Over the past couple of posts, I’ve written about the Graphic Narrative/Script assignment in I assigned in my “Monsters, Race, and Comics” course and on two of the student created products in that class. Today, I want to continue by looking at a final student created product, one that, again, draws heavily on Pornask Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell’s Infidel and Carmen Maria Machado and Dan’s The Low, Low Woods as well as other texts we read over the course of the semester. As with the last student project that I wrote about, this one uses horror to explore domestic violence and assault. Again, there is so much that I could write about this product, but I want to focus on some of the stylistic choices and how the student used what they read and learned during the course to produce the comic.

The comic, entitled “Thing,” centers on Lily living in a household with her mother, brother, and stepfather Eli. Eli physically and emotionally abuses Lily’s mother and Lily herself because they are women. He treats Lily’s brother well. Lily seeks to leave, and she runs away at the end, trying to get her brother to run away with her. However, he chooses to stay in order to hopefully help their mother. Lily goes to her grandparents, and they confront Eli and Lily’s mother. However, Lily’s mother decides to stay, telling Lily, “You are too young to understand what love really is. I love him and he loves me, you can leave if you want I understand.”

The influence of Infidel appears from the outset of “Thing.” Lily’s mother, after getting out of the hospital, gets Eli’s food order wrong, and he attacks her. When Lily confronts her mother, telling her she needs to leave, Lily’s mother tells her that Eli loves her. We see two panels depitcing Lily here. The first is a close up of her face, with a tear rolling down her face. The second is a smaller panel depicting Lily’s clenched fist. Surrounding these panels, and covering the black background, we see the words, “I hate him” repeated and swirling around Lily, representing her thoughts.

After Lily confronts Eli, we see another similar moment. Standing at the top of the stairs. Lily points her finger at Eli and asks him why he did what he did. Eli, depicted with devil horns, looks up the stairs and calls her a “fucking bitch” and a “little c***.” Lily turns and runs towards her room. In this panel, we see Lily running towards the left of the frame as she narrates, “This part is a blur. All I know is I ran like hell.” A dark cloud pursues her, streaming from the right side of the panel. Eli’s deragatory words appear within the cloud. She becomes chased, not by Eli physically but by his abusive language and actions. These sections reminds me of the embodiment of Mitchell in Infidel that yells racist, Islamophobic, and sexist words at Aisha.

When Lily makes it to her room, she slams the door and places her back against it. In this panel, we see her against the door as Eli knocks on the door. His words reach into the room as he screams, “You can’t ghid from me forever.” The gutter separates Lily from Eli, and in the right panel we see a silhouette of Eli, looking like a devil, beating on the door. We do his facial features in some moments, but the use of the silhouette, and the abstract nature of his depiction here adds to the surreal and horror elements of “Thing.”

Eli stops banging on Lily’s door then goes downstairs to berate Lily’s mother. This page, again, utilizes the gutter to separate the action. On the top, we see Lily lying on the floor, her ear to the floor trying to hear what is happening. Again, Eli’s words bleed into Lily’s room as he yells at Lily’s mother, “You need to get that thing under control! I am the man of the house and I will not tolerate insubordination!” As in the previous panel, Eli appears as am abstract devil in silhouette and Lily’s mother stands in front of him, face in her hands as he endures his attacks. In each of these moments, the gutter serves as a physical barrier, not as a movement where we, as readers, fill in the action. The simultaneous action and the bleeding of words into panels highlights the moment and the spacial aspects of the story.

When Lily tries to convince her brother Alex to run away with her, he tells her can’t because someone needs to take care of their mother. This causes Lily to feel alone, and she narrates, “I had to choose myself and because of that, I was all alone.” This moment is extremely powerful because we see the narration in the top right of the panel and then our eye moves to the bottom left where we see Lily, kneeling with her head down. Some light emanates from Lily’s position and fades into a darkness that envelops the rest of the panel, signifying that she is, in fact, alone at this moment.

The final moment occurs when Lily’s grandfather and Lily confront Eli. When Eli begins to call Lily a thing, we see his devil face, a large abstract grin on it. It’s just a face, a ball with a grotesque, abstract mouth and ears. Lily’s interrupts him in a panel that recalls the earlier panel with Lily talking to her mom and a tear on her face. He tells Eli she’s leaving because he’s a “piece of shit.” We move back to Eli, with the same image as the previous panel. However, here the face and words begin to fade away, getting lighter and less recognizable. Lily erases Eli, leaving him and the situation behind, but she still wants her mom to leave. However, her mom chooses to stay.

Again, there is more I could say here, but I wanted to look at some of the choices that the student made in creating “Thing,” and I wanted to highlight how the student took aspects from other texts and incorporated it into their own work. You can read the entire comic below. What are your thoughts? As usual, let me know in the comments below, and make sure to follow me on twitter @silaslapham.

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