this post contains spoilers
Asterios Polyp, more than any of the other graphic novel’s we have read so far, uses an abstract way of showing emotions and feelings of separation and closeness that is not simply through facial emotions or text. One such way is Mazzucchelli’s use of color. Instead of using black for panel borders, text, and outlines of characters, he chooses to use Purple. After reading A Wrinkle In Time which was printed entirely in blue, I didn’t think it that odd. However, unlike Larson’s graphic novel, Asterios Polyp has other colors as well as purple. Most notably, the colors blue and red are used for Asterios and Hana, non-coincidentally being the two colors that make up purple. Asterios is mostly drawn surrounded with shades of blue, Hana mostly in shades of red, the characters themselves are mostly drawn in purple. However, when they are first meeting and again when they are fighting, they are drawn in their separate respective colors. This becomes apparent in a chapter introducing Hana. After her background is introduced to the reader (in shades of red and pink), the readers see Hana meeting Asterios for the first time at a party. Their red and blue colors collide, and later they are drawn in purple. This happens again, in a later scene, where Asterios and Hana get into a fight about video cameras, and Hana is sketched in red. Slowly, the panels shift to her being drawn in purple again, as she realizes Asterios’s feelings, and later on the next page the readers can see Asterios and Hana intertwined as yin-and-yang.
The idea yin-and-yang is repeated throughout the book, as well as the idea of duality. Asterios argues that duality can be found in many objects, even though he acknowledges that there is a “continuum between the extremes”. The character believes that contrasting images serve only as a convenient organizing principle, which he argues may be “best suited to children’s stories, or comic books”. This attention to the art through the art, a type of metapicture that Mitchell described in his essay “Metapictures”, falls under a type of metapicture which explores the idea of the image as an image about thinking about metapictures. An example that Mitchell gives in his essay is “Las Meninas”, a painting by Diego Velázquez, which requires the viewers of the painting to ponder what their view as the audience of this painting means, especially in regard to the attention of the subjects in the painting itself.
By bringing the reader’s attention to Asterios’s feelings about the simplicity of duality in regards to comic books, Asterios Polyp becomes a work of metapictures by asking the reader to see the duality in Hana and Asterios as shown by color. Asterios both complicates this relationship by having the color’s separate into red and blue only be during times of separation between the character’s good feelings towards one another, therefore showing that division into two completely different ideas does occur over time and over a continuum, and that the characters themselves cannot be completely identified individually at all times; while also using a color like purple, that contrasts that idea by being made up of both red and blue. Both ideas are present in the work, and are left up to the reader to decide which view they take on both Asterios’s relationship to Hana, and with his feelings of guilt over his twin brother.