Jump to content
Charlie K

Why do you like comics?

Recommended Posts

I have this fantasy wherein I become an accomplished novelist and screenwriter and am able to leverage this into creating my own comic book title. A friend and I even have a setting and characters that we would like to someday produce.

 

And I have some pretty concrete ideas about what I want out of comics, about what I like about comics and what I would expect out of a comic that would please me. To that end I was thinking of what "rules" I would set for myself if I ever produced comics. It got me thinking: what is it about comics that I like?

 

Before I start spouting off about my rules or expectations, I want to hear from you intelligent people: what is it about comics that you like?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very hard for me to pin that one down, actually. I'll have a think about it, and maybe get back to you...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fast bursts of fiction.

 

When I first started reading comics I didn't have much time on my hands and so my fiction intake was non-existant outside of movies. Enter comics - five minutes of fiction a go, lovely.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To that end, John, do you prefer that a lot be packed into each issue? I take it you like the serial nature of comics, the ongoing chaptered nature. Do you prefer storylines not be stretched out over several issues? Or you don't mind that so long as you get a good chunk in each issue?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Speaking personally, I really enjoy the serialised nature of comics sometimes...but other times I just feel like I'm reading a chapter at a time of a story which'll read better once it's completed. I'm happy to buy something like 100 Bullets in trade format, for example, whereas by and large Hellblazer works well month-by-month.

 

I do have reservations about the modern tendency for lengthy multi-part stories - I'm not opposed to them in principle, but in reality I find too many of them would be better served by simply being published in trade format right away. I suspect that's the way some titles are heading anyway, long-term...especially titles like Gotham Central, which sell fuck-all every month (if only DC would get their arses into gear and really push the trade release schedule on that book I'm sure they'd have a hit on their hands).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pretty much what John said - it's instant literature. A picture is woth a thousand words, so they say, and with about six pictures a page and twenty-two pages a comic, you can tell a hell of a lot of story very, very quickly.

 

It's also the perfect source for serialised fiction. Unlike TV (the other major source), there are no actors, so you don't have to worry about putting someone out of a job if you knock off their character. Just look at the way 24 choked to death after the first series - meaningless plotlines for President Palmer and Kim Bauer are vomited up onto your TV solely because their contracts say that they have to appear in every episode.

 

It also helps that since the audience is relatively tiny, comic companies can afford to do some really outlandish things and get away with it; The Invisibles and Preacher have become almost as popular as mainstream superhero titles despite featuring heroic terrorists and chickenfucking respectively - even HBO would balk at some of this stuff, and that channel is just about the last bastion of intelligent adult TV shows.

 

And you don't need cameras, lighting crew, producers or a network to make a good comic - just talent, graft and a bit of business sense.

 

Generally, I prefer having a big pile of single-issue stories since they provide a more satisfying read, but there's nothing more frustrating than reading something which really ought to be a couple of issues crammed into just twenty-two pages (except, perhaps, reading something that should be two issues spread out over six). The Losers 2-4 should be some kind of bible for writing arcs. Staring at the Wall was almost as good, save for the first issue that's mostly explaining what we should already know (but fair enough, you need to make some concessions to new readers when you're dealing with a huge arc like that). Wait, I forgot what I was talking about...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
To that end, John, do you prefer that a lot be packed into each issue?

 

Well that's another upside to comics, isn't it ? Depending on your mood you can usually find something that suits it. Sometimes I just want shit blowing up real pretty like (The Couriers, Global Frequency, Remains), others I want a little more plot and density for my money (Ex Machina, 100 Bullets).

 

Having said that, given how costly comics are now, I've pretty much had my fill of overly decompressed books - four pages out of twenty two being dedicated to one moment just doesn't cut it for me.

 

Now, more than ever for me, there are a lot of really good monthly comics out there. The likes of the Walking Dead, Ex Machina and Bloodhound all pack a lot into each issue and all are driven by that monthly cliffhanger.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Question: aside from being flexible about characters, in what other ways are comics different from TV and film? Both use pictures to tell the story. Does comics have an advantage in this regard?

 

One of my hang-ups about comics is that they often squeeze a lot of action into one or two panels and that's all we get. Whole fights are summed up by one panel of the good guy cracking the bad guy on the jaw; next panel he goes through a wall; end of fight. If I were to make comics, I'd like them to resemble more the long, drawn out fight sequences of early 80s Frank Miller-ish Japanese-influenced work. Hell, a fight could go on for pages and I'd be happy.

 

Morrison touched on this a bit in that interview we were all reading a while back.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You need to read more manga Charlie.

 

What do comics do better than films in movie ? Probably nothing but those involved with both often tout the creative freedoms they've found in comics, even at the big two they feel like they can tell stories that they wouldn't be able to at the bigger studios. Turnaround time is mentioned quite a bit too - you can come up with an idea today and within three months it could be on the shelves. Finally, unlimited budget - you can do literally anything in comics and it costs bugger all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You need to read more manga Charlie.

 

What do comics do better than films in movie ?  Probably nothing but those involved with both often tout the creative freedoms they've found in comics, even at the big two they feel like they can tell stories that they wouldn't be able to at the bigger studios.  Turnaround time is mentioned quite a bit too - you can come up with an idea today and within three months it could be on the shelves.  Finally, unlimited budget - you can do literally anything in comics and it costs bugger all.

 

I think Frank Miller once said that, actually: making comics is like making your own movies but where the budget is set by your artistic prowess.

 

I like comics because at its best it's the perfect marriage between words and pictures. Also, it can tell some stories better than any book or movie can. each genre is better at certain stories, but I think that comics is possibly the best medium for an author (if he knows how to write, draw and combine those two) to tell his own story, if it leans on imagery. As I am big on illustration, I like the way that comics use images (static images specifically) to tell stories.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the pwetty pictures :D haha everytime my mum points out that Im reading comics I retort her and balk "pfft, yeah right, i just look at the pictures"

I like the way stories can be told in a unique way, and that they can be a s crazy or as simple as they need be. I love good humour in my comic books, and good action, and it wouldnt be comics if it didnt have good art. Jacen Burrows and Jock are two names that spring to mind at the drop of a hat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I pretty much like to see people in colorful costumes kicking the shit out of each other. Sort of like wrestling. I like lots of action, violence and morbid concepts.

 

But when I need something with a little more brains I like suspense and crime like 100 Bullets or Hellblazer.

 

But why comcis? Why not read a book? I think I'll echo the notion that it's a fast fiction intake. Although I buy comics based on who's writing them as opposed to who's drawing them, I love looking at various styles of artwork. Especially the cover. I love to stand there at the rack just staring at all the covers, especially to comics I don't collect, and trying to imagine what's happening there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Question: aside from being flexible about characters, in what other ways are comics different from TV and film? Both use pictures to tell the story. Does comics have an advantage in this regard?

 

Are you secretly writing a thesis or something and getting us to do the hard work? Tut tut, that's no example for your son!

 

Seriously though, comics have an advantage over film in that they are motionless, and encourage the reader to pore over them to pick up each and every detail. Conversely, TV flickers by at 25 frames per second, so the amount of detail you can put in any one scene is minimised. That's why the Watchmen film - whilst potentially good fun - is going to be so redundant; there's no way that a film could play with all those layers of meaning successfully without becoming extremely stilted and uncomfortable to watch.

 

One of my hang-ups about comics is that they often squeeze a lot of action into one or two panels and that's all we get. Whole fights are summed up by one panel of the good guy cracking the bad guy on the jaw; next panel he goes through a wall; end of fight. If I were to make comics, I'd like them to resemble more the long, drawn out fight sequences of early 80s Frank Miller-ish Japanese-influenced work. Hell, a fight could go on for pages and I'd be happy.

 

God no, have you seen those manga comics where they have an entire issue devoted to two characters having a scrap? Not my thing. I don't even need fights in my comics anyway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I learned how to read on comics. they are my first love, and my drug of choice. They have no time constraints - you can read two pages in 2 minutes, or 10 - you can slowly admire the art, or just gulp the script. when something's unclear for you, you can just flip a few pages back, see what you think you may have missed, then go back forward (you can dot hat now with DVD, but not with cinema and TV...). Also - it provides some marvelous conceptual experiments - watchmen, Spirit, Tomorrow Stories - page layouts that are inventive, and that you can't find anywhere else (like that one in Tomorrow stories - where you have a story set in a building in 4 timelines on 4 different floors, so every page can be read in many ways, while the best experiment the movies could give you was Memento...)

 

 

so many yet untapped possibilities.

 

 

Also - what mcMahon said, esp. the bit about unlimited budget.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Comics are easier to read than anything else with words (which may have something to do with why they have unfairly been labeled idiots' fare and kid stuff). When I am in a bouncy conveyance that would give me a headache if I tried to read a book, I can still read a comic in comfort. When I am in a place that is inherently distracting where I can't read anything else, I can get through a comic or two. (They're the ideal media for laundromats.) And when I'm tired and my brain just isn't comprehending as well as it usually does, the picture + words format gets past the fatigue so I get in some escapism or pre-sleep relaxation.

 

Comics are an (if not the) ideal way to put across a political or public health message. Comics started out as political commentary in early U.S. newspapers. As much as I am a fan of modern political cartooning, those old political cartoons with their four and five subsequent balloons of paragraph-length text can't be beat for detailed communication.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like comics because they are our own modern mythology. They reflect our good sides, bad sides, our dreams, our nighmares, and our hopes. They can act as a reflection of ourselves.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Originally I liked comics because my cousin wanted to buy them. We were the best of friends in elementary and middle school, and did everything the other one did.

Then, I liked comics because they were an escape for me. I don't know what it is about comics, but I'm not alone in this sob story. "I got teased a lot in school, and didn't have many friends or outside of school interests. I had bad asthma and my grandma was over-protective. Comics were a way to escape the real world, and they helped get me through some really rough times." My best memories of grades 7-9 would be comic books.

Then, though I didn't realize it, i had become anal. I had this urge to collect things with numbers on them, and comics were my best friend. It's still part of the reason why I buy "Uncanny X-Men", along with nostalgia.

 

Later, when I discovered Vertigo comics, and non-mainstream comics (along with some of the best comic writers), I came to the conclusion that prose fiction had become stagnant. There were very few fiction books written after the 1960s that stood the "test of time", and even fewer writers. Especially when it comes to the American market. the Golden Age died with J.D. Salinger in my opinion. He was the last of the great American writers.

I love F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce (his short fiction mostly), Ernest Hemingway (some of his stuff), J.D. Salinger. Nobody writing today in the field of prose fiction can compare to their work, IMO.

 

This is where I see comic books as being so important, and why I like them so much! Comic books are the genre taking chances, doing original work, putting out the best characters and stories in our modern age. Books are not doing this very much anymore. Fitzgerald (and his generation of writers) was taking chances, doing something new and original with his stories. Since then, no one has come along and revolutionized the field of novels or short-fiction the way the "expatriate generation" did in the late20s-early40s. And, I feel that Salinger was the last one to really take that model and shape it to his own vision. I feel that most writers since then have just been writing books "by the numbers".

I believe that some day, literature professors will look back at the mid1980s-2000s and come to the conclusion that the best work being done in the field of writing was being done by Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, et al in this medium.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with pretty much all of the above comments.

 

I've always read comics - from the age of three or four I started reading the Beano, and then progressed on to the Eagle, then 2000AD and followed creators as they moved over to US comics.

 

I see comics as another form of entertainment, no more or less valid than television, cinema, theatre, books or music - just different. And variety is the spice of life.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Later, when I discovered Vertigo comics, and non-mainstream comics (along with some of the best comic writers), I came to the conclusion that prose fiction had become stagnant. There were very few fiction books written after the 1960s that stood the "test of time", and even fewer writers. Especially when it comes to the American market. the Golden Age died with J.D. Salinger in my opinion. He was the last of the great American writers.

I love F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce (his short fiction mostly), Ernest Hemingway (some of his stuff), J.D. Salinger. Nobody writing today in the field of prose fiction can compare to their work, IMO.

 

This is where I see comic books as being so important, and why I like them so much! Comic books are the genre taking chances, doing original work, putting out the best characters and stories in our modern age. Books are not doing this very much anymore. Fitzgerald (and his generation of writers) was taking chances, doing something new and original with his stories. Since then, no one has come along and revolutionized the field of novels or short-fiction the way the "expatriate generation" did in the late20s-early40s. And, I feel that Salinger was the last one to really take that model and shape it to his own vision. I feel that most writers since then have just been writing books "by the numbers".

I believe that some day, literature professors will look back at the mid1980s-2000s and come to the conclusion that the best work being done in the field of writing was being done by Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, et al in this medium.

 

Christian: you NEED to read both Palomar and Locas. they are the best written comics out there, in my mind. Palomar collects every Love & Rockets volume 1 stories by Gilbert Hernandez (except, annoyingly, those collected in the Poison River and Love & Rockets X trades - andwhat is really annoying is that the latter parts of Palomar only make sense when you've read Poison River) while Locas collects all of the L&R volume 1 stories by Jaime Hernandez. Jaime is probably the better artist (more technically skilled) but I prefer Gilbert's slightly more Magic Realism storytelling (A lot of reviews have compared Palomar to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's work). both books are pretty expensive (Palomar is a little over 500 pages in HC for 40 bucks, while Locas is 50 bucks for 700 pages in HC. both Poison River and Love & Rockets X are around 20 bucks in softcover), but both are most definitely worth it.

 

Also worth checking out are Daniel Clowes (Ghost World, David Boring, Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron) and Chris Ware, though I am NOT a fan of his stuff. just can't get into it. Also: Cages by Dave McKean, Black Hole by Charles Burns (will be collected next year).

 

While I appreciate the genius of Gaiman, Moore and Morrison, I think that it is a shame most of you guys don't seem to look beyond the bigger publishers/more mainstream fair. I realize this sounds rather pretentious, but I really do think that people who think that these three guys are the best in the comics field just haven't had the exposure to works beyond DC/Marvel/Image, except the occasional Moore/Morrison/Gaiman title not published by the big three.

 

and I haven't even begun mentioning European or Japanese comics yet... though, granted, many of the European ones are impossible to get in English language stuff. Fantagraphics has a stab at it occasionally, but on a whole, nothing but the Humanoids scifi/fantasy stuff is released in English. too bad...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
have the yanks/brits even published Corto Maltese and the like?

 

yeah, I think Kitchen Sink or some other now long defunct publisher once published "Ballad of the Salty Sea", and I know that Dark horse published Adèle Blanc-sec years ago. Some of the newer Tardi stuff (his French Revolution and Nestor Burma things) is published by smaller companies like IBooks, I think.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

still, it's hardly what you might call "published", eh? who gets to see/read it? onyl those who already know that it's something good... :(

 

...and that's why they may sometimes sound elitist... ;)

 

 

 

i voted for Starman because from Christian's poll results, i presumed there was an unwritten clause in the poll that meant this was only about mainstream comics that were moderately good...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have loved comics ever since I discovered that they could tell stories that are worthy of any literary award (whether or not they ever get them) in a format that takes one-hundredth the time to absorb and process of conventional novels. I can read brilliant stories in short amounts of time which is a HUGE factor for someone who is so up to his neck in college readings that extracurricular reading is left with pathetically small amounts of time allotted to it.

 

Another factor is my love for cinema. Comics do some of the same things - combining the visual element with the writing and this is a great thing for me. I have this instinctive deep down attraction to interesting Imagery. Just one fascinating image is something i can stare at for hours and good comics provide these for me in large doses.

 

Third and extremely important - comics provide the sort of themes/genres/characters I absolutely Love. I am a die hard sf/fantasy/horror fan and comics nowadays provide some of the best examples of genre writing. I'm not saying that books don't provide the same but its just that comics do too and do so in a more convenient format. If i had the time and money i sure as hell would read a shitload more books than i do now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've read "Love & Rockets", and I actually did not enjoy it.

The other ones you listed, I plan to read at some point.

I try to read many indy books (some foreign books also, but in America they're hard to find and in Canada you never had any idea when they were shipping!). I used to read a lot of indy comics when I had money. But, it seemed for every 5 non-mainstream comics I would buy, 4 would be dull and less than stimulating. It's really a huge chance when you start buying non-mainstream comics, as some are great reads while others are just so badly conceived. I don't have the money to take chances anymore, so I stick with what I know.

 

I put Gaiman, Morrison, and some Moore at the top of my comic writer list, and I really do not believe that there is any writer who can compare with these mens' best work.

Although, I wrote that list just to put names that most people on this Forum will know and respect, instead of putting an exhaustive list of all the writers' works who I feel will be stand out when comics finally gain respect.

 

I usually prefer comics which are grounded in real life, about real people. I'm not a fan of science fiction and Fantasy usually. If it is Fantasy, I like it to be grounded in reality. I think the greatest genre ever is "magical realism"....That stuff just captivates me whenever I read it!

 

Of course, you have to remember something else:I consider F. Scott Fitzgerald the greatest writer, ever. But, I have not read EVERY writer! That's just impossible! So, yes, there is a chance that there are better writers than Fitzgerald, Gaiman, Morrison out there; but I have not read any as of yet. And, I am very well read (in both fields).

 

Rogan:

"i voted for Starman because from Christian's poll results, i presumed there was an unwritten clause in the poll that meant this was only about mainstream comics that were moderately good..."

My poll was simply asking which was the best mainstream DC-published comic. I find DC a pretentious and dull company, which takes chances every so often (the comics I list as my favourite DC books), and usually those chances are good. In recent years, I think DC has slipped into the Marvel-mode, and the only good stuff being published by them are at their imprints.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Christian - you really oughta check out DC's "The New Frointier" by Darwyn Cooke... that is their best comic book this year...

 

And have you started reding Starman?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...