Sunday, December 2, 2007

Mister Wonderful

Daniel Clowes’s weekly strip “Mister Wonderful” has been appearing in the New York Times Sunday Magazine since 9/16. Throughout the strip, Clowes uses all sorts of interesting formal techniques to explore and represent the psychology of the main character, Marshall, who like other Clowes protagonists, has a complex inner life that is often at odds with external realities. In a sequence from last week’s episode (#11), Marshall and Natalie are having – or seem to be having – a conversation.

To show Marshall’s self-involvement, Clowes superimposes Marshall’s narration boxes (perhaps a better term would be "interior monologue boxes") onto Natalie’s word balloons. At first, her words are completely inaccessible to us because we are "hearing" through Marshall; but as he begins to pay more attention to her – and less to himself – her words become more visible-audible with each passing panel. It’s a interesting way to show how we can simultaneously be aware of different things – our thoughts and another’s speech – and how our awareness can change. (It seems that Marshall becomes conscious of her words when they are relevant to him; she is saying that their date is coming to an end, a prospect he fears). There’s a deep irony in the first panel: Marshall thinks they are "perfect for each other," yet the placement of the narration box – which implies that he’s not listening to her – might suggest otherwise.

No comments: