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The semiotic resources of comics in movie adaptation: Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003) as a case study

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In this article, we apply methods under development in socio-functional semiotics to explore the transfer of resources originally developed for comics to the medium of film. We illustrate this concretely with respect to extracts taken from Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003), a film we consider unique in its particular appropriation of expressive resources from the comic medium. Hulk is often been singled out in discussions of the relations between comics and film because many of the design decisions taken in the film evoke aspects of the comic page. Here, we argue that its use of the resources of comics goes substantially beyond ‘evocation’: Hulk is best considered a highly experimental hybrid, taking resources that were initially essentially comics based and ‘translating’ these filmically in order to extend the medium of film in interesting ways. We show this in two respects: first, we consider the filmic deployment of comicbook conventions for expressing movement; second, we establish that the film’s use of split-screen techniques extends the ability of film to express narrative continuity and connection between perspectives.
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Keywords: film adaptations of comics; film continuity; movement; multimodality; panel layout; socio-semiotics; spatio-topical system; split screen

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Bremen University 2: The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Publication date: 2013-04-01

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work.

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