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THE SYSTEM OF COMICS

The System of Comics by Thierry Groensteen, a comics scholar born in Brussels, Belgium. This volume (198 6x9-inch pages, hardback; $40), from the University Press of Mississippi (one of my publishers), is the first English translation of the original 1999 work and fairly bristles with learned argot. Chapter titles alone are daunting albeit provocative: The Spatio-Topical System; Restrained Arthrology: The Sequence; and General Arthrology: The Network. “Arthrology” is, I gather, “the linear semantic relations that govern the breakdown.” It is taken, Groensteen tells us, from the Greek arthron, “articulation.” By arthrological gyrations, the cartoonist determines the spatio-topia of his creation — that is, the distribution of spaces and the occupation of places. Early in his argument, Groensteen writes: “The precedence [that Groensteen accords] to the order of spatial and topological relations goes against most widespread opinion, which holds that, in comics, spatial organization will be totally pledged to the narrative strategies, and commanded by them. The story will create or dictate, relative to its development, the number, the dimension, and the disposition of panels. I believe on the contrary that, from the instant that an author begins the comics story that he undertakes, he thinks of this story, and his work still to be born, within a given mental form with which he must negotiate.”

Note: This is ponderous going, I ween, and may take us nowhere that we haven’t been before -- a remark I explain in a somewhat more extended review at Rants & Raves, Op. 215;

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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