It’s time to look at some comic books.
The best discussion about comic books these days is happening at the following locations:
Aaron Diaz’ Dresden Codak blog
David Brothers and friends’ 4th Letter blog
Brandon Graham’s Royalboiler blog
I am very pleased with the level of analysis and detailed focus on the comics medium, coming from these persons and groups. David Brothers’ in-depth studies of “7 Artists,” “6 Writers,” “5 Series,” etc have opened my eyes on some great work being published right now, in the broad daylight of the comics industry. Forward one of Brothers’ articles to a friend; his lengthy but fascinating critiques can serve as a wake-up call about what’s going on in these funnybook pages. Aaron Diaz’ new Tumblr blog attacks from another direction. Sitting in his artist’s chair, Diaz posts his precise opinions of what works in comics and why; illustrating with examples of his strip as well as other cartoonists. The post on focal points alone makes this blog one to subscribe to.
I’ve been writing and drawing. It can be hard to divide one’s attention between the necessary tasks (going to a day job) and the desired tasks (making comics). My reading material/fuel has changed considerably over the past few months but the objective remains the same. These mid-week/hump-day breaks to pick up comic books have invigorated my brain cells in a way that hasn’t happened in a long time. All in all, it’s a change.
Now Wednesdays are like having a tiny weekend right in the middle of my work week. I strongly prefer to get at least a couple of new comic issues each shipping day because it calms my screaming mind. Perhaps it’s a simple consumer’s endorphin release. Whatever it is, it feels good to read new stuff so I do.
The best thing is talking to other people who have read the same comic and are bursting at the seams to talk about it! I miss seeing that enthusiasm in comics fans. Indie comics dudes tend to be more than happy to read and quietly absorb a work. I want to hear noise, chatter, discussion, arguments, LIFE!
The serial nature of these comics is the best part. Slightly before I took the full plunge back into issue-buying, I was working on ideas for a serial comic of my own. What I quickly realized is that there’s a certain joy to reading a piece of a story at a time. The audience reads an issue or chapter, if you will, and even if they breeze through it relatively quickly, there is this period of re-reading that happens. I certainly did this when I was a kid. Reading and re-reading the issue/chapter over and over until the next issue comes out. This repetition puts readers very emotionally close to the material. Hardcore fans’ notorious attention to detail and needlepoint memories can easily be attributed to this system of close re-reading of material that they only have incremental access to.
I have found that I am far less likely (though this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule) to revisit the pages of a book-format comic than I am with a series of issues. In fact, for the most part, the books that are collections of issues are the primary exceptions to this tendency of mine. But as I said, this is not at all a “rule,” nor should it be looked at as evidence for any solid conclusion.
Writing it all down.
As I’ve said before, one of my concerns with the comics medium is a devaluation of the writing aspect. It seems to me that in mainstream comics, the “writer” tends to be working at the orders of the editorial department of a given company. Even in this era of superstar writers, this appears to be the case. In independent and literary comics, we have the problem of cartoonists who’ve trained to draw but hardly gave writing a second thought. This isn’t an indictment of anybody in particular and I’m not saying this even applies to “all” or “most.” I just sense problems.
Speaking of writing, I like jokes.
Character-driven jokes, plot-driven jokes, random “filler” jokes, cheap jokes, cruel jokes, puns, I wish I could laugh with more comic books. Or at least crack a smile! Obviously, I don’t expect EVERY comic to have a funny bone. Some comics are downright life-and-death. But for the comics that feature extended narratives, long-standing characters, you’d think somebody would be able to say or do something worthy of a rimshot.
All images are taken from (C) Marvel Comics, (C) DC Comics, (C) Wildstorm Entertainment. Creative people involved were Zeb Wells + Chris Bachalo, Brian Michael Bendis + John Romita Jr., Brian Wood + Rebekah Isaacs, Peter Milliagan + Giuseppe Camuncoli/Stefano Landini, Daniel Way + Carlo Barberi, Peter David + Sebastian Fiumara.