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Foreword: This post continues to my investigation into classical cinema’s influence on the graphic novel. Here is the link to my first post on this topic: Classical Cinema’s Influence on the Graphic Novel

Classical cinema’s influence on Jacques Tardi is so pervasive that it is even noticeable in the smallest scale of his narrative structure, namely his panel composition. But before we dive into Tardi’s, “Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot,” I think some additional information on flashbacks will be useful for our analysis.

A flashback is a narrative device that stops a story and transports the viewer/reader back in time, usually to provide background information about a character, or other additional information that is crucial to the advancement of the plot. And although the flashback has been used in literature for centuries, it is probably most recognizable in film, where it has come to take on distinct visual style that distinguishes it from the normal chronology of a movie. Flashbacks in film are most often signified in two ways: through the use of an alternative color scheme (i.e. monochrome in a color movie, or sepia, in a black and white film), or through the wavy or blurred edges of the frame. Flashbacks’ dream-like visual qualities are complemented by their tendency to blur time and space; they tend to seamlessly blend together disconnected, and sometimes chronologically distant events.

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It is the characteristically cinematic flashback that Jacques Tardi creatively adapts to the medium of the graphic novel in “Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot.” This can be seen in the final panel on page twenty four, in which Tardi effortlessly joins five unique and unrelated pictures—two men standing with guns, a women walking toward a man standing next to a semi-truck, a man slapping his son, a prostitute, and a moped—together into a single, larger meta-narrative: the lead up to Martin Terrier’s birth and the first sixteen years of his life. Tardi’s unusual panel is notable for practical and well as stylistic reasons. To begin with the former, Tardi is able to condense approximately seventeen years’ worth of time and countless miles of space into a single panel, allowing him to effectively provide the pertinent facts of Terrier’s backstory and childhood, without adding unnecessary length to his text. Furthermore, the unique panel composition signifies the flashback and alerts the reader to a break in the linear chronology of the story. In regard to style, Tardi successfully mimics the filmic flashback through his elimination of the gutter[1] and his fluid collage of independent images. Through the combination of these aforementioned techniques, Tardi creates a dream-like panel in which he sends the reader spinning through space and time in order to uncover Terrier’s backstory. By using this innovative and cinematic style, Tardi challenges the reader to put together the panel’s fragmented and seemingly unrelated images into a coherent and cohesive narrative, without the assistance of individual panels which help to facilitate closure. In this respect, classical cinema has not only influenced Tardi’s narrative style, but also the level of involvement required by the reader in order to understand the story.


[1] The gutter is a term that refers to the space between the borders of each panel.

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