Friday, 14 September 2012

Ahem, Sequential Art.

I LOVE comic books. Or sequential art, as it should be known. The term ‘comic’ evokes an expectation of humour, so I’m not keen on it. Many ‘comic books’ can have very grave narratives. I dabble in cartooning, I like to invent little characters and I have illustrated in this style for the Dead Good Poets Anthology. It’s a form I’m very fond of. Comics as a child started me off I suppose, the usual, Beano, Dandy etc. I would copy the characters. Then I discovered comic books, or graphic novels in some cases. One of my favourite author/illustrators is Raymond Briggs, and his book When the Wind Blows, I thoroughly enjoyed but didn’t quite understand as a child. I had previously read and loved Fungus the Bogeyman and just assumed that When the Wind Blows was for children. Well I suppose it can be read by children, I read it. But it’s an adult book with themes of Nuclear war. An old couple Hilda and Jim appear to be completely oblivious to the nuclear war, and although they follow the instructions given to them by the government it is a love story which is tragic. They are unaware that they are dying from radiation poisoning. It’s poignant, humorous in parts but tragic. It was a reflection of the fears people had in the cold war when it was published in the 80’s. I’m sure book shops never knew where to shelve it years ago, but in recent times the comic book market has boomed, partly because of online stores such as Amazon.

Maus is another book which is far from funny. It outlines the author/artist Art Spiegelman. He interviewed his father and created a book based on his father’s experiences in and after Auchwitz. It is a must read, how he handles the subject matter using the different animal characters is genius, even referring to his own use of ‘masks’ towards the end of the text. His choice of animals for different characters is also telling, the Jews are mice, and the Nazis are cats.

I adored and re-read Asterix when I find them at car boot sales. Asterix was a Gaulic warrior from the Roman era who resisted the Romans in an isolated village with the aid of their village’s home brewed magic potion. But I always preferred Obelix his massive friend who would casually carry menhirs (giant rocks) around nonchalantly and batter Romans. Plus anyone who could make eating a whole roasted wild boar look delicious in a comic book has to be a favourite.

I’m not a fan of Manga. I dislike the prescriptive nature of the illustrations. They seem to all have the same style and I’m not sure that reflects creativity much. Although there is a strict comic book style in the works of Stan Lee’s creations I understand why these are kept alike, to maintain the characters created. Manga just seems too prescriptive, and devalues it for me somehow. I’m not a fan of superhero comic books either though.

The costs of printing comic books in the past has always been prohibitive, and stopped many author/illustrators from sharing their work. But the internet has changed this. There are a huge amount of online comics, available, for free. Access to graphic novels has never been easier. But I do feel that they are considerably undervalued. The amount of talent it takes to not only write but illustrate these books is considerable. They offer another medium in which to enjoy a story, we have film, television and animation, the majority of which are taken seriously nowadays. Comic books still get a hard time though. Scott McCloud, comic book author and academic stated in his comic book text “Reinventing Comics”;

“Comics, like other minority forms, are vital to diversifying our perceptions of the world.”

I’ve had mine changed by several. They don’t have to be satirical or amusing to leave an impact. I could rattle on all day about comic books and the many that I love, but I will spare you and share this one with you. The marriage of image and words is perfect;
His Face all Red


vicky ellis said...

His Face all Red - wow. What a perfectly encapsulated story. I love that and will be sharing with Ra when she gets home - thanks :)

Great post Lindsay. I agree about the similarity of Manga drawings. Indie Sequential Art FTW!

Ashley R Lister said...

That was really good. I knew this week's theme would interest you.

Some excellent points. I have no idea what to say about this subject now :-)