For my Major Paper/Project for our Disability and Literature course, I have decided to go for the visual art project option. Specifically, I will be producing a short, few page, mixed medium comic that will be laid out, written, edited, illustrated, lettered, and colored by myself. In terms of which of our texts from the first eleven weeks of class my comic will be discussing and responding to, I have chosen Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Specifically, I will be discussing the central theme of the novel that it is society that creates monsters; that an individual with a physical disability is only perceived as something to fear because of how society reacts to and treats said individual. My comic will primarily be made up of one primary, central character that I will use as a way to speak on and provide commentary about Shelley’s novel. While simultaneously providing commentary and a stance on the argument presented within the novel, I will have my character introduce himself with a plan to commit a horrendous act such as a bombing, a robbery, or a murder. In what will be set up as a sort of final recording explaining his actions, my character will read and provide a textual analysis of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. As he is doing so, the central character will discuss events that transpired in the creation’s life and compare those to events that have occurred in his own life. Doing this will not only provide an almost meta commentary on the book and the themes within it, but it will also create a sort of parallel between the creation and my main character, as he sees himself and his future actions as a product of society. As the comic goes on and the character compares his life to that of Frankenstein and explains his motivations for his future actions, he will slowly start critiquing the society represented within the book and how it handles or responds to individuals with a disability. While the comic has admittedly been primarily a parallel to Mary Shelley’s book, I want to be able to push the comic and the character a bit further than what readers saw in the novel. Now that’s not at all to say that I am attempting to create a better piece of literature than that of Shelley, but rather that I want to build on her ideas and concepts presented in her novel. In order to achieve this, I will have the main character reach the ending of the Shelley’s book and have a moment of self-reflection while discussing the similarities between him and the creation and the similar paths in which they are traveling. In said moment of self-reflection, the character comes to realize that he is not in fact the monster that he comes to believe himself to be, and that he can triumph over the negative connotations that are associated with his disability. In deciding this, he will ultimately choose not to follow through with his previously stated actions that he planned on committing. As the character gets up to walk away from his final confession, it is only then that readers get to see that he himself has a physical disability. In having the character be disabled, and reject his previous plans stated at the beginning of the comic, I create with readers, another parallel between him and the creation, but he himself serves as an example of how a disabled individual can overcome society and its way of making monsters out of disabled individuals, something that the creation was never given the opportunity to do. He also serves as a way to reject the societal belief that disabled individuals are someone to be scared of.
In terms of the actual artistic side of the project. One may notice a surprising choice of color in the comic. To parallel the main character believing himself two be a monster, he is depicted in black and white (similar to a classic Hollywood monster movie.) However, I made it so that the objects that help him realize his innocence and his humanity are in color. These include the video camera, the book, the candle, etc. Upon realizing his humanity, the character actually starts to gain some color and by the time he fully realizes that his interpretation of himself was warped and unrealistic, he is shown in full color and ultimately walking towards a brighter future. I also used repetition in the panels (many similar panels but with a change in the colors) as a way to highlight and underline the color effect used in the comic.
Honor Pledge: Zachary Welsh