Reflection on the Metaphor in Comic Art

In Eisner’s The Street Singer, the reader is shown a seemingly homeless man singing in the alleyways for money. The graphics start off with harsh lines, deep shadows and the narration winds its way through the comic. The written words are place within the pictures, sometimes centered and sometimes overlapping with the drawings. In the story, the beggar is given a letter by a woman that asks him to meet her in her apartment.

At first, I was pleased that the man was shown kindness, but then a large woman clearly past her prime is introduced, and the feeling changes to annoyance. Because this story is told through drawings, it allows the reader to understand a different sort of context throughout the story. Instead of using words to describe the man’s sunken face and the woman’s stuck-up posture, it is presented visually. Many writers preach that, in terms of details, showing through detail rather than just telling the reader what to feel is more poignant, which this comic does very well. This is a strength of comics, as, instead of strictly using metaphors, the reader has to look closely to not

Contrasting shadows
Contrasting shadows

only the words, but the pictures that go with them.  As the story progresses, the narration says that the woman claims she was once famous, but, because of an abusive husband, she was forced to give up her dream. During the woman’s story, the panel changes from normal lighting to harsh shadows on the homeless man as he takes a gulp of a drink, mirroring the woman’s drunk husband. I found that the shadows in the story help illustrate the dark irony that clouds the man as he returns home, belligerently drunk, and abuses his own wife. The drawings do an excellent job of creating an understanding of the setting and characters, like the beggar’s wife’s expression as she forgives him. The image is pathetic, while his is an almost believable regret.

Although words could portray similar imagery, the visuals will always tell a slightly different story.