The Secret Language of Comics

Ethan’s Portfolio Assemblies

In this portfolio analysis, I compartmentalized the three main writing course goals and compared their intersections with one another, using diagrams and class assignments as evidence. In my final portfolio letter, I will expand upon these backbone claims with quotes and evidence from these given assignments.

My Ultimate Mixtape – Ethan Cohen

For this playlist, I decided to find songs that struck some of the deepest chords within me, in a positive, beautiful way. However, in order for a song to have a significantly deep affect on me personally, it needs to have pensive undertones of confusing sadness. These songs are so beautiful that they are positive, yet so beautiful that they could make one contemplate in a brutally honest way: these songs shed light on the sorrows that one hides under the surface in a distracted world. They are colorful, poetic expressions of emotions, of a auditorily-captured unleashing into ones’ unapologetically shameless soul. This playlist is comprised in a chronologically progressively more intense and emotional ordering. It starts off in a subtle, magical melodic epic, then ventures into simplicity, then the spark of the fire lights up, honesty comes pouring, until an intense climax, ending on a positive optimism to wrap up the playlist. I found this playlist to be an almost circular rollercoaster of relating songs that lead to a seamless transition of emotive listening.

Halfa Kucha Reflection – Ethan Cohen

I thoroughly enjoyed working on this presentation, due to its uniquely different style. I started from finding a quote from Judith Lewis Herman that I found was profound, and worked from the books to making slideshows formulating a hypothesis, then finalizing my argument. I found that it was similar to formulating for an argumentative essay, in that I started off with researching through the books, and then formulating an argument. One active choice I made was to split up the novels from talking about one and then another. Instead I went back and forth between them for each slide. I felt this made my arguments more straightforward, and also made it feel centralized and united of an idea. This could also be implemented into written work. My thinking process overall, however, was definitely more visual oriented than an essay would be. Furthermore, I think this argument would work in an essay format as well, with simply less visual feedback.

Luckily, my slides had a very strong visual energy, as the topic I chose were all very clear cut signs of conveyed silence, or an intense breakage from that silence. I think these specific slides made my argument much more clear cut and straightforward, as each slide directly correlated to my ABT thesis.

I learned from this presentation that preparation is key, as well as extensive knowledge of what you are discussing. Without both, you will be out of control when the slides come up. You need lots and lots of preparation to ensure your argument lines up with each given 20 seconds, as well as your overall narrative is clear. I think ensuring the overall narrative and not losing track of it is an important thing to keep in mind. I was very happy with how my presentation turned out. However, from noticing other’s presentation, perhaps I could have also shared some slides that had no book related visuals on it, to further describe an idea present in the book. However, I found that showcasing the visuals from the novel made it much more easy to follow than simply clipart images others had shown. Perhaps I could have touched up on the seamless flow between each slide.

Movie Scene Recreation: Raiders of the Lost Honey

For this scene recreation, I found the scene I wanted first, and worked from that with what I had access to in the room I was in. I thought these two images would be good due to the comedic effect of any recreation that wasn’t literally a golden artifact being used instead. For nailing this scene, I flipped the photo editing to be flipped so it matched the original, and tried to achieve a successful depth of field, for which I put a similar colored upside down mug atop as the platform for the “artifact”. I thought seeing the behind of a bear honey bottle was perfect, as it was a recognizable front that was unseen in the shot, similar to the Indiana Jones one. Additionally, both shared a unique golden color, as well as a very similarly imprinted texture throughout.

Data Visualization: Ethan’s Quantified Subjective Happiness

For this assignment, I really tried to find qualities in my life that are important enough for me to contribute to my happiness. If one area is lacking, for example, it would appear that one of these quantified traits would either be the cause or effect related. I ranked two full weeks day by day, three Sundays, into a 1-10 format. In doing this, I felt it captured my complicated aspects of what it means to be happy. I found creativity to be an important aspect of my creativity. For example, if I was feeling really creative and inspired, I would feel self worth and accomplished. On average, it appeared that the days where I felt most creative coincided with days where the other traits were high, thus appearing to be a good attribute or sign of happiness or positive brain processes. It also appeared that the creativity was in relatively uncommon/ short supply, not often brought out to the fullest. Gratitude was a fairly interesting one, as overall, I felt extremely happy these past two weeks, and I found this was the most profound or clear cut cause and effect reason for my good mood: I had so much to be grateful for, and reminding myself and being aware of that every day contributed to my overall happiness. The days where there was extreme dips in gratitude were some of the more upsetting days, but quickly a change of perspective kept my spirits up. Satiety is an incomplete goal to this day of measuring my happiness. As although I felt happy these past weeks, I couldn’t get a hold of my satiety: I always felt hungry and consistently held patterns of overeating. Keeping this in control would help me to feel as though I had control over myself and my feelings and was a good indicator of complete happiness in days where it was high. This is something that I would continue to measure if I had more time and find very insurmountable to self improvement, in addition to gratitude. I found that I almost never had an inner calmness in me these past two weeks, something that proves that to me, being all that calm isn’t a completely necessary indicator of happiness. Having a bit of stress to keep me going I found worked best for me: being overly calm seemed to be a sense of ignorance that isn’t realistic. My perceived talent is also semi related to gratitude: if I felt I had talent and self worth on a given day, I would be this grateful and happy. Perceived talent was also a great indicator in that it was indicative of the fact that I accomplished various tasks on these days and had done so in a manner that had given me something to feel talented for. Physical security is a semi shallow yet meaningful aspect to my overall happiness: if I was confident in my body, I would thus be confident and happier overall. My eating habits and satiety can sometimes interfere with this, and on days where my fullness was especially low, it wasn’t uncommon that I would also feel less secure in my body as a result of my eating habits. Overall, however, this data also proved that I general was secure and confident in my body, thus a good indicator of happiness. Being reflective of my energy was very interesting for me, as over these past two weeks, I have been super energized more than normal, thus proving to be a good indicator as well of happiness. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed and found it profoundly beneficial to checking in on myself on a daily basis in the fields that felt significant for me and my perceived happiness. Although there was a limited sample size, I think doing this assignment whether coincidence or circumstantial did in fact coincide with my overall elevated perception of happiness. Whether I explicitly record data and keep this up or not, to keep an overall pattern of self reflection is a good way to know if I am happy, as well as improve my life in certain fields if I see one of these traits is lacking. Thus, if one area is lacking, ir might be a good self diagnosis as to contributing to my feelings of diminished wellbeing.

Literacy Narrative Part 3: Ethan Cohen Reflection

This essay felt the most clear and truly showcased my progress through this process under three distinct forms of a narrative essay. I was able to implement ideas from both essays, whilst succinctly limiting superfluous information, as well as expanding on ideas in a much deeper way as was pertinent to the main ideas of my argument. I also found it very interesting to attempt to make the visual components from my comic into ideas in word form. It was a unique and new process for me, but one that really helps get to the vivid crux I am employing visually in a literary way. My analytical process was different, but I knew the same backbone of argumentative narrative would remain the same, as it is true to me in all facets. The unique difference in this essay was the ability I found to expand upon the ideas mentioned. I see the story I was telling differently, in a less profoundly different sense than expected: I found there was actually more meaning to me personally in the anecdote of summer camp than was truly uncovered in the first two attempts. Through this essay, I was able to effectively achieve a thoroughly excavated writing process, critically think and synthesize succinctly, and implement effective visual thinking throughout.

Literary Comic Reflection: Ethan Cohen

Overall, I think this assignment was truly successful in the ability to compose a text in a new mode/genre. I was able to implement stylistic choices that are unique to the literary form of comics successfully. For example, the way I created mixes of gutters and non gutter-panels, and the way I combined physical reality with fantastical elements to convey a narrative more effectively, were both stylistic elements only possible in the comic medium. I kept in mind the pages on how to create a comic, and the works of Hilary Chute in constructing a carefully designed comic. I kept in mind the idea of all-at-onceness in this comic narrative, as some pages were specifically designed to show the full expansion of my conscience towards reading at given periods in my lifetime. Although I had a full fledged first draft in comic book form, after receiving feedback from peers and redrawing panels, I was able to rework texts, make pages more packed and concise, and add significant numbers of new panels to further respond to critiques and suggestions. My ability to give effective feedback for my peers, as well as receive was a strength of mine in this assignment, and it was something I found profoundly beneficial. Even in a short morning class period, I still found I was able to give and get considerable and useful constructive feedback and comments. 

To write this literary narrative as a comic was very different in that it required significantly more amounts of visual thinking. However, I believe this style of narrative felt much more natural for me to create, as visual creativity is a natural impulse for me. Interestingly, through the drawing process, I was able to remember unique and related details to the periods of time in my life I was describing. In this way, it was a much more descriptive way of getting “the meat” out of the general story structure I was describing. Although I had been suggested to just follow one simple period of growth and learning and drill into that one moment, I felt resistance, and an inability to leave out both ideas. Both felt very necessary to me as a writer and reader, but neither was less important. Although my interest in comic books was pivotal to reading, so was how that relatively transitioned into a love for other visual mediums, which eventually steered me away from reading. I was very happy with the final product of this project. I thought the story, the message, and the overall narrative of reading and writing as pertinent to my life was very meaningful and accurate to me. Had I had more time, I would have carefully constructed my text to be more consistent and clear, and I definitely would have loved to convey vivid colors in my story. That would be the only downside that was ineffectively demonstrated in this narrative, as colors of vivid imagination played a pivotal role in my interest in comics, and novels as a form, and very personal to me.

Donut Disturb

This quadriptych process was simple, straightforward, and felt more natural than a triptych. The challenge is finding something meaningful to start with, or an interesting enough twist or climax. Having the middle act stretch across two panels led to a more natural storytelling process. I think this taught me that the more panels you have to work with, the more you can add to the narrative. Too much makes it less punching, but four panel structure seems a very sound structure / good number. I think themes of gun violence made this a controversial comic strip, but hopefully the donuts being at the foreground and the gore coming from Boston Kreme filling made for a lighthearted comic. I chose a comic of this caliber as I wanted to add some unique twist to a seemingly casual cartoon of donuts, as if it was a grown up version of an innocent comic I would read as a younger kid. I thought this content matter could be accepted due to the extremely emotionally harsh subject matters present in the comics read for class.

Ethan’s Personal Bag o’Stuff

Left to right, top row down:

  • Masks: whether you like it or not, a necessity – never a bad idea to carry extra.
  • Over ear headphones: I love music, so this is a necessity – good for blocking out noise while studying or vibing.
  • Laptop: needs no explanation.
  • AirPods: engraved with initials because easily lost – and just one way to listen to music is never enough – ideal for physical activity or walks to class.
  • Wallet: Emory ID on front for maximum efficiency
  • Class Notebooks: Teachers preach that studies have reportedly shown that writing by hand is better for internalizing information – so despite my bad handwriting, I like to take notes by hand instead of virtually.
  • Pencil, Eraser, and Sharpener: Because sometimes old fashioned is the best – or necessary for tests.
  • Roller Ball Pen: Often times old fashioned is not the best – I can read my writing more clearly in ink.
  • Highlighters: Because the world needs more color, and what better way to explicate such than with the brightest colors of them all?
  • Journal: For when I need to emergently write or draw emotions or ideas down.
  • Perfume novel: For when I want to unwind.
  • Sketch book: When I want to draw something, and I don’t put it in my journal.
  • Gum and Mints: Can’t be caught off guard. Post meal essential.
  • Kit Kat and Chocolate Covered Pretzel: I need my sweets. They are my fix of choice.
  • Laptop Charger: So I am never at low battery
  • Camera Add-On: A result of a mysteriously broken camera.
  • Ruler, Calculator, and Scissors: All three of these are literally never used, but seem necessary to keep in bag.
  • Pink Pick: A relic from my long hair days.
  • Massive 1+ Liter Water Cooler: (not pictured due to lack of space) I need and like lots of water.

While doing this exercise, I felt as if I was collecting and reflecting on my materials for one of those GQ’s “10 Essentials I Can’t Live Without” videos. I think that this was very representative of what I am currently like as a person, as it shows my natural desire for creativity, my self help strategies I implement, my keeping hygiene, my using old school methods of technology, my natural love for music and art, my sugar addiction, and even my interest in filmmaking as seen through buying a replacement camera for my laptop. This exercise really is a testament to the fact that a single picture is worth a thousand words. In other words, I do believe in fact that this is a form of autobiography, a look into what personally matters to me, who I am, and a type of writing for sure. The challenge with this assignment was to inevitably express that ideology, to make sure there is something meaningful within my bag about me, and luckily, I think there was. I did have to do some picking and choosing, but overall my bag was more than fairly consistent with what is in it almost every day.

My bag that all of this stuff was housed in.

Ethan Cohen – Reflection on Tracing Stitches and Fun Home

My essay was about how both Allison Bechdel and David Small employ several similar stylistic strategies as well as similar thematic ideas, but have varying ways of depicting such, therefore we can conclude that there is no clear cut best way to express oneself through comics. The two show the weirdness of time as well as all-at-onceness through showing four David’s sliding down a tube, or as Allison depicts showing scenes depicting different moments in time all sanctioned as one. Allison resorts to more word heavy, clear cut observations within each panel, while David takes advantage of the freeing art of abstract expression of real ideas through his panels’ images.

The process of tracing the pages as a brainstorming analysis, was a helpful and rich process for me. It inspired closer reading than most would gather from either page, and the act of comparing one to another made it that much more fruitful, especially implementing the works of Hilary Chute as an argumentative backbone. As I was drawing, I was in close attention to the style of everything: the furniture, the emotions on the faces of the characters, to the flow of the page more literally. This was useful for me, as it forced me to interact closely with the text.

Typically, I have started with theses in the introductory paragraph. Some of my strongest writing has sprouted from me writing the introductory paragraph last, even after the conclusion. Thus, having the last paragraph functionally operate as the typical introduction, this was a very natural writing process for me, that felt much more established.

Although my overall argument was how Allison employs less secret language strategies on the surface level, I was surprised how many intricacies she is able to accomplish through the a semi-typical comic structure, such as the framing and literal drawing elements that help to convey something that otherwise would not be possible under a captured photograph or a written work, in addition to how ever-present Chute’s all-at-onceness as well as fragmenting of time is in the totality of every page and panel: it is truly a conscious and important decision to be implemented into every successful comic.