Link to comic here
During the creation of this comic, I admittedly strayed a little from the instructions given: instead of focusing on one long moment, I decided to link together multiple small ones in order to create a clearer and more coherent “picture” of the ways in which my learning disabilities have impacted my life. This overall structure is meant to focus readers’ attention on the omnipresent, unchanging senses of confusion and frustration that are part and parcel of having significant and uncommon neuro-psychological disadvantages. 2/3 of the scenes that I chose were ones in which I did not completely understand what I was doing wrong and why people were reacting so negatively to me. The other one was a defining moment - when I first gained concrete awareness that something was indeed wrong with me (actualizing my fears of being “lesser” and “malformed”). I placed this scene in the middle of the comic because it was a transitional stage. I was no longer [real name redacted], the absentminded kid who couldn’t take the heat, to [real name redacted], the medicated “mental patient” who wanted to be a savant. I was still confused and frustrated in the periods before and after, but after I was diagnosed my level of self-consciousness was definitely heightened. I tried making this more obvious - not only by explicitly describing it, but also by making more frames “me-centered.” My face appears more often, there are more frames that are drawn with a perspective suggesting a short/small viewpoint, and the expressions I (and other people) make are a lot more exaggerated.
These were only (some of) my general artistic choices. I also wanted to create more emotional and symbolic nuance using subtler decisions, such as usage of light vs. shade, abstract backgrounds, and panel organization.
Page 6, for example, has a large illustration of 2 pill containers at the bottom instead of a panel. I did this because I wanted to “time” the next scene in a way that would make it feel obviously distinct from the exposition I had been doing at that point. If the two parts had “flowed together” (so to speak), the emotional impact of me getting used as a verbal punching bag would not have been as meaningful and jarring. Contrast was very important during the comic’s creation, and it was usually used to portray distinctions between what was going on “inside my head” and what I was actually projecting and/or seeing outside. Another example of this is a panel at the bottom left of page 4. The left side depicts what I wanted to be (or at least seem like), and how I actually knew myself to be. There is no gutter in between these two images, because I realized that keeping them as close as possible would be very jarring (as separating them would likely “dissociate” them a little bit from each other in viewers’ minds).
Nearly all of the backgrounds in this comic are simple and/or abstract, and this was not solely done in the interest of conserving energy and time. Abstract backgrounds, in some situations, are more straightforward in the meaning they are meant to convey. Their bareness can bring a viewer’s attention to details in the foreground. I took advantage of this quality in nearly every page, but pages 2, 4, and 6 contain some particularly pertinent examples. The rightmost center panel in page 2 has a black sectioned background, which draws attention to both the (ill-intentioned) speech bubbles in each section and the small white frame (depicting a piano) in the center. In page 4, I drew simple lines radiating from the center of my face (suggesting sun rays) and stars in order to make it clear that I was depicting a ridiculous and unattainably idealized version of myself. Lastly, in page 6, pieces of loose paper (drawn with a light hand) surround my homework folder in a way that is obviously not physically possible but create an appearance of “messiness.”.
On a final note, there is a recurring (but distinct) image in every climactic scene in the comic. It is my nervous, tightened face upon a very dark background, drawn from the perspective of someone who is looking down upon me. There is no dialogue in these panels, because I could not have physically said anything due to fear. The dark background is meant to create a heavy, suffocating feeling - which is exacerbated by the thick, blunt, and diagonal pencil strokes I used to create it. In the last few panels on page 7, I drew a (metaphorical) fire behind me to add another emotional dimension to the moment: the burning sensation of guilt that I felt practically just for existing then and there. This image is the most important part of the entire comic, as it always appears when the confusion and frustration I faced at the hands of my teachers reached a (vivid) boiling point. I am small in contrast to their authority, I am shaking and trying to hold myself in, and, above everything else, I feel stupid and alone.
This creative response was written to address the issues of race and gender that we explored through Othello. It was a partial modernization (set in the Philippines in the 1940s) of two scenes in which Iago demonstrated discriminatory attitudes towards women and Othello (on the basis of his race). The 1940s, in particular, was chosen as a general setting due to contemporary views on female ability and liberty. Women had gained the right to vote, but mainstream feminist criticism of everyday sexism would come much later (in the 60s). Iago’s harsh and cynical way of speaking was based partially on Rex Harrison’s portrayal of a misogynist professor in the movie “My Fair Lady” which, despite being set in the early 1900s, was more evocative of the decade of its premiere. Even though the 1400s in Venice did not have the same feminist growth that the 1940s in America did, the way Iago is allowed to talk to Desdemona is virtually the same - she is someone in a sensitive position (rich man’s daughter) that discourages people from treating her like a second-rate citizen even if they would like to. In both historical contexts, Iago’s sudden outburst is seen as jarring because it breaks an unspoken societal taboo. It makes him appear very charmless and unrefined.
As for race, the rest of the setting was deliberately chosen in order to parallel Othello’s experience as a racial minority from a similar historical (but not ethnic) perspective. Black men were part of the US military by the 1940s, but by that time they had lost sight of the culture from which their ancestors were forcibly taken. Thus, they were more American than African. Othello’s story, however, is one of both a cultural and racial disconnect. He is always referred to as a Moor, which carries both national and racial connotations. This lack of similarity was the reason for Othello’s race change in the script, as the situation of Filipino soldiers fighting on the American side during WWII more distinctly resembled his background (fighting for the Venetians as a Moor). Despite Filipino contributions to the war effort, there were still Americans who did not like or even trust Filipinos - which makes Iago’s racially-charged fearmongering very possible. The Moor-based insults were carefully translated into fitting Filipino-related insults, as the original wording would not have been accurate to the way Asians/Southeast Asians were stereotypes during the 1940s (e.g. not black).
There was no specific demographic considered while writing the response. It is meant to be taken as a work of historical fiction that reveals (some) truth about contemporary racial and gender-related attitudes during both the Second World War and Europe during the 1400s.
Act 2.1 lines 1-279 (1945 AD) - Gender
Montano: So, boys, what’s the news from the sea?
Soldier 1: Can’t see jack. Water’s so rough that I can’t make out a single sail.
Montano: Cripes, it was windy here on land too. You think the ships will make it?
Solder 2: Ha. Don’t think the Japs will.
Soldier 3: Pack it up, boys - the Japs are finished! Milkfish just reported that most of their ships have been blasted to hell and back, and all thanks to this storm!
Montano: You’d better not be joking around.
Soldier 3: I ain’t joking around, sir. She’s coming into harbor. That Filipino’s - Othello - lieutenant Mike Cassio’s on shore now, but Othello himself ain’t. He’s been sent here though.
Montano: Well, that’s not so bad.
Soldier 3: ‘Nfortunately, Cassio says the storm blew Othello off course. Says his radar’s too busted to find him.
Montano: Well, shit. I liked Othello, and he’s as good a man as any. Let’s watch here till he comes.
Soldier 3: Yes, sir.
Cassio: Thanks for your work here, fellas. I’m real pleased that you respect Othello. My God, I hope he’ll be alright. I told you boys that my radar’s dead, didn’t I? Shit, I hope he comes.
Montano: The fortifications on his ship still intact?
Cassio: Yes, she’s a fine old thing. Captain’s good. I’m prayin’ that’ll be enough to save him.
Voice: A sail, a sail, a sail!
Cassio: What the hell’s that ruckus all about?
Messenger: I ain’t got nothin’. Everyone’s at the shore yellin’ about a sail.
Cassio: Well, I hope it’s Othello.
A SHOT is heard
Messenger: I do reckon that’s a greetin’ shot. Think they’re friendlies?
Cassio: We’ll need to see that for ourselves.
Soldier 2: I’ll do that, sir.
EXIT Soldier 2
Montano: Lieutenant, is your general married?
Cassio: Why, yes, sir. A real beauty. He’s a lucky man.
ENTER Soldier 2
Cassio: Well, who is it?
Soldier 2: Some Iago fellow. General’s ensign apparently.
Cassio: He came in great time. Even storms and rocks love a beautiful woman like Desdemona.
Cassio: The wife we were talking about. Iago was supposed to ‘ccompany her here, but it looks like he arrived a week early. Thank God! Now, if only Othello had come too…
Enter DESDEMONA, IAGO, EMILIA, RODERIGO, & MAIDS
Cassio: Well, look at this! The divine beauty herself - Desdemona!
Desdemona: My, how kind of you, Mr. Cassio. Is there any news about my husband’s whereabouts?
Cassio: He isn’t here yet, I’m ‘fraid. I don’t know much, but I think he’ll be just fine.
Desdemona: Well, I’m worried something fierce. How did you lose contact with him?
Cassio: We were fu.. - sorry, ma’am - blown off the charted path by the storm. Communications went down too.
Voice: A sail, a sail, a sail!
Cassio: You hear that? Another ship’s just arrived.
A SHOT is heard
Soldier: Friendlies too!
Cassio: I’ll have you go there again to check.
EXIT Soldier 2
Cassio: Nice to meet you, Mr. Iago. And very pleased to make yer acquaintance as well, ma’am.
Cassio kisses Emilia
Cassio: Now don’t get too worked up about that, Iago, they do that to damn well everyone back in Italy where my family’s from. Just a-little-ah something, eh?
Iago: Ha, that’s nothing. If she gave it to you as she does to me - why, you’d be quite suffocated already.
Desdemona: You must surely be joking. Emilia’s a quiet girl.
Iago: Oh, to the contrary, miss. Always going on and on while I can’t catch even one wink, let alone forty. She’s quiet around, you, of course, but she’s judging me inside that pretty head of hers.
Desdemona: But you just don’t have reason to say that, sir?
Iago: Chr*st, aren’t all of you broads all the same? You’re a bunch of pretty pictures when you’re out, and on the eyes of every man around, but at home you turn into these damn harpies. You act like you’re nothing but g*ddamn saints when you’re moaning about something or other, but I don’t believe it one bit. You strike out like she-devils when someone doesn’t feel like doing things a woman’s way. Aren’t you supposed to be housewives? You ain’t wives, that’s for sure.
Desdemona: Why, I’ve never seen a man so horrid before. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
Iago: You think I’m lying? Only a Nazi would lie. The only time you do any damn work is when you’re in bed.
Emilia: Well, you sure ain’t got nothing nice to say about me.
Iago: By God I don’t.
Desdemona: Well, if you could say one pleasant thing for once, what would you say about me?
Iago: Couldn’t do it if I tried, missy. I’m a man who says it like it is.
Act 1.1 lines 84-142 (1945 AD) - Race
Hotel in Manila
Brabantio: Hey, what’s all this racket for? What’s happening?
Roderigo: Everyone in your family at home, sir?
Iago: Your doors locked?
Brabantio: Why’re you askin’?
Iago: By God, you’ve been had! Put your damn clothes on! You aren’t going to like this news at all, but you’d better listen up. At this very moment, there’s a hairy jungle rat having his way with your little girl. Wake up and don’t let your guard down around a single Flip, or else your grandchildren are gonna squeak!
Brabantio: Are you some kind of nut?
Roderigo: Sir, don’t you recognize my voice?
Brabantio: Not a bit. Who’re you?
Roderigo: I’m Roderigo.
Brabantio: Didn’t I tell you to get outta here before? And you just waltz in here, corked outta your mind, not letting me catch a durned wink! I ain’t lettin’ you marry my girl, Roderigo!
Roderigo: Sir, sir-
Brabantio: I’ll make you pay for this!
Roderigo: Please, sir, one moment. Brabantio: And what’s all this malarkey about robbin’? You think we’re in the sticks?
Roderigo: Mr. Brabantio, I came here merely out of goodwill. I need to tell you-
Iago: Well, g*ddammit, you’re a real bull, aren’t you! Since you’re treating us here like a couple of gangsters, no-one’s around to stop that Oriental baboon from DOING it with your own flesh!
Brabantio: What kind of godless heathen are ya?
Iago: The very kind that tells you that your daughter and the Filipino are knowing each other biblically.
Brabantio: You’re a beast!
Iago: And you’re a senator! Brabantio: I told you once and I’ll tell you ahhh-giiieen. You. Will. Pay. Roderigo!
Roderigo: And I’ll take it, sir. I don’t know if you saw it too, but Dessie slipped out like a cat this morning and took one of those little horse-driven carriages alone to the base, where she’s now with that lusty ape. If you gave her your permission to do this, then I’ll make it up to you. I’d never kid you about anything. She’s throwing all her future away on some stranger. You can check her room for yourself. If she’s there, you can sue me.
Brabantio: Urggghh...Dammit! Go get the boys! I dreamed about this sorta thing last night, and now I fear it wasn’t a dream at all.