Themes from Ice Haven:
A Visual and Textual Analysis of a Part
Comic strips which show a combination of texts and artworks can present a variety of themes in the same way that other visual arts and literary works do. To illustrate this premise, this paper aims to analyze a page from Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel – “Ice Haven”. Through an analysis of the various components of a certain part of the strip – the title, the character, the setting, and the texts, readers can derive certain themes that are representative of the whole story. For this purpose, the strip “Melancholy Serenade” which appears below will be analyzed visually and textually.
The title: Melancholy serenade
The title notes an ironic combination of harmonization and depression. It somehow implied that what will be tackled in the strip is a tale of characters drenched in a very forlorn situation. However, one cannot derive a specific melancholic situation from the title alone.
To a certain extent – because of the word “serenade”, the title can also be interpreted as an implication that the plot of the story will be delivered through a series of narratives – mostly delivered as a series of relentless and consistent ramblings of sarcastic thoughts on the characters miserable situations. As such, this first assumption might further signify that the story will be delivered through a blatant narration method – with the major characters stating what happens within the story, what they feel, and in what context their thoughts and actions should be interpreted.
Since the character will act as the main narrator, the story will be delivered from the viewpoint of the character. So, another probable theme is individualism. Characters in the comic strip will basically focus more on themselves instead of their society. Their lines presenting the society will be based on similarities and differences between them and the popular culture that embraces their community.
The featured character in the page is a middle-aged stout man with round eyeglasses and messed-up hair that’s improperly tucked in a yellow old-age hat can be safely interpreted as representation of people who are typically disregarded in the community. The round eyeglasses signify the nerds, the classic hat and the outdated fashion might symbolize the elderly, and his plumpness denotes people who are obese.
In general, the man represents the underprivileged groups in the society – those who are neglected, unnoticed, and disregarded by many; but are typical members of the community. The character represents common people who exist without being actually “seen” and recognized by other people in the society.
As such, this may mean that the story will touch on themes that will concern typical people. Some of the probable themes that can be derived from the character are oddity, discrimination, popularity, poverty, social class differences, domestic violence, and societal transgression.
Also, in the story, there was only one character. The fact that the man was alone may signify that some other possible themes are privacy and individualism and that the entire plot will revolve around a private argument prevalent in the life of the story’s sole character.
The setting is one of the most powerful components of the strip where themes can be derived. In the case of the strip, it presents a private setting – from the residential background (a residential room) to a communal site (out in the streets, in front of a meat shop). This environment somehow implies that the story will tackle an intimate theme, particularly those that transpire in domestic settings. The theme may be familial conflicts, familial roles, personal conflicts, individuality, and egoism.
Also, it can be noted that the residential setting was dark and dull – with the television as the only sign of vibrancy. This may somehow denote that the story will dwell on personal issues which will not be divulged to the public, but will nevertheless be of big concern and importunate apprehension to the character.
It can also be observed that in the strip, irony and sarcasm was presented when the character passed by a meat shop just after the topic of child murder was brought up. To some extent, the immorality of murdering – worse, the murdering of a child – was reduced to a typical event which was comparable to the business of selling pork and other meat commodities.
The other components of the comic strip provided supposed themes and the texts can be used to confirm the existence of such. As discussed, the title signifies that the story will revolve on people and settings which are glum and depressed. Such is supported through the character that also looked gloomy. The text confirms this melancholic state as the character engages in a monologue questioning what is of significance to the public (“Is that what it takes to get a careful reading of your work?”).
Another assumption made from the character and setting analysis is that the theme might be a personal conflict. This was also affirmed in the text as the man was analyzing his own views regarding the nature of the society and his own character positioning. He analyzes what attracts the attention of the majority and he was perplexed by the idea that a person or his work will only be of interest to the society if it involves murder, violence, or crime. However, as he further analyzes, his doubts and resistance to the public’s popular interests will manifest in his own likings as he exclaims, “It’s a fascinating case”.
Also, it can be noted that in the assessment of the setting and the character of the comic strip, it became probable that the story might also feature social issues that will concern common people. This was further demonstrated in the text which talked about relevant societal problems – crime and murder.
The themes of a comic strip can be derived through the analysis of its major components – the titles, setting, characters, and the text. Among all of these however, the component which will give the most blatant manifestation of the theme is the text, provided that only a portion of the strip will only be analyzed. In the case of Ice haven, it can be concluded that the plot will revolve on the themes of personal conflict, depression, sarcasm, and alarming societal issues.