The Art of Comics

Do you like comics? I’m not talking about movies based on comics. I’m not talking about comic fandom that can only be solved Utopia style. I’m talking about the art of storytelling that only the mix of art and narrative can manage.

How Utopia deals with comic fans:

I have previously discussed how some fail to give due respect to comics and graphic novels. The TL/DR is that literary snobs don’t like non-worthy genres to be discussed. I mean, how dare someone dilute words with pictures! Yet the comic format allows for a form of storytelling that other mediums would love to have. Literally showing can condense a novel to a few dozen pages whilst retaining all of the important details, as I discussed in my review of the Parker comics. Text can be used in a way that neither movies nor novels can utilise. An example is the way authors construct their ideas into sentences, paragraphs, and chapters to transition between ideas and moments. When you add the visual artwork you can add effect and impact to those transitions, ideas, and moments. You can’t do that in other mediums. Well, unless you’re Edgar Wright merging movies and comics.

The way the art is used to tell a story is an often overlooked aspect of comics and graphic novels. This is despite the fact that the art is their most distinguishing feature. That and the impossible physiques covered in spandex.

As an example, I’d like to share a page from a comic I bought when I was 10.* On this page is a panel that has stuck with me as an example of the combination of art and narrative. Comics can do this so easily. It would make movies jealous – unless they have the CGI budget. No big illustrated fight scene. No words like ZAP or KAPOW as a blow is struck. And within the context of this larger story, the minimalism is an important narrative device.

rco010
From Batman #422 – Just Deserts (1988)

Obviously, this is just one example that lead to my formative appreciation of the comic book medium.* As much as many formative appreciations of comic books are based around the erotic art work… sorry, lost my train of thought.

For another example of the combination of art and story, Nerdwriter made a particularly good video discussing Maus and how it is constructed as a story and piece of art. Every frame, every image, the whole page, has meaning.

When it comes to discussing the literary and artistic merit of comics the discussion often never moves past the capes, spandex, and insecurity inducing bulges. Some articles have argued that if we let graphic novels into literature we have to let in everything. They must defend Fort Literature from the invading Lesser Works. But comics are far more than the superficial observations of those dismissing them.

Well, at least I think they are cool.

*Please appreciate this post. It took me ages to figure out which comic I had owned. During high school we were asked to bring in a comic book to be part of a creative writing project in English class. The class never eventuated and the comics were never returned to us. As a result I couldn’t remember the details of this comic, and since there are a lot of Batman comics, it took a lot of effort to track down.

This also opened an old wound created by that high school English class. The wound of crushed creativity. The promise of being taught creative writing that went unfulfilled for decades. But thank goodness we got to learn how to write essays about ee cummings in Lit class instead.

Advertisements

Book review: Richard Stark’s Parker by Darwyn Cooke




Richard Stark's Parker: Slayground
Richard Stark’s Parker Series by Darwyn Cooke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Please…they’ll kill me.”
“I’ll kill you…worry about me.”

A long time ago Donald Westlake (aka Richard Stark) imagined an imposing figure with large hands storming over the bridge into New York. Who was he? Why was he so pissed off? Who was he intending to kill? And so was born Parker.

Fast forward past 24 novels, 8 film adaptations, and countless impersonators and homages, and we come to this graphic novel series by Darwyn Cooke. I’m not a fan of most of the film adaptations of the Parker novels as they don’t seem to understand the material – although Payback – Straight up: The Director’s Cut was pretty close to getting it right. But Cooke did understand the material.

This series didn’t just adapt the novels to the graphic novel format, it improved upon them. The artwork especially captured the grit of the original stories. This was done without compromising on the story, remaining very faithful to the originals.

I have previously read The Hunter, The Outfit, and Slayground, and managed to get my hands on an Omnibus edition to read The Score and re-read the others. It was a treat. At the end of Slayground is a short adaptation of The Seventh, a novella I have previously read. Cooke managed to capture much of the story with just a few panels on a handful of pages. I think this short work is emblematic of the skilful artwork and storytelling Cooke has brought to these adaptations.

Unfortunately both Cooke and Westlake are not longer with us. Just as there will be no more Parker novels, there will be no more graphic novel adaptations by Cooke. It is a pity.

View all my reviews

Book Review: The Seventh by Richard Stark aka Donald Eastlake

The Seventh (Parker, #7)The Seventh by Richard Stark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Parker is not a man to be messed with. When it comes to setting the record straight, Parker does it. That is pretty much the plot and action from this great book. Also, this may be the earliest mention I have noted of gay characters in a novel. I’m sure I’ve read earlier examples, but I couldn’t bring any to mind. So despite the criticisms of Eastlake’s Parker series for misogyny, he may have actually been ahead of the times with some issues.

View all my reviews

Book Review: The Hunter by Richard Stark

I know, another book review and none of my usual wit and original material. Bear with me, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately to make up for the fact I’m back at work. Christmas holidays are always too short.

The Hunter: A Parker NovelThe Hunter: A Parker Novel by Richard Stark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like gritty, unless we are talking sandwiches. The crime noir genre really is all about gritty and Parker is the quintessential character embodying this.

Once again I’m late to the bandwagon. Clearly Australia doesn’t have enough German and Japanese influences to have clear bandwagon schedules. Or maybe it is just me, but I prefer to blame others for my failings, like many great men before me. There was a point here about being late…. Oh yes, Richard Stark – aka Donald Westlake – and his Parker character are not new entities, thus my reading of my first Parker novel is probably well overdue.

The reason I came to this series was two-fold. The first was I had recently watched the director’s cut of Mel Gibson’s Payback. The director’s cut was much more faithful to the source material than the original version, despite being made more friendly to a wider audience. The second reason was that I have also been reading a lot of Ed Brubaker’s graphic novels, such as Criminal. At the back of each edition of Criminal there are essays on crime movies and books that started and were highlights of the genre. The Parker series caught my attention for this reason.

Needless to say, I can’t argue with history, this is a good book. Actually I could argue with history, as it is generally perspective based rather than objectively measured, but that is just the science nerd in me, rearing its ugly head. In my perspective though, the Parker series is well worth getting into.

View all my reviews