Thursday, August 30, 2012

Learning About Diction from Dark Avengers

From Dark Avengers #176, written by Jeff Parker, pencils by Kev Walker and inks by Terry Pallot.
Most likely as a way of continue building an audience on the coat-tails of Marvel's The Avengers (2012) blockbuster status, Marvel Comics (at least to me) popular team book Thunderbolts recently underwent a name change to Dark Avengers. The twist or hook for this particular superhero team, since it's inception as Thunderbolts, is even more directly implied in its new name: the Dark Avengers; the team is comprised primarily of characters who are most well known as being villainous in the Marvel Comic universe.

At nearly the same point, one of the more eccentric characters in the book also went through a fairly significant character change; the previously mute Man-Thing went from being a silent partner who served as the team's trans dimensional transportation (it is a comic book after all!) to something of a relative chatterbox when he gained the ability to communicate verbally.

Authors may use how characters perceive one
another to contribute to characterization. 
The interesting nuance added to this most basic of skills, in keeping with Man-Thing's quirky nature and superhero skill set, is that when he does "speak," what is said is interpreted differently depending on who is listening and processing the dialogue. The "comic book logic" explains this ability as Man-Thing having learned X'zelzi'ohr--the Universal Language which is heard differently by individuals based on what is common to them. (Fanboy Note: Sound out phonetically "X'zelzi'ohr" to reveal the common sign off used by the universal creator of the Marvel Universe's in ending his classic Soapbox columns.)

Simply put, characterization is the way an author presents characters. In direct presentation, a character is described by the author, the narrator or the other characters. In indirect presentation, a character's traits are revealed by action and speech. It is in Parker's use of a seemingly minor characterization point that allows him to play with diction in a way that can be both humorous and revealing. Not only does the varied diction and syntax reveal the Man-Thing's ability to communicate differently to different characters, it also adds a layer of characterization of the recipient of said message. For example, in the caption to the left, Mr. Hyde (in the bowler) notes that Man-Thing is being "lurid" in his remarks, which suggests as much about how Hyde sees (hears) the world as it does to establish man-Things newly acquired ability. Like wise, the no-nonsense Ghost hears in a way that reflects his personal waste-free, focused outlook on life.

In a meta-way, my relationship as a reader with the comic book is no different than the other Dark Avengers interaction with Man-Thing (or your with what I have written: what we take away is related to what we bring to a piece. (This IS at the heart of rhetoric, too!)Though I am a little older now, than when I began reading comic books some 30(!) years ago, I am always surprised by what (without even realising it) what comics have taught me, and what my training as a reader and writer also allows me to bring to the comic book reading experience.


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