The Clear Line in Comics and Cinema: A Transmedial Approach
This thesis deals with the notion of “clear line”, a term coined in 1977 by the essayist and comics author Joost Swarte to describe Hergé’s style, but also that of some artists who can be considered his precursors, and of the creators who followed or parodied his work. It refers both to purely graphic and to intermedial narrative solutions, which work together to produce storytelling strategies that presuppose a deceptively simple, clear and hygienic narration: in Philippe Marion’s words, it is a style “[m]ade out of light, fluidity and limpid clarity”.
This project aims at analysing these characteristics within the field of the European bande dessinée, resorting mainly to a chronological approach and making use of theoretical tools and perspectives recently developed in comics studies — but also, and above all, to expand them to other domains, introducing and defending a transmedial usage of the concept of “clear line”. In fact, several of the elements that inform it can be persistently and coherently found in the graphic and diegetic strategies of artists who have worked in particularly creative and relevant ways with other art forms, and this is notably evident in the oeuvre of certain filmmakers of the 20th century, namely Yasujirô Ozu, Jacques Tati, and Frank Tashlin, who constitute the case studies of this project. By cataloguing and critically analysing clear line works in comics and film, from both a historical and a theoretical perspective, this thesis intends to offer a solid overview of the development of the clear line in 20th and 21st-century comics, as well as a pioneering and consistent proposal for a transmedial use of the concept, rendering it employable in the detection and comprehension of the forms, functions and effects of similar approaches in cinema and in other visual narrative arts. It intends, in this way, to enrich the presently burgeoning fields of intermedial narratology and of cultural studies.