I hear comics differently after reading Frank Bramlett’s contributions to Pencil Panel Page this year. His observations about the way characters interact with one another through written speech and sound are incredibly fascinating and consistently raise provocative questions about the way various modes of communication shape our reading experience.
For the final entry in our blog’s first anniversary roundtable, I had the privilege of reading back through Frank’s posts and its mix of linguistic analysis, comics theory, and cultural critique. Without a doubt, the query “How Will We Manage the Alt Text?” is my favorite because it brings Frank’s scholarship in language together with an invigorating curiosity about new expressions of the comics medium. It offers notes toward a theory on the words that appear when the computer mouse hovers over a webcomic image and provides a functional description of the intersection between technology and reader response. Frank writes:
Without the alt text, the comic itself is ostensibly complete. However, the alt text adds a dimension to the comic. It might extend the humor, it might extend the narrative action, it might twist the perspective, and it might provide editorial commentary by the author.
In assessing this new narrative strata, even the procedural challenge of how comics scholars should transcribe alt text invites deeper consideration of the simultaneous negotiations of our encounter with pictures and words online or on the page. And I’m not alone in my interest in this particular post — “How Will We Manage the Alt Text?” received the most page views out of all of Frank’s posts this past year.
My hope is that the contributions on Pencil Panel Page offer a thoughtful bridge between our professional lives and personal interests in order to generate meaningful conversation about comics studies. Frank’s questions about sound effects and the three-part series on the quotidian for instance, further the important work of his edited collection on Linguistics and the Study of Comics in a manner that is incredibly accessible and engaging. And yet he doesn’t hesitate to venture beyond his primary field of study, whether it is the alt text, rage comics, or sequential narratives based on found art.
I’m definitely looking forward to another full year of questions from Frank as he explores the comic shops of Stockholm!
See the full list of the Pencil Panel Page 1st Anniversary roundtable here.