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Graphic Novels for Children and Young AdultsA Collection of Critical Essays$
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Michelle Ann Abate and Gwen Athene Tarbox

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781496811677

Published to University Press of Mississippi: May 2019

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496811677.001.0001

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Looking beyond the Scenes: Spatial Storytelling and Masking in Shaun Tan’s The Arrival

Looking beyond the Scenes: Spatial Storytelling and Masking in Shaun Tan’s The Arrival

(p.154) 10 Looking beyond the Scenes: Spatial Storytelling and Masking in Shaun Tan’s The Arrival
Graphic Novels for Children and Young Adults

Christiane Buuck

Cathy Ryan

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter proposes a new application of the comics term “masked” to backgrounds rather than to characters. The traditional usage of the concept of masking involves the placement of simplistically drawn characters against “unusually realistic backgrounds,” which allows readers to mask themselves in a character and safely enter a sensually stimulating world. In contrast, the people in Shaun Tan's The Arrival are rendered in photorealistic detail. These human characters are so clearly unique that the reader is not encouraged to easily mask him or herself in them. Instead, the characters' highly realistic appearance helps readers gain purchase and a sense of the familiar in a world that is often strange, intriguing, and unfamiliar. This is a new application of the principle of comics masking, wherein Tan's graphic narrative invites “arrivees” to explore the way hyper-realistic characters are incorporated within attention-grabbing, masked spatial contexts.

Keywords:   masking, spatial storytelling, Shaun Tan, The Arrival, children's literature, young adult novels

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