The Chicago Reader, Medium, Kramer’s Ergot and elsewhere. His comics have been translated into numerous languages and his artwork has been shown internationally. He lives in Portland, Oregon.”


DAY 1: MONDAY, MAY 14

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Getting acquainted: Anders Nilsen and student Winnie.

DAY 1 in Ephameron’s Open Studio. Part 01: story-boarding of a Raymond Carver’s short story. The Belgian artist introduced the life and works of Raymond Carver and proposes a warm-up exercise. All students had to break down an imposed short story Why don’t you dance? (from Raymond Carver’s collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love) into a storyboard of 10 illustrations.

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Ephameron introduces the life and works of Raymond Carver.
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Student Noey and her comrades go through the imposed Raymond Carver’s short story Why don’t you dance?.
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Student Darnis, Pin, Cherry and their comrades go through the imposed Raymond Carver’s short story Why don’t you dance?.
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Student Sharon breaks down Raymond Carver’s short story Why don’t you dance? in a 10-panel storyboard.
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Ephameron goes through all the Why don’t you dance? storyboards produced by her students.
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Ephameron provides comment on all the 10-panel storyboards during the first collective review.

DAY 1 in Anders Nilsen’s Open Studio. Part 01: the Comics Loop. Meanwhile in the classroom below, the American cartoonist proposes a first exercise to generate imaginative character designs. Each student randomly draws a name card on which a stock character is named (“beggar child”, “drug dealer”, “elephant”, etc.). Each student is then asked to divide an A4 page in four panels and is given a few minutes to create the character design of his/her assigned character in the first panel. When done, students are given a few more minutes to come up with completely different interpretation and graphic rendition of their assigned character, in order to avoid the obvious/common portrayal they might have provided in the first panel. When the second panel is completed, students must redraw their character in the two last panels but in graphic styles different from their personal style in order to leave their confort zone.

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Student Arty considers her “beggar child” character.

When done, the same exercise is repeated but with name cards of objects, then name cards of settings/sceneries. All character/object/setting designs are then separated and taped to a wall. Each student must then designates his/her 3 favorite character designs, then objects, then settings.

After voting, the three favorite character designs, objects and settings are brought together.

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The three selected characters (therianthropic duck, faceless millipedes-cat and hybrid elephant) after selection by the students, and editorial intervention by Anders and yours truly as two initially picked characters were too similar. As a substitution, the faceless millipedes-cat was imposed for its poetic, graphic and narrative potential.
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Board with the selected character designs; and with picked settings and objects before editorial discussion, intervention and substitution.

As the three selected objects (like the fish can or the anthropomorphic chair) could be turned into characters and would be redundant with the initially selected characters, Anders and I decided to substitute them for a meteorite (which could also be used as a setting), a “bone trapped in a crystal”. The “top of a building” setting was discarded in favor a snow globe, being an object and holding a potential setting. The 9 definitive elements were then used as references, and limitations to maintain coherence, for a collective comics composition assignment -in the form of an exquisite corpse– based on the constrained exercise La Boucle/The Loop developed by the ChiFouMi Association. This exercise had been already implemented at the Faculty of Communication Arts in 2015 with 17 participants, whether professional Thai cartoonists or enthusiasts (more info on this dedicated post). Here is the “protocol” of the constrained exercise. Let’s note here that the story remains “wordless” to facilitate the development of the narrative, as the presence of dialogues might complicate the action of linking the first and last panels together.

Step one: defining 9 elements (3 characters/ 3 objects/ 3 settings). See above.

Step two: each student draws a 6-panel regular grid on an A4 page. Every student must start the action of his/her story in the sixth (and last) panel using one or several of the 9 imposed elements. When done, he/she gives his/her page to the artist on his/her left. Time limit: 15′.

Step three: in the first panel of the page he/she got from his/her seatmate, the artist must continue the action he/she started on the previous page. Time limit: 15′.

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Student Kade reaches the end of the third step as she draws her second panel, using the therianthropic duck character and the “pound with lotus” setting turned into a “desert island”, in the top left panel of a page she received from her seatmate.

Step four: all pages, with only the first panel filled by an artist and the sixth panel filled by another artist, are gathered together. Each student randomly draws a number and -following order of the numbers- can select a page on which he/she will have to fill the four remaining panels (or panels 2 to 5), and link panels 1 and 6 into a somehow coherent narrative.

  Step five: each student must now fill the four empty panels (or panels 2 to 5) on the page he/she picked, and link panels 1 and 6 (each drawn by another student) into a somehow coherent narrative.

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Student Uang connects the imposed first panel (with faceless millipedes-cat drawn by a classmate) and last panel (with hybrid-elephant heads turned into meteorite drawn by another classmate) by filling panels 2 to 5 to form a somehow coherent narrative.

 The Final Story: As presented by the Association ChiFouMi, “the story that is made through all these joints makes an infinite loop, where all the elements that were produced before gives some kind of common road where each author can intend its own singularities and its own imagination, while following a protocol nearly invisible.”

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When the Loop is completed, pages are reassembled in correct order, and Anders Nilsen goes through the final story with the students explaining their often imaginative and exhilarating narrative twists. Here: student Kade explains her plot. Incidentally, this commented and collective reading of the resulting comics evokes the tradition of orally commented 30-meter-long graphic narrative scrolls (know as Bun Phra Wet) in North-Eastern Thailand and Laos.

It is interesting to note that a series of recurring motifs appeared throughout the narrative, without any consultation among the students. If “transformations” are obviously to be expected in order to link two disparate panels together, the frequency of “transformations by digestion” was here quite remarkable. Recurring motifs include ingestion, swallowing, vomiting, excretion (maybe in connection with the importance of food in Thai culture, or with gluttonous Brahmin Chuchok whose belly would burst in the Vessantara Jataka, or Krasue spirit with their internal organs hanging down from the neck?), and some related scatological elements, to which -and quite logically in a Buddhist culture- the recurring lotus flower raising from mud would balance. Karmic retribution, and Inception-like worlds inside worlds, were quite present too. The resulting comics was wild, and hilarious at times, as the following pictures show.

The PDF of the complete loop is downloadable on this link: CommDe Comics Loop.

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Page from the Comics Loop, with panel 1 by a first student, panel 6 by a second student, and panels 2 to 5 completed by a third student. Full story in PDF below.
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Page from the Comics Loop, with panel 1 by a first student, panel 6 by a second student, and panels 2 to 5 completed by a third student. Full story in PDF below.
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Page from the Comics Loop, with panel 1 by a first student, panel 6 by a second student, and panels 2 to 5 completed by a third student. Full story in PDF below.
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Page from the Comics Loop, with panel 1 by a first student, panel 6 by a second student, and panels 2 to 5 completed by a third student. Full story in PDF below.

The PDF of the complete loop is downloadable on this link: CommDe Comics Loop.


  DAY 1 in Anders Nilsen’s Open Studio. Part 02: the comics “scrabble/domino”. Anders Nilsen proposed another exercise to which the students were invited to participate whenever they wanted during the 4-day Open Studio. The American artist scattered some illustrations on different walls and asked the students to add new illustrations after, before, above or below his own in order to generate strips, and narratives which would slowly spread across the walls.

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Anders Nilsen taped his inaugural illustration on the wall and explains the “scrabble/domino” assignment.
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Exactly 2 minutes later, the collaborative strip already takes a… digestive/flatulent turn.
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Collective & improvised “scrabble/domino” comics, by Anders Nilsen and his students.
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Collaborative improvised comics; using characters generated earlier, Anders Nilsen and the students added panels to the strip throughout the day. Never without some cooking.

DAY 1 in Ephameron’s Open Studio. Part 02: figure drawing. Meanwhile Belgian artist Ephameron lets her students release some steam, after a challenging and focused day of short story analysis and story-boarding, by proposing a “figure drawing” session. Each student was invited to draw one of his/her classmates, respecting proportions and attitudes, and exploring various facial expressions.


DAY 2 in Ephameron’s Open Studio. Part 01: comics adaptation of various Raymond Carver’s short stories. At the end of previous day, Ephameron provided each of her students with a different short story written by American author Raymond Carver and mainly taken from the collections What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and Cathedral. Each student has the three remaining days to adapt his/her assigned short story into a comics.

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Students Mim (left) and Sharon (right) with Ephameron.
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Focused. From left to right: students Plye, Lukpear, Fern and Bank.
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Student Fai storyboarding a short story by Raymond Carver.
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Student Lukpear breaks down Raymond Carver’s short story The Calm into a 10-panel storyboard for Ephameron’s Graphic Narrative Open Studio.

DAY 2 in Anders Nilsen’s Open Studio. Part 01: Taming the Beast. As the Comics Loop resulted in a wilder-than-expected exhilarating narrative, the American cartoonist decided to go for an additional exercise in order to “tame the Beast” and channel the energy.

Anders Nilsen presented the students with Daniel Clowes‘ comics page “What Is the Most Important Invention of the 20th Century?” published on October 1989 in the first issue of his comics series EightballThe page is a visual adaptation of “the work of David Greenberger, who asked questions of nursing home residents and transcribed their answers in his zine The Duplex Planet.” Other Duplex Planet-inspired comics -with each story’s title is the question Greenberger asked, e.g., “Where Do Wiseguys Come From?”- appeared in Eightball #2 to 4, and 6 (see below for pics).

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Anders Nilsen presents Daniel Clowes’ “What Is the Most Important Invention of the 20th Century?” (October 1989).
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Daniel Clowes’ “What Is the Most Important Invention of the 20th Century?” published on October 1989 in the first issue of his comics series EightballThe page is a visual adaptation of “the work of David Greenberger, who asked questions of nursing home residents and transcribed their answers in his zine The Duplex Planet.”
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Title panel is left blank (for now). Imposed (and previously discarded) characters 1 to 5 have each to occupy their assigned panel, and explain what they witnessed during the “Event” of the Comics Loop. Students can then choose between characters 6 and 6′, who participated in the “Event”, to fill the final panel. When art is done, students add the imposed title “What Happened?”.

Here are some results from the “What Happened? – Clowes/Greenberger” assignment by the students.

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“What Happened?” constrained comics by student Winnie.
What Bamie 01
“What Happened?” constrained comics by student Bamie.
What Arty 02
“What Happened?” constrained comics by student Arty.
What Rit 04
“What Happened?” constrained comics by student Rit.
What Punn 06
“What Happened?” constrained comics by student Punn.
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“What Happened?” constrained comics by student Wee.
What Kade 03
“What Happened?” constrained comics by student Kade.

And an extra constrained comics assignment:


DAY 2 in Anders Nilsen’s Open Studio. Part 02: Finding Anders Nilsen.  The American cartoonist did a short presentation of his journey as an artist, with the various defining steps and realizations mapping out his career path, such as stressing the importance of his sketchbooks in all aspects of his numerous projects. Some 25 of his books (from zines to graphic novels or collaborative productions) were on display in the classroom for the students to consult.

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Finding Anders Nilsen: some 25 books -from Anders’ early zines to latest graphic novels, sketchbook facsimile, coloring book or ChiFouMi collective projects- were available for consultation.

DAY 2 in Anders Nilsen’s Open Studio. Part 03: “I Almost Died!” assignment.  After a lot of fun, students were asked to work on a more dramatic and/or intimate (or humorous if preferred) 8-panel comics page starring two characters. The first character would talk about a time that they almost died. The other character only speaks once, to ask a question. Seven panels show the two characters, and one panel (selected by the student) shows something else.

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Getting serious, or trying. Anders Nilsen and student Kade discovering the “I Almost Died!” constrained comics.
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“I Almost Died!” constrained comics by student Kade.
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“I Almost Died!” constrained comics by student Bamie.
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“I Almost Died!” constrained comics by student Rit.
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“I Almost Died!” constrained comics by student Arty.
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“I Almost Died!” constrained comics by student Punn
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“I Almost Died!” constrained comics by student Wee
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“I Almost Died!” constrained comics by student Tonkla

DAY 2 in Ephameron’s Open Studio. Part 02: comics adaptation of various Raymond Carver’s short stories. Students pursue their comics adaptations of assigned short story written by American author Raymond Carver and mainly taken from the collections What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and Cathedral.

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Ephameron and student Lukpear discuss the breakdown of Raymond Carver’s short story The Calm.
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Student Oom at work on the page breakdown of the Raymond Carver’s short story she was assigned: Tell the Woman We’re Going.

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After an exhausting second day, students Sam and Kade need a well-deserved rest…

PART 2/2 COMING SOON…


 

The Arrival: launching the Comics Studies section at the Library of the Faculty of Communication Arts

Comics Studies Chulalongkorn
Launching the Comics Studies section at the Library of  the Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University, with a first selection of comics-related essays and graphic novels.

It was about time to launch a modest Comics Studies section at the Library of the Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. First part of the inaugural order has already arrived with Hillary Chute’s Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form and Graphic Women: Life Narrative & Contemporary Comics, Barbara Postema’s Making Sense of Fragments: Narrative Structure in Comics, Matt Madden’s 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style, Nick Sousanis’ Unflattening, Thierry Smolderen’s The Origins of Comics: from William Hogarth to Winsor McCay, Thierry Groesteen’s Comics and Narration and The System of Comics, Neil Cohn’s The Visual Language of Comics: Introduction to the Structure and Cognition of Sequential Images, and the comics Deserter’s Masquerade by Chloé Cruchaudet and The Arrival by Shaun Tan. These books join the dozens of comics, manga, graphic novels and essays already available in Chula libraries; most of them are listed on THIS PAGE of our blog. More to come soon!

“The Smurfette Principle” and “Whitewashing in Film” topics in Knowledge Comics form by Chulalongkorn students

The Smurfette Principle and Whitewashing in Film topics in Knowledge Comics form; group assignment following the lesson on Critical Tradition (Introduction to Communication Studies GenEd course developed by the Faculty of Communication Arts) and the lesson on Multimodal Narratives (Visual Media Studies GenEd course developed by the Faculty of Communication Arts) hosted by the International Program in Communication Design (CommDe, Department of Industrial Design, Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University).

Smurf Belgium Thailand
“2018 not only celebrates 150 years of Thai-Belgian friendship, it is also the 60th anniversary of the Smurfs,” the small blue human-like creatures who were first introduced in the Belgian comics series titled Johan et Pirlouit (translated to English as Johan and Peewit) in 1958 by Peyo [Pierre Culliford; 1928-1992]. The Smurfs have been selected as the icon of the Thai-Belgian friendship celebration.

On the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of Friendship between Belgium and Thailand and after introducing the Belgo-Palombian character Marsupilami in graphic narratives to denounce a case of black panther poaching in Thailand (see students’ comics HERE), students were invited to revisit another famous -and much scrutinized- Belgian comics character: Smurfette (or Schtroumpfette in the original version)!

Thai (and foreign) Chulalongkorn students from the two courses mentioned above were asked to create short graphic narratives (2 to 4 pages) on imposed topics related to the Critical Tradition which challenges “the control of language to perpetuate power imbalances by exploring the way communication establishes, reinforces and maintains power structures in society” (see Denis McQuail, McQuail’s Reader in Mass Communication Theory, Sage Publishing, 2002). With a vast majority of Asian and female students in my courses, the Smurfette Principle and Whitewashing in Film topics seemed to be appropriate and meaningful choices. The latter topic addresses the under-representation of minorities in the media, and more specifically the Hollywoodian habit of casting white actors to play non-white characters while disregarding the -mostly comics- source material (see articles by Steve Rose and Keith Chow). Infamous recent examples include Tilda Swinton casted as a Himalayan mystic in Doctor Strange, Emma Stone casted as a Chinese-Hawaiian character in Aloha, Scarlett Johansson playing a Japanese cyborg in the live-action feature Ghost in the Shell, or British actor Ed Skrein who decided to step down from his (half-Japanese) Ben Daimio’s role in the upcoming reboot of Hellboy. Criticism on cultural appropriation and whitewashing has also been raised towards Wes Anderson’s latest feature Isle of Dogs (see here).

“In its original sense, ‘whitewashing’ meant covering or cleaning something up. In today’s cultural landscape, it is a stain that won’t rub off. Now, ‘whitewashing’ describes the habit of casting white actors to play non-white characters, often to shoehorn in a star, sometimes out of racial insensitivity, invariably to the detriment of people (and especially actors) of colour.” Steve Rose in “The idea that it’s good business is a myth’ – why Hollywood whitewashing has become toxic”, The Guardian (source), 2017.

Dadu Shin WhiteWashing
Illustration by Dadu Shin for “Why Won’t Hollywood Cast Asian Actors?”, The New York Times (source), 2016.

In line with the Feminist Critical Tradition which criticizes communication content and practices that perpetuate patriarchal hierarchies and ideologies, The Smurfette Principle was coined and defined by poet and essayist Katha Pollitt in 1991 in the New York Times as a practice in fiction to include only one stereotypical female character in an otherwise all-male cast (see quote below).

“The message is clear. Boys are the norm, girls the variation; boys are central, girls peripheral; boys are individuals, girls types. Boys define the group, its story and its code of values. Girls exist only in relation to boys.” Katha Pollitt in “Hers; The Smurfette Principle”, The New York Times (source), 1991.

Smurfette attributed to Peyo
Original artwork attributed to Belgian cartoonist Peyo [Pierre Culliford; 1928-1992].

 If Katha Pollitt bases her criticism on the Smurfs animated TV series, the Smurfette character was first introduced in Peyo’s A Smurf Adventure: The Smurfette serialized in Spirou magazine (Dupuis, Belgium) in 1966 and written by Yvan Delporte [1928-2007] and Peyo [Pierre Culliford; 1928-1992]. The Smurfette was created from clay by evil wizard Gargamel in order to launch a feud in the all-male Smurf village. The recipe’s ingredients (see Fig. 2; “Sugar and spice, but nothing nice… A dram of crocodile tears… A peck of bird brain…”, etc.) used by the wizard present themselves as an appalling and misogynistic list of personalilty traits. Let’s point here that the recipe is accompanied by an asterisk leading to a footnote (see Fig.1 ). In the French edition (but I don’t know if the footnote was already in the first serialized publication), the footnote reads “This text only represents the views of the author of the grimoire ‘Magicae Formulae’, Beelzebub Publishing” (my translation). The 1976 English further relieves Delporte and Peyo of any responsibilities which are rejected on the “Male Chauvinist Pig Wizards” Incorporation…

Male Chauvinist Pig Wizards
Figure 1. Footnotes accompanying the French and 1976 English editions of A Smurf Adventure: The Smurfette.

Nevertheless, the Smurfette’s origin story raises more criticism. Smurfette first appears with unruly black hair, a large nose, basic dress and slippers (see Fig. 3). Feeling miserable because of her physical appearance and lack of attractiveness, she undergoes an “operation of plastic smurfery ” [sic] at the hands of Papa Smurf to become a blonde Smurfette -inspired by French actress Brigitte Bardot- with shortened nose, curled eyelashes, gown and high heels; she is now “one of a kind, full of feminine grace and frivolous. She can also be very much a woman, playing with the feelings of her sweethearts” (from Smurfette’s official bio quoted in Jason Richards’ The Problem With Smurfette). Turned into an “object of desire” and with stereotypical feminine personality traits, Smurfette -and the male Smurfs themselves by competing for her attention- will bring even more trouble in the village soon to be flooded. Let’s add, to be fair, that Delporte and Peyo do not depict the male Smurfs from their best angle either; they do not save the day (except for the more tempered Papa Smurf) and are made laughable -and “identical”- by their hazardous and idiotic behaviour.

Smurfette 12
Figure 2. A Smurf Adventure: The Smurfette by Peyo, page 12, written by Yvan Delporte and Peyo, Hodder and Stoughton, UK, 1976. First serialized in French in 1966 in Spirou magazine (Dupuis, Belgium). ©Peyo/IMPS/ Dupuis
Smurfette 13
Figure 3. A Smurf Adventure: The Smurfette by Peyo, page 13, written by Yvan Delporte and Peyo, Hodder and Stoughton, UK, 1976. First serialized in French in 1966 in Spirou magazine (Dupuis, Belgium). ©Peyo/IMPS/ Dupuis
Smurfette 28 29
Figure 4. A Smurf Adventure: The Smurfette by Peyo, 3 last tiers of page 28 and 2 first tiers of page 29, written by Yvan Delporte and Peyo, Hodder and Stoughton, UK, 1976. First serialized in French in 1966 in Spirou magazine (Dupuis, Belgium). ©Peyo/IMPS/ Dupuis

The character of Smurfette evolved positively -albeit quite slowly- over the past decade; becoming the leader of the Smurf village in the 2010 adventure La Grande Schtroumpfette, or an airplane pilot on the outside paint job of some Brussels Airlines’ Airbus A320.

Smurfette brussels airlines
Smurfette as an airplane pilot on a Brussels Airlines’ Airbus A320.

The imposed format was “knowledge (or educational) comics” in order to explore the ability of text/image (multimodal) narratives to condense and convey a large amount of information in a limited space of only a few pages. See quote below.

“Just like diagrams, info-graphics, and other forms of science visualizations, comics use words and pictures to convey information, however they also divide the information into panels [McCloud, 1994] which can facilitate the reading experience and highlight important information, such as parts and processes [Mayer and Gallini, 1990]. Furthermore, comics not only break down the information into more digestible units but can also reassemble them into meaningful compositions […]. As summarized by comic scholar and educator Nick Sousanis: “the spatial interplay of sequential and simultaneous, imbues comics with a dual nature — both tree-like, hierarchical and rhizomatic, interwoven in a single form” [Sousanis, 2015]. In other words, comics can be read linearly, panel by panel, but also lend themselves to non-linear explanations, encouraging the reader to constantly reassess earlier panels in the light of new information. Similarly, science often requires readers to make connections between multiple scales and domains of knowledge, not necessarily arranged in a hierarchical, linear order. In conclusion, while comics are often perceived as an easy and playful format, they may be exquisitely suited at presenting complex information in a rigorous yet accessible way.” Matteo Farinella, “The Potential of Comics in Science Communication”, in JCom Journal of Science Communication 17/1 (source), 2018.

Examples of “knowledge comics” provided to the students included the excellent series La Petite Bédéthèque des Savoirs (Le Lombard, Belgium) which presents itself as “pocket-sized hardcover educational books on subjects as varied as artificial intelligence, sharks, heavy metal, and the history of prostitution. Each volume in the series is written and drawn by a different writer and artist pair. Internationally-renowned experts in the fields work with comics luminaries for a unique alchemy every time” (source). Some volumes are available in English by IDW Publishing under the series title “The Little Book of Knowledge”. Other references were Nick Sousanis’ doctoral dissertation in comics form Unflattening, Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and Understanding Rhetoric: A Graphic Guide to Writing by Elizabeth Losh, Jonathan Alexander, Kevin Cannon, and Zander Cannon.


The Smurfette Principle and Whitewashing in Film Knowledge Comics by Chula students

Chichi 01
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 1/3) by 1st year CommDe students Grace, Chichi, Ping, Pang and Nene. March 2018. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Chichi 02
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 2/3) by 1st year CommDe students Grace, Chichi, Ping, Pang and Nene. March 2018. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Chichi 03
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 3/3) by 1st year CommDe students Grace, Chichi, Ping, Pang and Nene. March 2018. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Noey 01
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 1/3) by 1st year BALAC student Noey (BALAC: Program in Language and Culture, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University). November 2017. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Noey 02
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 2/3) by 1st year BALAC student Noey (BALAC: Program in Language and Culture, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University). November 2017. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Noey 03
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 3/3) by 1st year BALAC student Noey (BALAC: Program in Language and Culture, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University). November 2017. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Taew 01
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 1/2) by 4th year BALAC students Taew and Petch (BALAC: Program in Language and Culture, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University). November 2017. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Taew 02
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 2/2) by 4th year BALAC students Taew and Petch (BALAC: Program in Language and Culture, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University). November 2017. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.

 

 

Daria 01
“The Smurfette Principle” comics (page 1/2) by 3rd year INDA student Daria Dmitrieva (INDA: International Program in Design and Architecture, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University). November 2017. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.

 

Daria 02
“The Smurfette Principle” comics (page 1/2) by 3rd year INDA student Daria Dmitrieva (INDA: International Program in Design and Architecture, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University). November 2017. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.

 

 

Tung 01
“The Smurfette Principle” comics (page 1/2) by 3rd year CommDe students Tung, Tee, Mint and Mean. November 2017. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Tung 02
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 2/2) by 3rd year CommDe students Tung, Tee, Mint and Mean. November 2017. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Fern 01
“Whitewashing in Film” Knowledge Comics (page 1/3) by 1st year CommDe students Fern, Pun, Oom, Bank and Lukpear. March 2018.
Fern 02
“Whitewashing in Film” Knowledge Comics (page 2/3) by 1st year CommDe students Fern, Pun, Oom, Bank and Lukpear. March 2018.
Fern 03
“Whitewashing in Film” Knowledge Comics (page 1/3) by 1st year CommDe students Fern, Pun, Oom, Bank and Lukpear. March 2018.
Joy 01
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 1/3) by 1st year CommDe students Joy, Plye, Sunny and Nana. March 2018. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Joy 02
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 2/3) by 1st year CommDe students Joy, Plye, Sunny and Nana. March 2018. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Joy 03
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 3/3) by 1st year CommDe students Joy, Plye, Sunny and Nana. March 2018. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Ploy 01
“Whitewashing in Film” Knowledge Comics (page 1/3) by 1st year CommDe students Aom (P), Ploy, Mim, Mind and Tang. March 2018.
Ploy 02
“Whitewashing in Film” Knowledge Comics (page 2/3) by 1st year CommDe students Aom (P), Ploy, Mim, Mind and Tang. March 2018.
Ploy 03
“Whitewashing in Film” Knowledge Comics (page 3/3) by 1st year CommDe students Aom (P), Ploy, Mim, Mind and Tang. March 2018.
Shi 01
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 1/3) by 1st year CommDe students Shi, Kris, Aom, Wakako and Gem. March 2018. NOTE: Panels 1 and 2 refer to Jeffery P. Dennis’ 2003 essay Queertoons: The dynamics of same-sex desire in the animated cartoon where the author states that the Smurfette “was introduced specifically to provide an object for the Smurfs’ heterosexual desire and defuse conjectures that they might be ‘really’ gay”. This claim has been subjected to criticism. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Shi 02
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 2/3) by 1st year CommDe students Shi, Kris, Aom, Wakako and Gem. March 2018. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Shi 03
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 3/3) by 1st year CommDe students Shi, Kris, Aom, Wakako and Gem. March 2018. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.

Natt 01

Natt 02
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 1/3) by 3rd year CommDe students Natt, Cartoon, Nich and Champ. November 2017. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Natt 03
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 2/3) by 3rd year CommDe students Natt, Cartoon, Nich and Champ. November 2017. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.
Natt 04
“The Smurfette Principle” Knowledge Comics (page 3/3) by 3rd year CommDe students Natt, Cartoon, Nich and Champ. November 2017. Based on the Smurfette character created by Peyo; and Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle.

The Smurfette origin (exploring elements from the Semiotics lessons: symbol, icon, connotation…).

Prim 01
“The Smurfette Origin” Comics (exploring elements from the Semiotics lessons: symbol, icon, connotation; and with a nod to Ibn al Rabin’ silent comics), page 1/3, by 1st year CommDe students Prim, Proud, Pauline, Pop and Suang. March 2018. Based on characters created by Peyo.
Prim 02
“The Smurfette Origin” Comics (exploring elements from the Semiotics lessons: symbol, icon, connotation; and with a nod to Ibn al Rabin’ silent comics), page 1/3, by 1st year CommDe students Prim, Proud, Pauline, Pop and Suang. March 2018. Based on characters created by Peyo.
Prim 03
“The Smurfette Origin” Comics (exploring elements from the Semiotics lessons: symbol, icon, connotation; and with a nod to Ibn al Rabin’ silent comics), page 1/3, by 1st year CommDe students Prim, Proud, Pauline, Pop and Suang. March 2018. Based on characters created by Peyo.

A satirical take on the Smurfette Principle starring Pepper Potts and Tony Stark (aka Iron Man).

Eve 01
“The Smurfette Principle” satirical comics (page 1/4) by 1st year CommDe students Byrd, Eve, Bask, Fahsai and Mild. March 2018. Based on the Tony Stark/Iron Man character created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby, and on the Virginia “Pepper” Potts character created by Stan Lee and Don Heck.
Eve 02
“The Smurfette Principle” satirical comics (page 2/4) by 1st year CommDe students Byrd, Eve, Bask, Fahsai and Mild. March 2018. Based on the Tony Stark/Iron Man character created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby, and on the Virginia “Pepper” Potts character created by Stan Lee and Don Heck.
Eve 03
“The Smurfette Principle” satirical comics (page 3/4) by 1st year CommDe students Byrd, Eve, Bask, Fahsai and Mild. March 2018. Based on the Tony Stark/Iron Man character created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby, and on the Virginia “Pepper” Potts character created by Stan Lee and Don Heck.
Eve 04
“The Smurfette Principle” satirical comics (page 4/4) by 1st year CommDe students Byrd, Eve, Bask, Fahsai and Mild. March 2018. Based on the Tony Stark/Iron Man character created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby, and on the Virginia “Pepper” Potts character created by Stan Lee and Don Heck.