Usually, I prefer not to use the term “sequential art” in place of comic book. To me, the term sounds pretentious, especially from an art medium that is hardly pretentious (maybe even the least pretentious art). In the case of Cinema Panopticum, the term absolutely fits. The book, by Thomas Ott, is told entirely in scratch art (images created by drawing with a knife along scratchboard). This is an onerous process, and it’s one usually associated with fine art. Thomas Ott though presents his pictures in a sequence to tell a story like a regular comic. The entire book is presented without dialogue balloons or text boxes. It’s like a silent film but without the occasional captions.
The story of Cinema Panopticum involves a young girl attending a circus but not having enough coins to go on any of the rides. In short time, she’s lost in the funhouse. Eventually, she finds a coin operated motion picture viewer (the kind where you look down into a box). There, several stories–grotesque, ironic, surreal–happen before her eyes. The films make up a majority of the book. Each are provocative.
I’d recommend this book because of the way it uses images alone to tell a story, and I also enjoy the use of scratchboard. I found this at a library, I’d recommend you try the same. Cinema Panopticum can be read–viewed–in minutes, so it might not be the best investment.
—If you’re looking for a novel to read, check out my book A Rapturous Occasion, available in paperback and as an ebook.