Madame Deep Time

February 28, 2009


When I was a boy, I read a sci-fi story about space travelers who arrived on a planet populated by giant reptilian creatures that lived for tens of thousands of years.  The creatures moved so slowly that the earthlings thought that they were inanimate rocks.  For their part, the reptilians were only dimly aware of the spacemen, perceiving them as transitory flicks of light moving throughout their world.

Something of the same eerie sensation applies to my dipping into the Mary Worth comic.  Nothing seems to happen.  Or rather, things happen, but in some other sort of time.  Comic-glacial, comic-geological time.  It seems that this is part, maybe all of her appeal.  Dropping in for the long haul.  La durée or la temps profond as the French sociologists and historians call it.  Perhaps it is real time.

I knew about Mary Worth when I was a boy reading the Sunday comics, but after a glance or two, I consigned her to the realm of entertainments reserved for people from planets different from the one I lived on.  I guess that’s the point – that space travel theme again.  Which brings us inevitably to time and time travel.

Space and time…

January 4, 2009


…or is it time and space?

I was struck by a phrase in this book of comics by Art Spiegelman, of Maus fame, that comics are time turned into space. Each panel in a strip represents a different moment in time, and they are spread out in space, on the page.  A really interesting idea.

What of film?  Time shown in the illusory space of a screen?

eat_the_bookThis brings me back to this image from an earlier post of mine about the tapistries in the Chateau d’Angers.  Here we see Saint John eating the book given him by the angel Gabriel.  But what is going on?  There are two books!  In fact, it is one book, one and the same.

In medieval art, it is common to see separate moments in time shown in the same space.  They didn’t have comics!  This, despite the beauty and sophistication of  their visual popular culture – think of all those Bible stories in stained glass!  The angel is shown handing him the book which he exhorts him to eat, and with the other hand, at a later moment, John is nibbling away at it.  Almost as if it were a modern multiple exposure photograph.  Or a flip-book that has been somehow frozen in time.