I recently finished reading Indestructible by Cristy C. Road and have been thinking of the way the illustrations and formatting of the text function within the work and relate to the context of our class. I have no brilliant ideas as I begin writing this, and am instead now using this as a format to consider a possible relationship. I may expand this idea later after finishing the graphic novel Sexile and our discussions in class next week.
There are about 20 images that accompany the fifteen chapters of Indestructible. The text of the work is a visual element that contributes greatly to the overall feel of the novel, as it shifts between style, size, and spacing. I’ll start with the text.
For the most part, the text in the novel looks as if it was typewritten as it appears in a similar font. Contrasting this typewritten quality is the almost (but not quite) handwritten (you could argue drawn or cut out) chapter headings that loom at the top of each chapter and counting up to fifteen and possibly alluding to progress or movement. At times the formatting changes from double spaced to single space or appearing as if the page is Xerox-scanned by being at a slant, while at other times the font itself changes. These formatting choices feel DIY and reference Road’s involvement in zine publication and placing the novel within that context and triggering associations (punk rock, political activism, art, personal writings, sexual writings, and self-publication/representation). I guess the main point I am getting at is how these choices in publication draw attention to the choices of the author more so than if traditional font choices had been used and emphasizes the process that went into the work.
From here I’ll move on to the visual art component of the illustrated story. These 20 or so illustrations appear to me to be done with pens/markers/fluid-bodied acrylics, but could also have been done on the computer or even a combination of the two. These works are black and white (perhaps emphasizing the Xerox quality of the work) and incredibly detailed. Again emphasizing the presence of the author/illustrator (Road). Each illustration presents a scene related to the text in the chapter it accompanies.
What struck me most about these illustrations were two things: the expressiveness of the characters and the use of space in each scene. The first illustration we see (besides the cover) is a DIY yearbook-esque pasting of the main characters and the author staring at the viewer. This introduction enhances the over-all feel of the story, as a series of anecdotes about life as a high school, especially those that deal with her punk influenced friend group (the ‘burnout corner’). From here we meet the author as a young adolescent who is starring angrily out at the reader/viewer and helps develop the image of Road as an angsty, confrontational teen who does not want to compromise herself to meet the desires of others (at times). A few of the characters in the story make the same facial expression in almost every illustration. Eugene and Selene in particular make pretty much the same face in every illustration they appear in, perhaps emphasizing the ways these characters were idealized by Road, Selene being the object of infatuation/identification and Eugene as being the first person to affirm Road’s queerness as something valuable. These are visual elements that I think enhance the textual, and vice versa. Bodily elements are emphasized in the illustration by depicting body hair, placing the figures crowded into the fore-ground, and focusing on less idealized facial expressions. Perhaps in so doing, Road is representing her development of a positive relationship between her body and her self.
I could probably investigate the expressive line-work that creates the characters, the way Road places the characters in relation to one another, but I think what is really interesting to me is the way the characters are placed within the settings they inhabit, and the way in which Road depicts the environments surrounding the characters.
All the figures in the illustrations are contextualized by the space they are in. From the playground scene which juxtaposes Road’s aggressive expression with the implied innocence of the playground, yet the (perpetual) gray sky and the shadowed playground are also looming figures or fading into the distance, expressing Road’s awkward growing into her developing body her “uneasy method of growing up”. Most of the backgrounds depict liminal spaces such as doorways, hallways, or boundaries, a possible reference to the state of adolescence as impermanent or reflecting all the process through which Road intentionally built or tore down barriers between her and others. These spaces are also both expansive and shallow, extending into the background through illusory line work but also solidifying through that very linework into ominous ‘dead ends’ of solid color meeting a heavy, gray sky. I feel that this emphacizes the promise of potential (finding a community of those who accept you, of finding self-love), but also the pessimism of living in a world that may be harmful to some people. It also is potentially related to Road’s periods of optimism and happiness and bouts of sadness.
Overall, the illustrative work in Road’s Indestructible is compelling to me in it’s sheer expressive potential, it’s clever use of layout, line work, and shading and is very effective in developing Road’s affirmation of bodiliness, queerness, sexuality, and living.
Here is some of Road’s other works I enjoyed looking at: