Saturday, June 30, 2012
Swearing in Michel Rabagliati's Paul comics
I recently read and, in some case, re-read all of the Michel Rabagliati comics I could get my hands on. There are a lot of striking things about them, as you can probably tell from the incredible designs and rendering in the little excerpts above, but one of the things that struck me was how Rabagliati handled depicting swear words in his stories.
Sometimes he writes them out, sometimes he uses grawlixes and sometimes he'll use them both within the very same dialogue bubble.
Of the examples above, in Paul Moves Out, the first two panels actually appear consecutively in the book, so that in one panel Paul gives a verbal explosion upon seeing the rat, but then uses the f-word to describe it immediately afterward. Similarly, in Paul Has a Summer Job, the panel in which young Paul strings "Jesusgoddamnholyfuckingshit" into one, big mega-swear word is followed by the next panel on the very next page, in which a canoe flips over in the rapids, and a string of unidentifiable swear words come out.
Rabagliati seems to choose to use the grawlixes mainly when the swear words being employed don't really matter—it's quite different than when someone in a Marvel comic book says, "Go to @#$%" or "@#$% you!"—and to use the actual words when it does matter (Obviously, neither Rabagliati nor his publisher Drawn and Quarterly have any aversion to printing any and all swear words).
So the grawlixes are used more for grumbling, under-the-breath swearing, standing in for "random string of profanity" rather than to cover up or otherwise get around using swear words.
Do note that Rabagliati will choose very specific symbols to draw in his grawlix dialogue bubbles though, turning them into little pictograms. For example, the aforementioned over-turned canoe panel features a skull and crossbones with a pair of oars in for the crossed-bones, making it an oar or canoe-specific swear word.
And in the other panel featuring a grawlix and a canoe from Summer Job, Rabagliati features a little drawing of a blind man in there, indicating that the character is swearing about not being able to see.
One final note, the fourth panel from Summer Job features four drawings of religious symbols. Within the book, directly below that panel was a note reading "Host tabernacle chalice cavalry;" in the back of the book there's an explanation on "Quebecois swearing."
"In Quebec, swearwords are generally religious in nature," it reads, and translates them into the Quebecois dialect. That's why you'll see chalices almost as often as skulls.
These are really great comics, by the way.