comics, comics criticism, dc comics, writing

Signification and Structure in THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE

There is plenty to write about the debut issue of James Tynion IV and Álvaro Martínez Bueno’s new DC Comics Black Label series The Nice House on the Lake. I could write an essay on the way the trauma of the Covid pandemic is reflected in the issue’s discussion of the end of the world, how the pandemic has laid bear that our society is woefully unprepared for a climate crisis that would require the kind of global cooperation that was outright rejected. Or the way the isolation of the group in the Nice House on the Lake as the world goes up in flames speaks to the existential torment of a year locked inside as millions die.

But all of those things could be true of any story in any medium. And after one issue it is not fair to the story itself to discuss its literary qualities in isolation. This is only the first chapter, after all, as excellent a debut as it may be. While all of these themes and motifs are apparent, what makes The Nice House on the Lake so successful at being an unnerving and visceral experience is its mastery of the art of comic books, leveraging the unique pacing and visual storytelling of the form, its foregrounding of symbols and signs in the narrative, and the exploitation of new cultural norms and experiences.. It is an exceptionally well crafted issue that relies on the reader’s ability to parse the various sign systems and coded imagery employed to create a truly emotionally and psychologically impactful ending.

Discussing the narrative of a comic, the structure of its plotting and story or its characters, is a worthwhile effort but it is limiting—a discussion that could be had of any narrative text. To read a comic requires a unique collaborative effort between artist and reader to interpret the way the individual panel images relate to the next, how the words, a complex series of signs in their own right, relate to the pictures, and how they reflect or contrast with one another. As Scott McCloud explains in Understanding Comics, “it is [the reader’s] job to create and recreate” the perceived reality of the image moment to moment, not just the cartoonist’s. To do this, comics rely on visual conventions and codes of storytelling readers have inculcated by reading and watching stories.

It’s worth noting here that before moving forward you should read the actual issue. In addition to the use of spoilers inherent in this analysis, a familiarity with the characters and events will be helpful. If you didn’t read the issue I dont think you’ll be lost, but it will help. Fair warning though, the issue is creepy! For those that didn’t read, here’s a brief overview: a mysterious man named Walter has invited a group of friends to his Nice House on the Lake for the summer, nominally to shake off the isolation of the pandemic. A few months ago, Walter had been conversing with Ryan, this issue’s lead, about the end of the world. The first night at the house, the house guests’ revelry is stopped by the horrific news that the rest of the world had gone up in flames. And Walter is somehow connected, having selected them to be the only survivors.

Aside from the codes of genre and medium that we’ll touch on later, signs and symbols are at the heart of the narrative of The Nice House on the Lake. Walter, one of the issue’s key characters, assigns each of his guests a unique codename and symbol to identify and differentiate them from one another. He has reduced his friends into archetypes. They cease being fully formed individuals but become signifiers of ideas for Walter, worthy of being saved because of the value he perceives in them, as absorbed through his experience in American culture.

The words signs, symbols and codes here I use in the sense of semiotics, the study of signs and sign systems in language and culture. While the use of this term might call to mind specific items —traffic signs, for example— a sign in semiotic terms refers to any meaningful object, word, or image. A sign, at its most basic level, is made of two key components: the signifier, the visual or auditory representation, and the signified, that which the signifier is meant to represent—the signified can be a specific object or a broader concept.

This approach assumes that the meaning of any word or image is neither “natural,” nor “inevitable,” rather any meaning we grant a specific symbol or sign (be it a letter or a drawn pictorial image) is a social construct (Casey et. al). According to critic Roland Barthes, narratives are created through the juxtaposition of signs to create a meaning. By placing various signs in sequence, a comic book directs a reader toward a specific shared meaning.

As a mix of visual imagery, comics are particularly complex texts that employ multiple levels of signification both simultaneously and in succession. Tynion and Martínez Bueno’s comic also draws on intertextual depictions of non-comic mediums including social media and email that seeks a level of representation that is a step closer to the our lived reality—though that, too, is an ongoing relationship with various signatory systems. By drawing on these “real world” images, the creators bridge the gap between text and experience toward realism. The Nice House on the Lake exploits the various codes we have absorbed as members of a shared culture, both in a general geographic sense but also as a culture of comic book readers.

By foregrounding signs and symbols in the narrative, Tynion explicitly draws our attention to the ones we take for granted. The creators painstakingly draw the reader into a familiar but abstracted world of signification in order to create an emotional connection with the characters, thus making the issue’s final moments feel even more powerful, because it has exploited our associations and expectations.

The issue cover itself presents a series of conflicting signs—the title, THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE in stark white over a dark background, the house faded into the dying light amid an eery green dark. In the foreground, a woman’s eyes stare at the reader beneath a lake of bones. But we only know this dark blotch is a lake because of the signifier “LAKE” above, pointing to the concept of a lake. The woman is surrounded by skeletons, which in and of themselves have no signatory value beyond what they are—the interior of a human being. But we culturally identify skeletons with horror, death, and decay. By foregrounding these symbols of death, a particular kind of decaying slow death, the cover immediately undermines the title and our concept of a “Nice House” and a “Lake,” each of which carry ideas and perceptions of an idyllic escape.

This is, of course, the point. The Nice House on the Lake becomes a place not of tranquility but an isolating prison. At the very outset Tynion and Martínez Bueno have set expectations that things are not what they seem; what appears unassuming on its face can undermine the perception of its signifiers or hold multitudes beyond its signatory.

The first image in the interior of the issue is of Ryan, THE ARTIST. She is facing forward, wrapping what is apparently a bandage around her face. It appears to be raining, we perceive from the symbolic white streaks that break across the rest of the art. In contrast, it also appears that the background is on fire—Communicated by Jordie Bellaire’s color choices which have tinged the background in orange and yellow, with only a hint of the shape of the trees amid the colored strokes. We can make these assumptions because of the associations of other artwork we’ve seen and the conventions of color theory and the ideas we have psychologically absorbed about “warm” and “cool” colors. It is unsettling, then, the perception of rain and flames simultaneously.

We also perceive from the first panel that Ryan (not yet here named) is a central character because she is the first figure we see in the entire story. Her blue hair and pink shoes make her distinctive in front of the burning background. She is also central in the panel that takes up nearly half the first page, framed by a symmetrical but unfamiliar and incomprehensible sculpture—one of many signs in this issue for which we as readers have no prior perception. These recurring sculptures are, thus, unconventional, or not created by shared social and cultural conventions. The words you are reading now are, on the other hand, conventional signs. We read words because we know they represent specific sounds, or ideas of sounds. The unfamiliar symbol is another unnerving component in this initial page.

Ryan continues from here, narrating to someone (us?) how she got to where she is. She begins with how she met him, Walter. From the start, Walter is deeply coded with signifiers that place him outside of the world, apart from the rest. These things hint that something is off about him. The language Ryan uses here to describe him are that of an outsider. He was “listening,” not speaking. He had a look of “mischief.”

Never once do we see Walter’s eyes, just a glowing light behind the glasses. By not granting us permission to meet his gaze, we are blocked from fully understanding his expression. Hidden eyes are a convention of comics and other visual art—we have been trained by visual narratives to view a character whose eyes we cannot see as untrustworthy. “The eyes are the window to the soul,” the saying goes.

We are physically introduced to Walter in a single panel of a two-page spread in which he is offset from the rest of the action, half in shadow. By making his first appearance a tight image of him alone despite the crowds he is both granted significance on the page and set apart from everything else. 

Here, the conventionality of the way we as readers take in the signs of language, how we physically read those signs, come into play in combination with the seemingly more direct images that are drawn on the page. We read left-to-right and down, our eyes moving back and forth across the page in a Z formation from the top left corner to the bottom right. This puts Walter’s hidden face as both the first thing we see on this spread and the last. In a comic book then, which carries various levels of signification, that places a particular emphasis on what we naturally notice first at a glance. 

In his writing about television, scholar John Fisk gives us some helpful language in understanding how encoding informs our perception of visual narratives that can also be applied to comics. In Television Culture (1987) he explains that even our perception of reality is culturally encoded. Specific ways of dressing impact how we perceive an individual. We grant a sense of intimacy to a close up, which Martínez Bueno chooses here to for both Ryan and Walter. We are invited into the privacy and intimacy of their shared conversation. The choices of how he depicts them grant both characters a primacy on the page. They stand out from the background both through Martínez Bueno framing of the panels and Jordie Bellaire’s color choices. Walter’s importance is emphasized in his absence of color and the haunting lack of eyes. The close ups grant intimacy, but that intimacy is undermined when Martínez Bueno does not let us see all of his features. Walter is immediately unnerving, unlike Ryan who welcomed us on the first page with a direct stare.

In the long, just off-center panel on this page, Walter and Ryan discuss how the world will end. It’s a complex panel that expects readers to understand intuitively how to perceive its mixture of imagery. Scott McCloud explains comic panels as moving both through time and space. That is, a panel might display only a single action but span across moments, as represented by the signification of language in the word balloons. As we read left-to-right we complete the signified actions, and perceive time moving forward across the page as new words are spoken, even as the image itself stands still.

That linear motion in time is abstracted further in this image as the imagined scenario, the end of the world, gradually overtakes the “reality” of the bar and its crowd, partially represented by the gradual shift in the colors. Of course, the “real” world of the bar is not the real world, but a representation of the real world made up of iconic figures who represent people, even further removed from reality by nature of this being a flashback as told to us by the character on the prior page. But we accept that the representational imagery of the end of the world is a depiction of a fictionalized event that Ryan is describing. Martínez Bueno illustrates her words, reframing the signs of the letter forms into more straightforward visual representations.

On its own, it is a masterful use of comics as a signifying and narrative medium.

The narrative moves back to Ryan in the burning forest. Now she is wearing a mask, a contemporary item that has a level of cultural significance that did not exist even in the recent past. We associate these face coverings with an air unsafe to breathe. Something is deeply wrong here. As she moves up the stairs the scene pulls back to show more of the unfamiliar sculptures first glimpsed in the opening panel. In visual storytelling, a movement up and to the side represents a difficult journey, as we naturally perceive it as moving against gravity, and, in comics, against our natural eye movement. All of these heavily coded elements combine to establish a word that is unsafe and isolating. Ryan shrinks into the background (which we perceive as the background because we understand how to parse the shrinking lines on the page as depth), alone in an alienating and burning world where the air is unsafe to breathe.

It is worth pausing and elaborating a bit on the different forms signs can take as the use of them becomes increasingly foregrounded as the issue proceeds.

C.S. Peirce, philosopher and pioneer of semiotics, has provided three broad categories of signification. Comics are a unique melding of these different kinds of symbols, further complicated in The Nice House on the Lake by the inclusion of representational graphic design.

1: The icon—This functions as a sign by means of an “inherent similarity.” In the context of a comic, this would be the physical drawings of characters and objects. These are a rather straightforward kind of sign—the image of a person is understood to be a person.

2: An index—This kind of sign bears a natural relation of cause and/or effect to what it signifies. We see smoke, we know this means there is fire. In comics, an artist can show an action in one panel and its impact in the following panel. As readers, we examine these images and complete the story, despite it not being pictured.

3: The symbol, or “sign proper”– in this form of sign, the relationship between the signifying item and what it signifies is not natural, but purely one of social convention. The most complex of these kinds of signs is language itself (Abrams & Harpham, 2012).

The Nice House on the Lake leverages all of these frameworks in various and complex ways. 

The next page takes a hard shift away from characters to a page that seeks to capture a level of verisimilitude to draws reader into the “real world.” We understand that this is a computer screen. In fact, it seems to be a Mac specifically, which hints at Ryan’s artistic nature, as Macs carry a reputation as the device of choice for artists.

The narrative then jumps back in time to Ryan’s arrival at the Nice House following her invitation. Here, again, she wears a mask, but this one a more familiar N-95. It is very explicitly the present—summer 2021. We know this both because of the preceding page’s dates but also because of the visuals. The mask represents the Covid pandemic and all the complex emotional associations that go with it. It is not just the present, it is the “real” present. The presence of the mask acts as an index— we know the world that Ryan is living in is already isolating and scary and broken. We know what the mask represents because it is a new sign we have become familiar with in our day-to-day, full of a host of cultural discourses surrounding it and imbuing it with meaning and controversy. 

Ryan, by wearing a mask at all, is immediately presenting characteristics that paint her as someone with some level of caution and consideration of others. 

We also see the first of the icons/symbols Walter assigns to his guests. This one a painter’s palette. It distills Ryan down to an archetype. The word-sign of ARTIST represents a concept, a host of perceptions we have of the kind of person who becomes an artist. Empathy, perhaps a strangeness, or a sophistication or pretension. But these are all things we project onto the single sign ARTIST, and do not actually tell us anything about the individual person. This goes for the other people we meet at the Nice House. They are each presented with an icon and a word-sign given to them by a single entity, each with a host of ideas that may or may not reflect the truth of the signified individual. But, still, we cannot help but reduce the world to these kinds of signs to understand it. Our entire encounter with the world or a text is defined by the various discourses that have given us words and metaphors to help us make sense of what we perceive.

Further, these characters are all fictional on their own, not real people and so any meaning we grant these lines and colors and letters comes from us. By giving each of the characters a codename, Tynion invites us to bring to these characters any meanings or associations we have with those words.

After Ryan’s introduction the creators bring our attention to the abstracted symbolic sculptures. This is the first in-text mention of the unfamiliar sculpture—presented equally unfamiliar to the characters within the narrative. Ryan posits her own, unmotivated, meaning in this new symbol. It looks “sad” to her. But on its own it has no meaning, only what the viewer places on it. The only reason the sculpture is notable is because the character in front of us gives it meaning. So, we now must consider this an important element of the textual world in some way because it was pointed out. Like the symbols of the Artist and the Writer, it becomes one of many physical signs that represent—-something—within the actual world of the work. But there is no conventionality we understand.

Tynion also casually introduces another sign of our current culture that, only very recently would have had no meaning on its own—a thermal temperature screening device. It points us back toward the real world and out of the signified artificiality of the story and breaks down the barrier between text and reality. These hints of realism, mediating the fictional signifiers with those of our lived experience, are critical to the impact of the issue’s ending.

As the characters enter the house they are overwhelmed by its beauty. Both their reaction and the choices for the physical structure and its furnishings give us a host of visuals to understand that this is a place of opulence and splendor. It is not only idyllic, it is extravagant. It conveys a kind of wealth and comfort that is in and of itself aspirational. Ryan’s blue hair and orange jacket, her very identity as THE ARTIST, are incongruous with the high class trappings that Martínez Bueno has given the setting. She does not really belong in a place like this.

The next chunk of the issue serves to introduce the remaining house guests and give a tour of the extravagant complex. Throughout the issue, but particularly as he introduces all of these moving pieces, Martínez Bueno’s panel layouts are particularly intentional. They do not conform to a “standard” grid, but interlock like a puzzle. The people are putting together the pieces of their stay here in the Nice House, just as the readers are cobbling together the various new characters they are being introduced to and the many signs and symbols of the page.

These panels lack traditional black borders, instead the art naturally

fades into the negative “gutter” space. These gutters are the empty spaces that convey the distinction of events and time between panels. The choice to border the panels with the more organic loose brush strokes as opposed to a rigid black line accentuates the art, drawing attention to the construction of the image-sign itself. As John Updike notes, “it is not an aesthetic misstep to make the viewer aware of the paint and the painter’s hand; such an empathetic awareness lies at the heart of aesthetic appreciation.”

Jordie Bellaire’s colors present an idyllic twilight, a mix of cool blues and warm oranges that we associate with a summer evening. This is a relaxing moment in time, a beauty that is beyond expressing in words,

In the final panel on the page above, the Acupuncturist looks dead ahead, asking “are you the artist?” Within the text itself the context of Ryan’s presence in the background of the previous panel makes it clear he is speaking to her. But the eyes (behind glasses, notably able to be seen unlike Walter earlier in the book), are looking directly at the reader. The you is bolded, which we understand to mean an emphasis on that particular word. Is Tynion speaking here to the reader, inviting them to partake in the construction of the work?

Once all of the other guests have been introduced, Walter returns to the narrative. He looks more normal here, a more straightforward “icon” of a human but he is still unreal and set apart from the rest of the cast. His reveal has no solid background, instead there are ethereal orange and blue paint strokes. His very presence breaks down the realism and more direct iconography of the previous pages and thrusts the issue back into something otherworldly. In this way Martínez Bueno shuffles us back and forth between different levels of conception of the world, constantly playing with our interpretation of  the images before us.

The evening goes on and the guests get more comfortable. Here, on a two page spread, which comic readers associate with a level of importance, we see a kind of montage of events. 

This is a party that is happening over a long period of time. The tone is jovial and comfortable, as highlighted by the blue lighting. But it is a bit of an otherworldly blur, as a fun night with friends with plenty of beer might be. AndWorld Design’s lettering here gives us word balloons that are a translucent blue as opposed to the normally white balloons. As a result these conversations fade into the art and Bellaire’s colors. We can make out only bits and pieces of stray words, the rest of the balloons are meaningless squiggles. But we can complete the sounds here and figure out what it means—It is a representation of the ambient noise and wallow of a crowd, where there is so much noise you cannot make out any one thing. 

The haziness of a drunken night comes across in the various visual cues utilized here in combination.

Martínez Bueno captures this feeling of a long passage of time in a series of static images by utilizing an abundance of panels across the two pages—15 in all. The staccato nature of the imagery gives it a disjointed sensation where events seem to overlap. Critic Northrop Frye wrote that “some arts move in time, like music, others are presented in space, like painting,” and goes on to say that “literature seems to be intermediate between music and painting : its words form rhythms which approach a musical sequence of sounds at one of its boundaries, and form patterns which approach the hieroglyphic or pictorial image at the other.” 

And as we read from McCloud, cocommunicate time through the use of space. By constructing this relaxed evening with interlocking panels, the artist manages to create a disjointed feeling of a long drunken evening. He also helps to carry the story of the characters forward by his choices of how he depicts their body language and other small details.

Ryan is isolated—either alone in her own panels  or, in the largest panel of the spread, she is off alone in a strangely shaped corner, nearly touching herself in the panel adjacent. She is not fully a part of this group, which is further emphasized as the reader’s eyes travel to the right and she sips her beer. 

In the bottom row of panels she gradually walks further away. Her movements are broken into smaller panels, increasingly tighter and tighter on her, with her face and then eyes slowly becoming the focus. The way these images sit in sequence and travel both in space and time left to right, as juxtaposed against the rest of the spread above them on the page, emphasizes that she is drawing away from an ongoing series of events with the rest of the group.

But the party stops in those final 4 panels at the bottom right—the background fades away, first into abstract lines of color, and then all that is left is her eyes, opened wide in shock.

After the page turn, the party disappears completely and the design work once again comes to the fore. The reader is pulled into another familiar “real world” signifier. Ryan experiences the world falling apart in horror and pain as increasingly frantic reports of the events in the broader world unfold in a familiar kind of discourse we take for granted on a daily basis. The real world is reduced to a phone screen, but we understand this to mean that the events are outside of this Nice House on the Lake. 

It is both real and unreal. Real because we can see this interface and understand it represents events in the outside world and experience of other “real” people. It is unreal, on a textual level, because Ryan is only perceiving it through her phone, and so it is only a concept of the horror unfolding.

By drawing on these realistic images and symbols, Tynion and the art team (including AndWorld Design) exploit our familiarity with television and our phones.  Here the story veers into realism, which is itself a set of “codes and conventions” that a visual medium uses to try and represent a level of verisimilitude that we understand or have experienced. But depicting realism requires a complex level of conventions and codes itself. To capture those conventions, the creative team employs the interface of a Twitter feed as well as videos, famous names, and network TV logos to create the illusion of reality.

After absorbing the horror, Ryan interrupts the party, her word balloon an exclamation at the center of the panel, all other figures looking at her. The left-to-right movement of the eye communicates how we conceive the series of events this single image is sharing with us through the signatories of body language and color. Ryan steps toward the group. She is still in the blue haze, engulfed in the din of noise and revelry of the prior page, but her voice, represented visually in the pointed word balloon, breaks through and disturbs everyone.

The world is bathed in the calm, unreal blue, except where Walter stands, which is red and orange, like the flames engulfing the outside world. Bellaire’s colors connect him to the events.

Ryan hands the phone off to another guest, “it’s not real, is it?” someone asks. The signifiers on the screen point to a meaning—but without the direct experience of those events, that meaning remains only conceptual. It might be “realism,” but it is a mediated representation, not the experience itself.

The digital intermediary interferes with fully accepting the truth. Images can be falsified, text does not truly mean anything in that it can represent false things, as it does in the fictional story we are taking in.

In the last few following pages, the warmth in which Bellaire had earlier  engulfed the Nice House is gone. The colors are desaturated to pale blues, white and gray. The world has been burned away, and the only colors that remain are the embers of clouded, smoke covered sky. 

The clinical signs and icon of the Department of State upon the TV are stark, a different kind of textual symbol than the world balloons and even the familiar digital interfaces of Twitter and email. They are official, both because of the government seal but also the choice of typeface and the direct language. The scattered and frantic symbols of the twitter posts are bolstered by the official weight of the stark official government message.

In these final pages the art begins to lose its structure, becoming less as an “icon,” as defined by Peirce. The imagery becomes more abstract and removed from reality. The effort to invoke a sense of realism is stripped away as the characters’ world falls apart into senseless violence and horror.

Ryan remembers “the conversation” she had with Walter about the end of the world at the start of the issue. We as readers now know what “The Conversation” that is now over means. Walter has picked how the world will end. Ryan pulls the various signs from her memory and begins to put together the meaning. Walter’s smiles broadens and he is once again engulfed in shadow, the only light from behind his eyeless glasses. 

As he begins to explain what is happening, Walter becomes further abstracted. Throughout the issue he has been the only figure who has been presented as not fully iconic representation. Between the blank space where his eyes should be and the use of shadows, or the way the background distorts around him, he has never been a “pure” representation of a human figure, but something more complex. This has made him a distinctively motivated symbol amid a host of characters who are unmotivated. He has been constructed to be purposefully delivering some kind of message, while the other characters serve as mere representations of a human figure.

The structure of his icon falls apart as the issue comes to its end. Here the art relies more on Martínez Bueno’s inks and brush strokes to draw attention to its existence as art. The imagery is constructed. Walter is false. He is not human, and the humanity falls away.

When Norah, THE WRITER, attacks him, the weapon passes through him—revealing an ethereal skull. A wisp of smoke incorporated into the symbol of a human being, but broken apart. 

His physical form is proven to be only a symbol, like the symbol he has given his “friends.” But we do not know what it means. We have hints here—It is disturbing and grotesque. A skull without body.

He bids his friends farewell and he slowly fades, the last image of him his disembodied smile. An intertextual allusion, most likely, to the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. It is a final sign that continues to question Walter and his motivations. Clearly he is involved, but how much? Did he do this horrible thing, or was the act of saving his friends the best he could offer humanity? The Cheshire Cat is mischievous, (a word Ryan uses to describe Walter) yes, but he is not altogether inherently harmful or antagonistic to Alice. 

“I love you all” are his final words in the issue. But they are words that signal a concept that is in opposition to the events and imagery around it. Like the cover image and the issue title, they are signs in opposition. 

As Walter fades, readers and the characters are left with an emptiness and isolation. 

The last four panels move out from Ryan’s shocked face, to the group, to the window, to the Nice House on the Lake itself. It is small, surrounded by the blank white space of the page. The world is gone, all that is left is this single house, these frightened people.

A world of meaning and culture and things that they understood and perceived are no more. There are no signatories left, only the meaningless horror that they have witnessed, the blank space surrounding the last remnants of culture in this single house, small and shrinking in a void. 

In The Nice House on the Lake, Tynion and Martínez Bueno have crafted a complex and engrossing work of visual storytelling that employs a host of different signs and symbols to craft a world that is at once alarmingly familiar and hauntingly ethereal. By leveraging our familiarity with specific elements of our present cultural context, they have elevated the emotional impact of the issue’s final moments. The finale was not a surprise twist, but was built to gradually as a kind of inevitability; various imagery and signs throughout the issue hinted that things in this world are off in some way. By drawing the audience in with these expectations and grounding the story in realistic imagery, the inevitable disruption of that realism is heightened, particularly as the artificiality of these illustrated signs becomes more prominent in the final moments of the book.

Walter’s use of symbols and categorization of his house guests emphasizes our own human need to categorize our experiences and further isolate us from one another. Walter commodifies his friends into “ideas,” keeping them safe and isolated in the last house in the world, but diminishing their humanity in the process.

While the overall narrative here could be duplicated in other media, the intense discourse between reader and the text makes this a story that is uniquely powerful as a comic book due to its nature as a complex sign system.

Right up to its final image of the house floating alone in the void, The Nice House on the Lake is a testament to the narrative power of comics to create powerful imagery, to communicate intense emotion, and craft meaning for the individual reader that is unlike any other visual artform.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE is published by DC Comics and created by James Tynion IV and Álvaro Martínez Bueno. Issue 1 is now available through your local comic book shop or at digital retailers.

Works Cited:

Abrams, M.H. and Harpham, G. (2012) A Glossary of Literary Terms, Boston, MA: Wadsworth.

Barthes, Roland The Death of the Author, collected in The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2001), Leitch, Vincent, ed., New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Casey, Bernadette; Casey, Neil; Calvert, Ben; French, Liam and Lewis, Justin (2008) Television Studies: The Key Concepts 2nd Ed., London and New York: Routledge.

Frye, Northrop (1957) The Anatomy of Criticism, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 

Fiske, J. (1987) Television Culture, London and New York: Routledge.

McCloud, Scott (1993) Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, New York: Harper Collins.

Updike, John (2012) Always Looking: Essays on Art, New York: Knopf.

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