Redefining time in Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Signal to Noise

Authors: Round, J.

Conference: Timeframes - The 3rd Dundee Comics Conference

Dates: 28 June 2009


“The world is always ending, for someone.”

Signal to Noise tells the story of a dying filmmaker (the Director) who nonetheless continues to work on his final film, despite knowing he will never finish it. Titled Apocatastasis, this film is set in the final hours of 999AD and tells of a group of villagers who journey to the top of a nearby mountain to await the end of the world. This paper initially identifies the tropes of the apocalypse used (both visual and textual, and which include: clock, sundial, bible, skeleton and so forth) before proceeding to deconstruct the clock-as-symbol. Traditionally associated with the passing of time, in Signal to Noise this motif is redefined as cyclical and further used to invoke the notion of the apocryphal (as questionable/counterfeit). The paper then examines the effects of such a redefinition, specifically considering the denial of reality that results as the comic parallels the Director’s life with his movie: inverting the macrocosm (the end of the world) and the microcosm (the end of a single life) in so doing. In redefining the end of the world as cyclical, personal, and (in many senses) apocryphal, Signal to Noise rewrites the notion of the apocalypse in postmodern terms. This paper concludes by exploring the role of the comic book medium in achieving the same, focusing on: - the interplay between word and image - the effect of the comic’s individuality of style (collages and abstract art; together with poetry and stream-of-consciousness language) - the role of the hyperreal/alternate world created by the visuality of comics (where everything is overtly stylised/false) - the notion of non-linear time as epitomised by the comic book page.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Julia Round