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Rumble, Race, and Crash: Space and Movement through Sound Effects in Akira and American Flagg

Mia Lewis with parasol
Date and Time: 
Wednesday, April 8, 2015. 06:00 PM - 07:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Stanford Humanities Center, Board Room
Graphic Narrative Project
Meeting Description: 

There is one sound effect that pervades Otomo Katsuhiro’s Akira: “do.” By itself this syllable evokes just a sort of hollow thud. When repeated it becomes the rumble of a motorcycle. This rumble, repeated countless times over hundreds of pages, when considered in terms of its pictorial representation and in relation to the images, produces the environment, tension, and pacing of Akira as much as any other elements on the page. As a sound effect it bridges, combines, and interweaves different aspects of the comic, and so its analysis is tied to analysis of the comic as a whole. Sound effects are not simply background reverberations. They paint time across pages as motion lines, leaving behind imprints of the past through visible sound, projecting into the future, and in the process providing a sense of depth and space.

In this talk Mia Lewis will examine how Otomo’s Akira and Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg utilize alternative but similar systems of sound effects to evoke the third and fourth dimensions, while simultaneously emphasizing their stationary, two-dimensional nature. She argues that sound effects can act as storytelling agents on par with and intrinsically tied to the pictorial and narrative aspects of the story; that their significance lies not just in their literal meaning, font type and size but in the often barely visible nuances of their presentation; and that their impact carries beyond the bounds of the panel through the entirety of the story.