MadInkBeard by DerikBadman

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Invisible Style

With all due respect to Nadel (and to Santoro himself, who chose the pseudonym in the first place), I don’t find Storeyville particularly Sirkian. Throughout his career, Douglas Sirk followed dominant Hollywood practices. His films stick close to classical storytelling and to what film scholar David Bordwell calls invisible style, the use of such formal properties as camera movements, editing, and setting to transmit the plot without calling attention to themselves. Invisible style is easiest to define by counter-example: the wild, hand-held camera movements in The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Cloverfield (2007) are not examples of invisible style.


This technique subverts a formal trope that most comics fans take for granted: readability. When Art Spiegelman says that it’s harder to “not read Bushmiller’s Nancy than it is to read it,” he points to the general expectation among readers that a comic should be easy to read, that its pictures (and combination of pictures and words) should be immediately “legible” to us, that form should seamlessly, effortlessly and invisibly convey the narrative. It’s harder to read Storeyville than not, however, because Santoro doesn’t really care about staying on model; he’s more interested in expanding the vocabulary of comics by using marks, colors and lines as non-narrative elements of design and emotional expression.

Fischer, Craig. “Storeyville (Craig Replies).” Thought Balloonists 12 March 2008.

I’ve been reading a lot of Bordwell, but I haven’t come across this “invisible style” concept yet. It’s a useful term. That type of style can be the hardest to discuss, because it is so unnoticeable.