As I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently designing a series of experiments that will use Peanuts strips for stimuli (kindly donated by Fantagraphics). Lately, I’ve been doing the arduous process of scanning them in and coding them.
Since I’m only trying to look at how sequences of images create meaning, and because the inclusion of text changes things, I’ve been trying to only use silent strips. Luckily, Peanuts has a lot of those. Additionally, I’ve also been using strips that have minimal text or could be (gasp!) manipulated to have no text.
I’ve been taking these strips and deleting the text, then touching up the mouths, etc. so that they work alright silently. It’s been quite fun to make sure it all looks like Schulz’s style. On the one hand I keep thinking “this is so cool!” and on the other I can’t help but think, “Blasphemy!” for defiling the originals.
Most of the time I cut and paste from one panel to another, like putting a frown over an open mouth. In most cases, not much at all is lost in the meaning. It’s usually like erasing a word balloon saying “Good Grief!” to just Charlie Brown frowning. The meaning (and humor) stays pretty much the same. I think this is actually a testament to how great Schulz’s visual humor was, that I could go in and muck with things, yet the original meanings still come through.
Now… once I start swapping panels around or creating new strips out of panels from a variety of strips, then that might be another story…
(Amusingly, my father actually asked me if there were ethical issues with doing that… my advisor just thought it was pretty amusing. I’d have to think there are less ethical issues involved with retouching comic strips than experimenting on animals like the lab next door, but if I start seeing protests out front I’ll reconsider).
Since your goal is to better understand the language comics, I don’t find that unethical at all. Some folks used to think cutting open a cadavre for study was unethical. 🙂