Parution : The Clear Line in Comics and Cinema. A Transmedial Approach

David Pinho Barros, The Clear Line in Comics and Cinema. A Transmedial Approach, Leuven University Press, 2022. 

Historical and theoretical analysis of the “clear line” style in comics and cinema

The “clear line”, a term coined in 1977 by Dutch essayist and artist Joost Swarte, has become shorthand in the field of comics studies for the style originally developed by Hergé and the École de Bruxelles. It refers to certain storytelling strategies that generate a deceptively simple, lucid and hygienic narration: in Philippe Marion’s words, it is a style “made out of light, fluidity and limpid clarity”.

By cataloguing and critically analysing clear line comics from historical and theoretical perspectives, this book offers a new outlook on the development of the style in the 20th and 21st centuries, especially focused on the context of the European bande dessinée. In addition, it pioneeringly expands the concept of “clear line” to other artistic domains by introducing and defending its transmedial use, which is particularly relevant for the understanding of the oeuvres of certain filmmakers of the 20th century working in the postwar period, such as Yasujirô Ozu in Japan, Jacques Tati in France and Frank Tashlin in the United States. The Clear Line in Comics and Cinema is therefore a key theoretical work for both bande dessinée enthusiasts and comics scholars, as well as a fundamental contribution to present-day film studies and transmedial narratology.

David Pinho Barros is a researcher, curator and assistant professor of literary, cultural and interart studies at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Porto.

Table of contents



Part One: Clear Line Comics

Opening remarks

Chapter 1: Hergé’s clear line
From Totor to Tintin: Trace and narrative as constraints
The clear line finds its Oriental history
The clear line facing new formats

Chapter 2: The clear line of the École de Bruxelles
Edgar P. Jacobs’s naturalist clear line
Between individuality and standardisation: Jacques Martin, Bob De Moor and Roger Leloup

Chapter 3: The clear line after Tintin et les Picaros
The postmodernist clear line: From Tante Leny presenteert! to (À Suivre)
The neoclassical clear line: From Professor Palmboom to Blake and Mortimer 2.0
Philip, Francis and friends: Contemporary parodies and pastiches of the clear line

Closing remarks

Part Two: Clear Line Cinema

Opening remarks

Chapter 4: Cinema as a graphic-verbal medium
Film’s media combination: A theoretical perspective
Film’s media combination: An analytical perspective
Film’s media combination: A stylistic perspective

Chapter 5: Clear line cinema
“Dire juste”: Density, simplicity and stylisation in cinema
A few directions for a history of clear line cinema, from Louis Lumière to Wes Anderson

Closing remarks

Part Three: Case Studies

Opening remarks 153

Chapter 6: Yasujirô Ozu
Ozu’s clear line frame composition and storytelling strategies
Red teapot, yellow teacup: Clear line colouring in Ozu’s late films

Chapter 7: Jacques Tati
This fits here, that fits there: The clear line in the Hulot comedies
Minimal sounds for maximal effects: Remarks on Tati’s clear line soundscapes

Chapter 8: Frank Tashlin
Tashlin’s clear line ink: Comics, advertisements and animation
The clear line at the service of comedy in Tashlin’s feature films

Closing remarks

For a transmedial use of the concept of “clear line”: A conclusion



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