The Secret Language of Comics

Flower Arrangement Writing

My Writing as a Flower Arrangement

I decided to represent what I have learned this semester about myself as a writer and reader as a flower arrangment. The various types of assignments and the pieces of writing I have done this semester have helped me obtain new insight into my poor writing process and gain tips for how to improve my writing. I labeled some of the different flowers as different tips I gained from my different assignments; I realized the importance of doing multiple drafts through sketching multiple page possibilities for my literacy narrative comic, I also became aware of importance to directly state my thesis so the importance of my story is conveyed to my audience—who can possibly relate—and by knowing my purpose I can figure out how to best organize my argument and transition properly between my ideas.

I Got All the Friends I Need Right Here

Spongebob “I Had an Accident” Episode Screencap
Me sitting with penny, chip, and used napkin

For this Sunday sketch, I had trouble deciding what movie or show scene to recreate—mainly because for some reason I can never instantaneously recall non-animated movies I’ve watched and that would’ve been “easier” to recreate. However, while going through my reaction pictures as I made a tweet, I got the inspiration. I save an unnecessarily big amount of memes/reaction pictures and some of my favorite are Spongebob screencaps. I religiously watched Spongebob back in elementary and I will admit I know the “Indoors” song from this scene word for word. Obviously, it’s an animated show but I gathered up the most important aspects that allow me to recreate this scene as accurately as possible: penny, chip, and used napkin.

Halfa-Kucha Reflection

Constructing an argument to present to the class felt like creating a compressed essay, in a way, yet not quite. It felt as if I was typing an essay while I typed my script but a big difference was the way my script was much shorter—only 2 pages long—compared to my essays which are usually 3-4 pages, largely due to the fact that I wasn’t going into extreme detail presenting my argument. In an essay, I’ll spend lengthy paragraphs trying to prove whatever I’m arguing, however constructing my argument for this format forced me to just cut straight to the chase and share my main points within the time limit. I think the way I decided to organize my presentation is something I could make use of in my written work, mainly because I started off my planning as if I was writing an essay: presenting my argument and pointing to specific evidence supporting it. Because I was sort of stuck in this mindset of crafting like a mini essay to then just translate into a visual presentation—this was very much comparable to my process in my seminar class last semester in which I had to write a research paper and make a powerpoint presentation—my analytical thinking process generally did not feel any different. For the visuals of my presentation, I decided to go with the basic setup of literally presenting what I was saying. I know for me personally, if there’s no words on a presentation, I can keep up and remain engaged if I can see the connection between the oral argument and the visuals presented, so that’s why I went with that decision for my presentation.

By giving this type of presentation, it helped me realize how important it is to choose appropriate and significant visuals and to decide what are the most important parts of your argument to emphasize on within the time limit of the slide. Because there was time constraints per slide, it made me organize much more specifically what I said and when; if I had to say a bit more about a certain topic I extended it out for at least 2 slides but otherwise I tried to stick to “one thing per slide”. This presentation also made me stick to a very concise script—I couldn’t go off on tangents or if I stuttered I had to recover immediately because the clock was ticking on the current slide. While I had to stay synchronized with my automatically switching slides, I also had to be speaking slow enough so my peers could comprehend and keep up with what I was saying. Previous presentations I’ve done only have an overall presentation time limit so I chose how long I got to spend on certain slides—which unfortunately sometimes made me include too many things per slide and most likely minimized the engagement and focus of my audience. One thing I noticed in some of my classmates’ presentations was including specific quotes on their slides. Although we all stuck to mainly images, I realized that emphasizing specific quotes allows the audience to capture the significance of it—I think if I had included the quotes I cited orally it would’ve definitely helped emphasize my argument.

An Evening with Maia Kobabe

At first I wasn’t too sure I’d have time to attend the Maia Kobabe workshop event because I had an assignment to finish and turn in only about an hour after the event, but I ended up watching and listening on the side as I worked and I’m kind of glad I decided to.

Before the event, only being aware that it was an event in which they would discuss the process of making their graphic memoir Gender Queer, I had the assumption that I would not have much to relate to or wouldn’t fully comprehend any struggles—given that I’m a straight cis woman. However, I was surprised when, although I can’t relate or 100% comprehend the emotional process, there was a lot on the “technical” process of writing their memoir that I felt connected with Maia. They mentioned using a wacom tablet and I was instantaneously taken back to my “artist phase” in which I saved up to buy a small wacom intuos tablet because I wanted to get into digital art in like the 7th grade. My biggest shocks, however, came upon Maia saying they get inspiration from fanart, fanfiction and music, from which a large portion was Kpop. Back in middle school when I was a full-time One Direction fan, I definitely read quite a few fanfictions—it was a crazy time, at one point I even tried writing my own but gave up after 2 chapters—so hearing Maia, as a professional author—compared to fanfiction authors which from my experience are usually teens—mention fanfiction it was so odd, yet it felt relatable. Same thing when they mentioned fanfiction; these works created by fans have always seemed to me to be only presented within fan communities on social media—being presented in anyway or mentioned to the “normal” audience groups is not taken well because of the stigma around internet stan culture—so for Maia to openly talk about how writing fanfiction has helped and inspired them made me happy in a way. At the moment in which Maia talked about the music that inspires them, I felt the biggest connection of them all when I saw lots of EXO’s music spread throughout their music gallery since they’re one of the Kpop groups I listen to a lot. When they mentioned they’ve done Kpop fanart, it made me wonder what if I have probably already come across their work without knowing so?

Overall, I enjoyed listening in on the Maia Kobabe event, I got to learn about a new author and add a new book to my future reading list hehe.

Literacy Narrative Part 3 Reflection

After completing the entire process of the literacy narrative, it—first and foremost—feels relieving but also I have definitely gained a new insight on the writing process and helped me meet the learning outcomes for this class.

By first writing the alphabetic literacy narrative, I created the foundational “script” to then craft my comic. When I was writing my alphabetic narrative I was mainly focused on writing in the most descriptive way possible without going overboard either. However, once I was crafting my comic I became more concerned with what parts of my alphabetic narrative I should transcribe into a visual representation in addition to textual information and how to do so in a manner that the narrative would remain clear for my audience. When drafting the format of my comic, I looked back at the past readings we have done to see how the authors implemented their choices of moment, image, word, and such as Scott McCloud represented them in his Making Comics text.

This entire literacy narrative project really emphasized the concept of the writing process being long and including multiple revisions and drafts. I made at least two drafts for Part 1 and it still felt rough; I roughly sketched out a couple different possibilities for the format of my pages; I went back to Part 1 and sort of completely redrafted it, changing the organization and adding some details. After having worked in the visual medium then returning to a text narrative, it’s what helped me reorganize my timeline as well as encouraging me to use photos in my post that also added to the narrative as it’s being read. That being said, while my comic is definitely full of more visuals than this final copy of my literacy narrative, I think I do fall short in some of the visuals in my comic simply because I don’t have such high artistic skills. Having worked in the visual medium before returning to text once again made me think of more ways in which I could be more descriptive—areas in which I thought my comic’s visuals themselves lacked detail.

Am I Loving Myself Enough?

Self-care visual representation

For this Sunday sketch, I decided to track how much I love myself by doing things that are healthy for myself—such as having a good breakfast and keeping up with my nightly skincare routine—and taking time for hobbies/activities that help me relax during my waking hours and give me a break from school, then comparing it to the time I spend doing any type of studying or class work.

Starting this visual data gathering assignment, I wanted to try and manage my time well enough so I could have time for my relaxing activities and therfore create a nice colorful visual. Unfortunately, this past week wasn’t my best and I didn’t have the motivation to bother much—I didn’t even setup my weekly bullet journal spread, which is what helps me stay on track and manage my time. Even though I didn’t successfully manage my time these past days, I usually don’t have much time to relax during my waking hours either when I do actually try, so this visual is at least 50% accurately representative of my standard lack of self-love. To represent my data, I made this circular graph split into 10 bands to each represent a day since March 18. I then split the days into 16 sections to represent the average hours I am awake per day. I then colored in the amount of time I spent each day doing something I enjoyed, such as watching my current favorite K-drama Vincenzo or going outside to view the sunset and take pictures of the sky—each activity is color coded—then the grey shaded area of each band represents time I spent stressing and struggling with school work in any way, shape, or form.

As I mentioned previously, my days already are quite packed with school work even when I am “managing” my time, but seeing data visually represented makes me realize this is not okay; diminishing the focus on my own mental wellbeing and not caring for myself for the sake of trying to focus all my energy towards school doesn’t seem right nor healthy. I need to create a balance between spending energy on school and spending energy and focusing on things that I love and healthy habits for my own good—literally if I was to just get used to having breakfast every morning I’d start off more energized and motivated on a daily. I think this was a valuable tool for self analysis; literally showing me upfront how bad I am at doing things for self-enjoyment without feeling bad about not being productive in terms of doing school work. If I was to continue this project in the future, I think I would switch to creating journal entries at the end of the day to keep track of my happenings before then creating a visual chart representing how I spent the day and what where the things I did for myself and not school.

Literacy Narrative Part 2 Reflection

Creating this literacy narrative comic was most definitely completely different from any other previous writing I have done. It was also extremely challenging all the way through the process. I think this entire writing process really emphasized the challenges brought up by the learning outcomes for this course. By reading three comic books—Stitches, Spinning, and Kindred—during the process of working on this literacy narrative comic and discussing those works along with reading additional texts such as Making Comics by Scott McCloud, it created the foundation for me to start thinking more in-depth about how these works are composed. 

Previously, I have read multiple comics, but I have never processed them as thoroughly as I have done in this class. I feel like in the past while reading comics, I only absorbed the reading as getting an understanding of the plot and having pretty visuals to go along with it—almost like a children’s picture book, but yet because there is usually more content it felt more “mature” reading. That mindset of comics basically just being the visual version of some story’s transcript is probably what made it quite challenging for me once I actually started working on making my comic based on my alphabetic literacy narrative. I wanted to represent my narrative visually, basically word for word. But, the thing I have learned about comics is that the author must really think and strategize about how much information they provide for the reader; it cannot be too vague, but just enough that the reader can understand what is going on without being confused and if there are minor details left out, they can make their own assumptions—based on what the author has already provided. This also caused me to re-write my alphabetic narrative so I could have a clearer idea and organization of what I wanted to depict through my comic.

Because comics implement both words and visuals to present a narrative simultaneously, I decided to make my visuals a combination of images that literally depict whatever explanation I give in the panel as well as images of specific subject matter that remain stored in my photographic memory. While at first, I was unsure of going with that approach because it did not feel much like a “story” as compared to the comics we have read—rather it reminded me more of the Romeo and Juliet “Draw My Life” video I did back in eighth grade—I then realized it is a story, but it simply does not feel the same because I am not using over two hundred pages to tell it. 

That realization made me feel a bit more confident in my comic. I wish I could have implemented more thoroughly thought-of and cool choices of moment and choices of frame in my comic, but I think that since I did not have the time to make a whole book with a fuller story for each section—with that “in the moment of action” vibe that can be presented through moment to moment panels—it was what limited my choices a bit. This made me focus a bit more on my choice of image and choice of flow. Just like my choice of image, I wanted to make my choice of flow easy for the reader to follow along. Just how the memories progress with time in a pretty linear manner in my mind, I wanted to depict that. Additionally, in my first rough draft sketches, I was planning to include multiple panels per page, but I decided to cut some off and rearrange the composition on several pages to try and make a clearer distinction of the sections/moments in time I talk about.

Power Nap

Four-panel comic drawn by Me

Throughout high school I would often sleep very late, staying up to finish homework and projects—sometimes pulling all-nighters. However, there was times in which I’d get really sleepy but still had something to finish so I would take quick 10 to 15-minute power naps at my desk to recharge then continue working. Unfortunately, those power naps were not always succesfully carried out. I would sleep the remainder of the night and realize it until it was time to get up and ready for school—my assignment also incomplete.

Crafting this quadriptych comic was a very fun process. At first, the idea of adding one more panel in comparison to our triptych was relieving since I struggled a bit with deciding what parts of the narrative should be presented, but at the same time now it was “I gotta think of more content to present visually from the narrative”. For inspiration, I went through some of my favorite webtoon comic Safely Endangered since the author often uses these triptych and quadriptych formats. The Safely Endangered comics are very simple and really funny; since a lot of them are based on “common” happenings, such as applying eye drops or waking up still tired, I decided to think about my personal common happenings. I sketched out two different possible panel compositions. The first two panels in my first sketch included a longer version of the dialogue in my final sketch, followed by only 1 panel of sleeping before the waking up panel. The second sketch was basically the draft of my final version: one panel with short dialogue at the beginning, followed by two panels of sleeping before waking up. I went ahead and chose the second composition because having those middle two panels stretch out helps emphasize the passage of time—which plays along ironically with my “power naps”. Compared to the triptych sketch, this felt similar in having to figure out what was most appropriate way to efficiently present my narrative. However this quadriptych was different not only since I drew it rather than base it off one photo, but also it felt like I could present a longer and more detailed narrative even though it’s only a one panel difference.

Tracing Stitches and Spinning: Reflection

This assignment was definitely more challenging than the title makes it sound—sure the act of tracing the pages was easy but that was literally it. When I was thinking of what two pages to trace, I went through my bookmarked pages—there was pages I thought seemed important while I read along so I would bookmark them. The page I selected from Stitches was one I had bookmarked, however when I was going through my bookmarked pages in Spinning, I could not find one that seemed at first sight “easily comparable” to my chosen Stitches page, so I flipped through pages within the areas of bookmarked ones until I kind of decided to just do a “random” one. I traced and annotated my Stitches page first, feeling decently confident about the details I was noticing as I worked, then while my chosen Spinning page did not seem comparable at first sight, once I started tracing and adding annotations, I was noticing a few compositional things of comics’ secret language that were implemented in both pages but presented in different ways. This point of view was completely different than when I was reading the comics for the first time; the first reading, I was more focused on the storyline and while I obviously acknowledged the visuals, it wasn’t in this critical and analytical point of view.

I always have trouble writing “traditional” essays with the thesis sentence at the beginning because I usually don’t know what I’m even going to write about. And, while this format was supposed to be more helpful in the sense that you can just get started and not worry about the thesis statement until the end since it will be a synthesis of your main claims, I still did not really know what to write about/how to structure what I wanted to talk about. Additionally, thinking of how to word my thesis statement even at the end was still stressful. I think this process felt similarly stressful to writing other essays because even when I write in the “traditional” structure, I kind of make some weak thesis statement or skip it and just start writing, then return to it later… In the end, I made my thesis statement: David Small and Tillie Walden’s choices of flow, moment, and image work cooperatively to provide the reader with enough information to decode the narrative. While it may seem like the reader has not much other than the visual representations to rely on for decoding the meaning in these individual pages with minimal text, both Small and Walden set up these pages in a way that provides just enough information for the reader’s comprehension.

You can find my annotated traced pages along with my essay here.

What’s in my bag?

What I carry around with me at home

Since I’m doing classes from home this semester I put away my backpack but this is usually what I have at my desk on a daily basis or when I feel like doing work in the living room, I carry it over with me.

  1. 5-Subject journal: I used this last semester—not much—so I’m continuing to use it this semester to take notes for some of my classes such as psych, anthropology, and some annotations while I read the comics for this class.
  2. Bullet journal (bujo): I started creating my own bujo sophomore year of high school when I found out about them through my friend, and have continued since. Last semester, however, I only made a spread for the first week of school then I felt so unmotivated that I switched to a store-bought planner my sister had gifted me for my birthday earlier in the year, so this journal still had more than enough pages for me to actually use it consistently this semester. Not only does it help me be aware of deadlines and stay on track—in addition to an excel masterlist calendar which isn’t as detailed either way—every week, but it’s also very rewarding for me crossing off completed tasks.
  3. Pencil case: My handy-dandy pencil case which I’ve had since sophomore year of high school—I wanted to feel like my school life was in order sophomore year. In the picture you can only see the “front half” but you can flip over the middle flap to see the “back half”. It holds my pencil, mildliners, gel pens, micron pens, my 2 tombow fudenosuke pens—which are actually dried out, I need to replace them :(—some additional highlighters, markers I use for my bujo’s accent colors, my white-out tape, and some sticky notes.
  4. Vaseline: I suffer from chapped lips all the time and I’d always buy chapsticks—also always lose them—until I read somewhere that chapstick isn’t really as effective as they’re supposed to be. I don’t know if it was chapstick that would just encourage it to be an endless loop of me constantly licking my lips and making them more chapped or if it was just a bad habit of mine sort of thing, but I made the switch to vaseline and it works so much better for me. I bought this mini version from Walmart; there was an even minier and cuter version but this seemed like it would last longer and still be easy to carry. Although it is way bigger than thin little chapsticks, I recently did manage to lose it for a couple of days. Oops.
  5. Airpods: If I’m not in class and not doing homework that requires me to listen to a video or any type of audio, I most likely have my airpods in listening to music.
  6. Laptop: With all my classes being virtual, this is essentially my top priority tool.
  7. Laptop charger: Can’t be letting my laptop die on me while I’m in class—it’s only happened once—or while I’m doing homework.
  8. 4-in-1 USB-C Hub: I use this adapter for multiple reasons; when I want to extend my laptop charger just a bit more, when I download music and want to transfer it to my phone, when I don’t have any other source of electricity to charge my phone—such as when the power went out a couple weeks ago—and also if I need to connect a flash drive or something.
  9. Phone charger: Although I am trying to get better at minimizing my unnecessary screentime, I still use my phone a lot, especially if I’m doing Japanese homework, and I need to consult Papago to check if my translations could make sense and also to scan my assigned workbook pages, so my phone needs to be charged.
  10. Genki textbook: My Japanese textbook which I use pretty much on a daily—during the two synchronous days that we do in-class practice and while I do asynchronous work—to look back on and check vocabulary or practice/study.
  11. Genki workbook: We get homework assigned and it’s due every Tuesday and Thursday; we often get at least 3 workbook pages assigned for each deadline. It’s probably due to me simply being slow and constantly looking back and forth through my notes, wanting to answer everything as “correctly” as I think it is based on my notes, but it will take me forever to complete 3 pages—ESPECIALLY if they’re kanji practice pages.
  12. JPN notes journal: I had this spare journal last year and was originally planning to use it as my bujo—once I finished up my current one—but last semester my Japanese professor would do short asynchronous lecture videos to explain the textbook grammar structures more concisely, so I decided to use it for notes instead. I didn’t finish it up last semester, so I continued to use it this semester, however I actually just used up the last page last week but it’s all good since I ordered some new ones ahead of time. I also use this a whole lot too along with the textbook—during in-class practice, while I do my homework, even for the quick review before my first test last week.

I would say it felt rather easy crafting a self-portrait through this photograph. Maybe not completely easy in terms of the composition—I could not have too many things or else it would be tough to capture everything the way I wanted to AND I had to figure out how to arrange the components to make my overall composition look balanced. Of course, not everything about me is included “in my bag”, but I believe what I display is pretty telling of the type of organized and responsible person I am—or at least try to be. Representing myself in a catalog of the stuff in my bag could be considered a type of writing, but maybe not so directly. The photograph could be considered like a sort of visual story-telling—the items symbolize what type of person I am or what I do—but it doesn’t become a form of writing until I physically type out descriptions.