Sunday, October 25, 2009


I sat down to start Asterios Polyp with the intention of reading a few pages then going to bed. Here is what I tweeted half an hour later, "planned on going to sleep 30 minutes ago but Asterios Polyp was too amazing to put down. What a beautiful book and story. Just Wow." Asterios Polyp is reminiscent of many other stories but what makes it different is the way that David Mazzucchelli tells it. Every character has their own word balloon, font and color scheme. They have distinct voices. The narrator is Polyp's unborn identical twin, Ignazio. These are just some of the things that makes the typical "Arrogant Old Man reflects back on his life and realizes he needs to change" story different.

The first sequence of the story begins with no dialogue, only background noises. The color scheme before the lightening is purple, white, and blue. Mazzucchelli is showing us important items that will reoccur in the story as it unfolds - the tapes, Polyp's father's lighter, Hana's curved table, and the kitchen. When the lightening hits we lose the blue in the palette and for the rest of the sequence it's purple, white, and yellow. The yellow gradually takes over as the main color as the fire burns up Polyp's apartment. We are introduced to more important items: Polyp's watch and the Swiss Army knife Hana finds on the beach. We then see all of the spaces we were just introduced to burn in the fire until they are nothing but yellow. The past is being burnt away.

We are then given some basic information about Asterios in a lecture 101 freshman class style voice. And we are introduced to our unique narrator. The idea of having the story told by the unborn brother is genius. He is shadowing his brother's life but he is not alive and can be separate from the story as well. Subjective and objective at the same time.

One of the things that struck me is how each section begins with a picture of an item that will be essential to that section, like a promo for next week's episode. A lot of the narrative sections reminded me of Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics." The narrator uses images to explain ideas or concepts about Polyp in the same way McCloud does for writing and reading comics.

Color Scheme is extremely important. Pink represents women, not only in a sexual light but also when they become something Polyp cannot understand. When Hana and Asterios have one of their biggest fights the reader is hit emotionally because she turns the color pink. Also the drawing style changes. Besides having different word balloons, Mazzuchelli showed a visual difference in Polyp and Hana's makeups by drawing Hana as curved, scratchy, lines with shading while Polyp is made of geometric shapes. Hana's background story is told almost entirely in pink. To show when their worlds were connected, that they felt connected to each other, Mazzuchelli uses both styles of drawing together and both colors.

One of my favorite scenes of the book is when Asterios blacks out after losing his eye and he has a scene with Ignazio. Over the course of the conversation their word balloons, that are different at first (Polyp's are square and Ignazio's are cloud-like) begin to become one until they are both like Polyp's. It is the moment when he realizes they are the same. Mazzuchelli uses his art not only to create an image but emotion and symbolism. Even the inside covers have meanings. Blue for Polyp for the front inside cover and pink for Hana on the back inside covers.

1 comment:

  1. Great breakdown of the colors in the first sequence! I definitely didn't notice before how the Asterios-blue disappears when the lightning strikes, and how the yellow is introduced (and dominates) afterwards. It's really the turning point in Asterios' life, and chronologically the transition between the blue-hued "previous life" scenes and the yellow-tinted "new life" scenes. I wonder what the book would be like if you read the chapters in chronological order...