Depiction of Limit of Survival in Mass Media: X-Men
Whether viewed through superhero lens or the visuals in a novel, comic books have been a staple of American culture since the turn of the remaining century. Used as a source for comic relief or even as a way to further creative growth, their popularity holds weight within society. Especially since comic books have been used to react to the changes and growths of society. Through close readings of a comic book, one may notice how the elements on the page connect to each other. Many people are aware of both the narrative and visual designs of comics books. Authors and artists have used imagery within the comics themselves to create an overall tone that intensifies the meaning they are trying to convey. Within the comics Uncanny X-Men v.170 by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith, the audience views that the characters of many of the X-men begin to evolve in accordance to their situations (p. 17-18). Uncanny X-men pages 17-18 uses formal features such as box saturation and different perspectives within the framework of the boxes to illustrate the theme of “Survival of the Fittest” to its audience.
The Uncanny X-men v.170 details a storyline where the main X-men find themselves as prisoners in an underground tribe of outcast Mutants known as Morlocks (p. 17-18). The main leader of X-men, Storm, becomes wounded and her team of followers find themselves at risk of defeat by the hands of the Morlocks leader, Callisto. Callisto establishes that the only way the X-men could possibly survive is if someone is willing to challenge Storm’s leadership. For which such, Storm takes the initiative for her team and resigns.
In analyzing the overall theme throughout the pages, an illustration of the idea “Survival of the Fittest” comes to play. The scene on page 17 starts out correlated with Nightcrawler offering himself up as a challenger with Callisto. The angle placement actually identifies him as someone almost stepping out of this imagery within his box to physically put himself outside of it. The alignment of the box is shaped where his whole body is shown, hence he is offering himself as a challenger. Nightcrawler is drawn with his hand out, as though he is trying to reach off the page, which may demonstrate the idea of trying to take the place of someone or something. The imagery that comes after is one with Callisto and her minions, where it seems they are almost considering Nightcrawler’s brave outreach as a joke. The panel then transitions onto Storm whom is still tied up with her body constricted, but at the same time her visuals create this aura of potential that may soon arise.
The saturation of her shadow being this profound black omniscient creature behind her creates this almost dark power brewing inside her that the audience has yet to see. The significance of showing her restricted while at the same time framing her by herself emphasizes the greater power her character holds. This idea is even greater highlighted when the panel transitions to one with simply her face as the main focus. It seems as if this drawing holds the most meaning on the page as it creates the basis for the theme of ‘Survival of the Fittest’. The inking on Storm’s face becomes lighter than her original skin tone, which may attribute the fact that her body is still fighting with the poison inside her. The interplay between images from a full body to a main face creates a dramatic perspective within this framework that she really is fighting for her life but that she has not given up yet. The illustration of her face is rather simple as it displays her eyes being slanted down in an almost glaring view with a turned up nose and snarling mouth.
However, in its simplicity, the illustration actually becomes very intense as if you can feel her anger through the pages. Her face almost reminds the audience of similar feeling of a lioness ready to attack or even a brewing tornado getting ready to take off, hence her name. In that case, the image of her becomes a foreshadowing for destruction or perhaps even a huge brawl in the near future. The following scenes show how Nightcrawler considers Storm in disbelief for offering herself up, with Callisto in the next panel gloating as if she had already won the challenge. The ‘Survival of the Fittest’ theme becomes evident through the reaction of Storm’s team as their questioning convey that they now realize her life is in danger. However, the positioning of Storm on this page shows that she really has reached her breaking point and will indeed fight, even to the death, to survive.
The scene on page 18 begins instantly with Callisto and Storm facing each other as if out of an old American western movie. The imagery of each character demonstrates how they are all characteristically different. Only the back of Callisto is shown, but her ripped sleeves are precisely drawn to create an edginess about her. The chain around her waist is almost clearly shown to demonstrate her position as an outcast but also her resistance to societal structure. The theme of ‘Survival of the Fittest’, is demonstrated within her as someone who has nothing to lose and is willing to fight to death.
However, the lining and saturation of the panel frameworks the background with an actual audience watching the brawl from behind. The penciling of the actual individuals in the back is visually drawn with some just standing around and others with fists up. Since the background would be considered as the group of Morlocks, Callisto might actually have something to lose in being their leader. Storm is presented across from her with that of many of her Superhero contrasts whom capes blow in the wind ready for battle. She is drawn in a revealing costume with a half made bodysuit to cover her body. Her revealing placement on the page creates an almost feral nature that coincides with the theme. She is open and ready to attack her opponent, perhaps even ready to kill, if necessary.
The panel transitions to Callisto throwing her weapon in the air as if to show off her skills. The original background saturations changes from purple to now red, a calm to now riveting crowd whom are excited to see Callisto skills put to the test. The interplay between words and images suggests that Callisto is ready to battle. The act of the weapon being thrown itself is dramatized in motion in which the speed is enhanced. This is understood to be due to the fact that since Callisto is a mutant she does hold weight in her own power, which is clearly strong enough to lead an entire army of outcasts and even possibly go against Storm. The panel transitions into a scene with Storm doing the exact same movements as Callisto as to
Yet, in the next panel, she does even additional with her weapon as if to demonstrate to Callisto to not be fooled, but that she is more dangerous than she looks. The motion and movement of her skill development creates even more speed than the original framework. The style of her movement creates an almost unrealistic world that emphasizes that the X-men are in fact different than the rest of the world. Even suggesting a presence of something supernatural that surpasses the regular laws of physics of what a regular human can and cannot do. The most poignant part of those first two panels are of Storm and are the visual representation of her different moods. She holds the same facial expressions of intense dominance, which convey to the reader that her capability far surpasses what we knew of her.
This further becomes clear when Callisto’s face is shown in the next panel. She is given a full face by the artists this time to indicate her surprise of Storm’s abilities. Her one eye is drawn rather widely to emphasize her shock. Her actual panel itself has no words, which may hold greater measure in illustrating her bewilderment. The background of the panel creates a visually red screen around Callisto’s head to show the change of emotion and mood. For her and much of the audience, only a one-dimension of Storm has been shown, but this journey has developed her into another being that many were not prepared for or did not even see coming.
It should be noted, even her own team members, Nightcrawler and Colossus, visually doubted her ability in the next panel. The two characters are shown drawn as though they are conversing secretively with each other. This is evident with the pitch black background in order to create emphasis on the two, similar to that of a bubble in with the conversation is just between them. Storm’s change of character is seen throughout both these pages as her will is put to the test. The writers and artists made sure to build her up in foreshadowing her change to the audience where even her own teammates did not see it coming. The ‘Survival of the Fittest’ theme is evident when Storm puts everything she has on the line, including her morals. Nightcrawler in the interplay between words suggests that Ororo would never kill someone no matter what. Yet, Storm’s character change and growth signifies that she is ready to fight to the best of her abilities to win.
Furthermore, I decided to choose these two pages in vol.170 to develop from because I liked the visual connection of the storyline. The interplay between words and images were quite strong enough to develop from due to the features such as saturation and difference in perspectives being used to framework the narrative. The theme of Survival of the Fittest became apparent in those two pages by the development of characters that were visually noted by the change of color and expression used by the artists to support the theme. In the end, comic books were used as way for creative expression and stress relief, however it’s clear to see that authors and their artists put much thought into the meanings they were trying to convey to their audience throughout their works.
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