Thursday, 21 November 2013

Define Hybrid Novels

I've been having trouble defining hybrid novels so I'll post some stream of consciousness here.

Basically I got the term "hybrid novel" while searching for The Invention Hugo Caberet by Brian Selznick and trying to find what genre it belonged to, since it wasn't a comic book as such but it wasn't an illustrated novel either because you couldn't just take out the images and still have it make sense. Graphic novel is how it is most often described but graphic novel has a fairly wide range of definitions, the genre encompasses comic books, sequential images without words and in some cases picture books. I played with the idea of defining it as "Unconventional Graphic Novels" but there are a lot of graphic novels that are unconventional and not all of them are a combination of prose and image, like I want. I found the term Hybrid novel from Zoe Sadokierski in her thesis Visual writing : a critique of graphic devices in hybrid novels from a visual communication design perpsective. She defines Hybrid novels thus: 
"Novels in which graphic devices like photographs, drawings and experimental typography are integrated into the written text. Within hybrid novels, word and image combine to create a text that is neither purely written, nor purely visual."
Which is exactly the description I'm looking for but apparently the books I have chosen lie on the fringe of the hybrid novel novel genre because they are also childrens/young adults books and can be defined as picture books. She does say that there are plenty of grey areas and its up to the readers discretion in these cases. 
Another concern I have is that The Savage fits more into the realm of post-modern picture book than hybrid novel. Certainly, if it had been a novel for adults it could easily fit into the hybrid novel category but as its for young adults it could go either way.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


I failed to write for three day. It may be because I'm not very excited about William Blake right now. Its probably the way this book deals with him. I'll get out a new one with more picture analysis tomorrow.

In the mean time, I'll make some notes on Kibyoshi.

  • Japan has a rich history of printed illustration. Emaki scrolls started being produced as early as the 11th century.
  • Kusazoshi were written for young children probably necessitated by their illiteracy. As time passed the demographic extended to adults and the term kibyoshi is used for these publications.
  • "There are linguistic markers of this difference, too, which would have been clear to readers at the time, even if they are not readily apparent to non-Japanese speakers at present. These markers include gendered pronouns, verbal endings, honorific language, even the nuances and play of calligraphy." (Kern. 2007. p8)
  • Kibyoshi used a visual devices much like contemporary comic book speech bubbles for the purpose of depicting dreams and thoughts. Sometimes scenes from these thoughts were drawn inside the bubble:
  • Kibyoshi have scene-to-scene transitions as oppose to moment-to-moment. While the comic was inspired by fast pace transition of cinema, kibyoshi was inspired by woodblock prints of kabuki theatre.
  • "...many kibyoshi scenes resemble woodblock prints depicting climactic moments from kabuki plays. During such moments, actors would freeze their positions for several seconds in a kind of heightened dramatic pose (known in Japanese as mie) that might easily be described as a kind of visual sound bite." (Kern. 2007. p19)
  • "The Japanese culture belongs to what American anthropologist Edward Hall calls ‘‘the high context culture,’’ in which people prefer to use more implicit, unclear, and ambiguous messages whose meanings are found in the context, rather than explicit, clear, and straightforward messages... In contrast, the United States, according to Hall, belongs to ‘‘the low context culture,’’ in which messages themselves are important and everything must be spelled out." (Ito. 2005 p457)
  • Japanese is better expressed within the context of facial expression and body language so images are very valuable to story telling. (I wonder if the same can be said for people with learning difficulties in English, I always feel I better understand a conversation when I'm looking at the person, might be a good argument for hybrid novels for people with dyslexia rather than audio.)
  • In modern manga, katakana sfx are integrated into the image. (Helped by the black and white flat picture plane in manga.)
Brief interlude. This whole text integration stuff reminds me of Zachary Braun's comic, Nature of Natures Art. I suppose when William Blake and Kibyoshi authors intergrated the text into the images to make the whole page flat. I guess, in a way, Braun makes the text 3D to match the images, at least in some cases. An obscure Webcomic probably isn't relevent, but it came to me so I'm writing it down. 

  • Calligraphy of onomatopoeia in Japanese comics help convey the feelings of the characters and build up atmosphere and dynamics.
  • Akahon(Red Book): an Illustrated originating from the Genroku period (1688– 1704). Contents included fairytales for children.
  • Kurohon(Black Book):
  • Aohon(Blue Book):

Inouye, C 1991, 'Water Imagery in the Work of Izumi Kyōka', Monumenta Nipponica, 46, 1, pp. 43-68, MLA International Bibliography, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 November 2013.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Some Analysis

The Image and Text book suggests the emblem books may very well be worth looking at. I'm beginning to see a pattern I think, with the exception of hybrid novels, everything that uses image and text together to create a narrative use words sparsely. The burden of the story is predominantly on the image. Hybrid novels (the definition Zoë Sadokierski tend to lean towards) use visual aids that express things more efficiently than text, like graphs and diagrams. Or ephemera, or even illustrations depicting ephemera.
I'm really interested in the use of ephemera and objects out of context. I think they give the audience the sense that they are the character, which is especially effective in the mystery novels they are often applied in, where its necessary for the protagonist to see these objects and figure out their context to solve the puzzle. Hugo cabaret devotes page spreads to these sorts of clues:
There also instances where Selznick incorporates Movie stills and sketches into the book which once again ground it in a tangible reality the audience can participate in. The Savage also uses objects out of context, for example the axe, knife and fork on page nine:
But I think since its within the context of the page, the mystery element is lost. Its sort of primitive in a way, I have brothers and I remember when we were young they use to draw guns and other weapons in isolation like this over and over. I suppose I could liken it to cave paintings, loads of isolated expressionless elements. No offense brothers, your laser canons were very nice. Mckean also uses illustrations of single leaves throughout the book but I think that's more decorative than anything else.

I've made a start on the William Blake note but I keep reading rather than scanning. Better luck tomorrow:

  •  The best work in this field seems to comes from an author who is also an artist. "The artist Blake was privileged to draw what the poet Blake saw in the turbulence of his imaginings, whether or not image and text corresponded literally." (Hodnett, 1982, p85)
  •  His early books were like artist books today, limited run, hand crafted.
  • Anatomy wasn't the best but his characters were very expressive but he developed a style in which his limitation would work. "By reducing most of his figures to nudes, by picturing types rather than individuals, and by generalizing or eliminating backgrounds, Blake sought to achieve a sense of universality, and to a degree he succeeded" (Hodnett, 1982, p85)
  • He wrote text in reverse in his relief etchings.
  • In his early books Blake drew figures where there was space around the text, later he gave his illustrations more space.

*sigh* The motivation behind this study is still to equip me with the tools I need to create a book that relies on a mixture of prose and image. But no one seems to have done it and I'm full of angst about it being too ambitious. But the whole concept arose out of laziness. I could use the usual format of continuous prose and when words failed me, since words aren't my strong point, I could beef it up with pictures, the one thing I'm really good at.
Maybe the people who've thought about doing it haven't had the necessary skills are motivation. At least that way I only have to focus on sustaining my motivation... and the logistics of working on a picture book when I'm homeless and living in a dumpster after uni.

Japanese Illustration and William Blake

I did a Literature search yesterday and had a mild anxiety attack over the fact that I can find very little on the Emaki Hand Scrolls and E-hon Picture books in Japan. I did find this translation guide of three Japanese E-hon:
There is only a little interplay between the text and the images though, and it the text isn't so much a narrative but unrelated poem. A little disappointing. I've studied a little on William Blake but haven't found much in the book I have with me but the "Image & Text" book I have at home looks promising. I might put in an extra hour or two when I get home and have eaten.
Here's some notes.
  • Movable type took a long time to catch on in Japan because of the amount of characters in the Japanese language. Instead text was carved into the same woodblock as the illustration. This may have encouraged greater homogeneity in Japanese books.
  • Kibyoshi books may be more relevent to your study.
  • Hokusai's "Manga" did not have narrative, It was more the expressive nature of the images that has influenced contemporary manga.
  • William Blakes looked back to the illuminated manuscript and block book for his illustration.
  • Writer illustrator who used relief etching to compose pages homogeneous text and illustration.
  • Text was hand written in some cases and original.
  • While in medieval manuscripts, as images got more 3 dimensional, borders and barriers were built to reconcile the 3 dimensial image with the 2 dimensional text. Blake makes both the image and the text 2d to reconcile with the flatness of the picture plane. (example: Jeruselem, 1818)
Thought I'd do a bit of a literature search... again. Maybe if I save the Pdfs to my dropbox and cite them all here, I won't lose track of them this time.
  • LABIO, C 2011, 'What's in a Name? The Academic Study of Comics and the "Graphic Novel."', Cinema Journal, 50, 3, pp. 123-126, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 9 November 2013.
  • Ito, K 2005, 'A History ofMangain the Context of Japanese Culture and Society', Journal Of Popular Culture, 38, 3, pp. 456-475, SPORTDiscus with Full Text, EBSCOhost, viewed 9 November 2013.
  • Kamei-Dyche, AT 2011, 'THE HISTORY OF BOOKS AND PRINT CULTURE IN JAPAN', Book History (Johns Hopkins University Press), 14, 1, p. 270, Publisher Provided Full Text Searching File, EBSCOhost, viewed 9 November 2013.
  • Kern, AL 2007, 'The Kibyōshi: Japan's Eighteenth-Century Comicbook for Adults', International Journal Of Comic Art, 9, 1, pp. 3-32, Art Full Text (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost, viewed 9 November 2013.
Urgh I need to do more...
If I had the capability to stop time... I'd be 80 years old by now.

Friday, 8 November 2013


My dissertation is in a state of disarray so I'm going to write a daily diary in the hopes that I can sort out my thoughts.

I was hoping that I could make my dissertation a sort of handy guide on how to make unconventional graphic novels but apparently that's a little unacademic or something. *shrug*
I don't even know whether its graphic novels or hybrid novels I'm studying. A bit of digging on the internet using the only book I knew of that was the format I'm interested in: Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Caberet came up with the term "hybrid novel" but when I dig deeper I'm not so sure. According to the definition and examples used by Zoë Sadokierski (she did a thesis on hybrid novels) hybrid novels use a number of visual devices like photography, ephemera, graphs and charts, typography and rarely use illustration as well. The books I've chosen are The Invention of Hugo Caberet as I said, and The Savage by David Almond, illustrated by Dave Mckean. Both have been described as Graphic novels and Hybrid novels (I think you could class The Savage as a post-modern picture book as well). I just want to define a kind of book that doesn't have the pictures added on at the end, doesn't conform to the Comic Books structure, combines image and text in thoughtful and meaningful ways and relies heavily on illustrated images. That's what I want to study, that's the kind of book I want to make.
My tutor, Chloe, assured me it was all right and the very term "hybrid novel" implies there is a hybridization of genres, so I can probably get away with encompassing these kind of books within that genre.

Currently I'm going through the history of comic books seeing if it will throw me a bone. I'm pretty sure reading up on the work of William Blake will help. I should probably study post-modern picture books too. There are cases where the text and the image depict differing narratives within the same whole, there.

Historically I've found that images and text even within the same book are destined to be read apart. Early Manuscripts catered separately for the illiterate and the literate with the cyclic system of illumination. I think the closest I'm going to get with historical literature is emblem books, I know for certain the image and the captioned moral underneath had to be read together to understand the whole meaning.

There are the emaki scrolls and E-hon picture books of Japan I suppose. My biggest worry is I won't get the information I need on them. I wish I could get some translated versions of them to peruse.