Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

16 Nov 2012

(Graphic Novel Series) Sin Titulo by: Cameron Stewart

(Reaction) To Write Life Afresh by: Antonio Conejos

Sin Titulo (read here) chronicles a young man's quest through the true meaning of art; a quest which is only won when the hero faces the tormentors of his past.

The hero's quest

From the beginning Alex's journey takes on some of the forms of a quest. Throughout Sin Titulo Alex must journey through perilous circumstances in order to discover the truth which is concealed by some portal. These portals variously take the form of simple doors in abandoned houses, radio sets, computer screens and finally reality itself.

Moreover, as in classic quests, Sin Titulo features the hero overcoming the limitations he began with to rise to the challenge before him. Alex's primary limitation is his overweening self doubt.

Alex's insecurities stem from all the role models of his past who told him he was worthless and of no value. These insecurities and doubts take a physical manifestation in the form of a malignant witch, first seen by Alex as a child (notably when he hears his parents quarrelling) and again later on as an adult when he is on the run from the law. Both instances (as a child and as an adult) feature tense moments where Alex is beset by extreme peril, as if the walls of his life were collapsing in on him.

It is later revealed though that behind this malignant witch is none other than Alex himself. This neat reconciliation between tormentor (the malignant witch - Alex) and scared victim (also Alex) is the graphic novel's true cathartic point. It is at this moment that Alex realizes that the only person who can make Alex afraid is Alex himself. This realization is again expressed by Delia when she tells Alex quietly, It's not your fault.

Crucially, this cathartic moment is only achieved through Vacek's unique form of art; an art which values truth and experience. Indeed, Alex proves his quick mastery of the other reality, of his quick understanding of the art. Thus he is able to use the memory of the gun in our reality to form a gun in Sin Titulo. This is an implied manifestation of Alex's skills as an artist and worth as a person - he is able to will something true.

Through the true meaning of art

Truth is a central concern of Vacek's Sin Titulo. Without truth and experience he would not have been able to form the alternate reality at which Alex arrives. The central conceit of the graphic novel (and of Vacek's Sin Titulo) is classic Platonic though.

For Plato there was an ideal world of forms/ideas (the Eidos) of which everything in the physical world was merely derived from. Since the object in the physical world was merely a copy of the ideal form of that object in the Eidos, the copy was inferior. Now if one took a photograph of that physical object it would be a copy of a copy and thus doubly inferior to the idealized form in the Eidos. Basically for Plato the more removed something was from the Eidos (the more something was merely a copy or characterization of an idea or form rather than the form itself) the more inferior it became.

Plato's theory can be clearly seen here. (As an aside, Aristotle disagreed with Plato and argued that there could be a creative copying - mimesis - which would render a copy just as valuable and unique as the idea or form it was derived from.)

The consequences for the Platonic grounding of Sin Titulo is that necessarily Vacek's created world is just as real as our own, it is its own Eidos by itself. This is a testament to Vacek's skill as an artist that his copy of reality becomes validated as equally real. (Note Wesley's ironic taunt to Vacek right before the former kills the latter, It's been real.)

Moreover, since Vacek uses memory as the primary means to construct his reality then necessarily memories are not inaccurate reconstructions of slipshod human recollection but idealized forms themselves (ie. true parts of the Eidos) from which truth and reality can be constructed from. Sin Titulo then is a validation of human memory, an assertion that what we remember lies at the pinnacle of reality.


Similarly, memory has also formed Alex's reality. He views himself as a failure because he remembers all the doubters who told him that he was. Yet through the reforging of his memory (by reconciling himself to the memories but not being daunted by them) Alex is able to create a new reality, one where he can begin afresh.

Teasingly, the graphic novel does not indicate who it is that Alex calls in the closing pages and it is up to the reader to speculate on this new blank page of Alex's life - one that he now can create and fill unburdened by the past.


Stewart indicates in his commentary to one of the early pages of Sin Titulo that he admired, and attempted to incorporate, Lost's predilection for cliffhangers and strange events which threw the audience off its stride. By and large he does this quite well, the graphic novel is taut and suspenseful.

Overall I liked the story and didn't regret reading it but some points kept me from going over the moon with Sin Titulo:

1. Vacek is complicit in Wesley's actions yet Alex is all praises for the former and all scorn for the latter.

2. Wesley's origin is problematic as the graphic novel implies that he arose from space which is, for lack of a better word, unreal; outside reality. This is disappointing as Sin Titulo seemed to be so grounded on Platonic thought but this void (the exact word from the graphic novel) from which Wesley is inconceivable in Platonic theory.

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