Tuesday, February 13, 2007

ABC and Watchmen

Man, so many thoughts here.

To start off the discussion on ABC, I found it a well composed story that was ripe with comedic timing. The panels of straight faces are a technique used in comics and graphic novels, and occasionally, TV shows, but never in textual form. Or rather, to me they are more effective in comic form. I’m not sure people really talked enough about the artistry here but the colors, vibrancy; every panel is a work of art. In our culture we are surrounded by comics and bright images, so perhaps we are desensitized. I guess perhaps as a former cartoonist myself I was really impressed by the fight scenes on pages 18 and 19 and the well crafted home of the monkey king. Illustrations always add another level, and I admire it when it is done well. Part of what made Calvin and Hobbes better than anything before it was not only the poignant analysis of life with deeply philosophical and witty commentary. Every panel, particularly the panels where we get to see Calvin’s backyard- they are visually stunning. Its details like that, to me, that move graphic novels and comics towards “higher end” art.

My criticism of the piece is that it’s not long enough for me to call it a graphic novel. The word “novel” I’ve been kicking around for the last few days and I’ve been trying to figure out why I can’t give it that label. I think partly because of length but there’s something more. I agree with Jessica in that there is a certain level of depth, a prolonged story arc that is missing here. While I found the story deep and it contained three story arcs, it seemed to me to qualify as a “graphic short story” or perhaps “graphic novella.”

Sam brought up a really interesting point about the different strains of novels and how in graphic mediums they can be more easily pronounced. While I too saw the unification coming in the end, I think that it’s an effective tool to say more than one thing about a character or a situation. Graphic novels in my opinion have really broken new ground with how they are able to depict different narratives and weave them together without jarring or confusing the reader. Frank Miller’s Sin City was renowned for its multiple stories interweaving, and this translated well to film. Two visual forms were able to better convey split narratives than many novels do. Why? While I think some authors can get around it, I think often times in text form it can be jarring or the mechanism can be clumsy to give enough time to different narrators. You almost have to introduce a third narrator or confuse the reader if you ever fused them.

Lastly, I wanted to talk about Watchmen. Watchmen is the only graphic novel winner of the Hugo award, a prestigious science fiction/fantasy award. It’s also a serialized comic book written by the talented Alan Moore. It begs very important questions that Darren began to discuss in an earlier post. Unlike Crumb’s realism, this text relies on a suspension of disbelief but at the same time demands to be taken seriously. You can put yourself in its world of super heroes but the lessons and morals will cut to the reader. In many ways, it is effective in the same way ABC is effective. The difference is the scale and the traditions they draw from. Watchmen was produced by DC comics, one of the biggest comic book companies in the world. It’s considered high art but is a critique or an examination of the “pulp” life of superheroes.

Last comment I got here is about manga and anime. In Japan, both genres are considered high art and pulp stuff. Kids and adults read it. Talented artists and award winning films are produced by the anime industries of Japan. Only recently have several high end anime films received press and recognition: "Spirited Away," for instance, won an Academy Award. Americans continually view animation, both printed and film, as the stuff of kids or somehow unprofound. Yet, in other countries, such a stigma does not exist. Thoughts?

One of my favorite comic sites: DrMcNinja.com

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