I’m up to my neck in deadlines and it’s the World Cup, and the situation is compounded by my team suddenly starting to play soccer like they haven’t in 40 years, so this’ll be snappier than usual.
I’m not sure if I agree or disagree with David Brothers, but his essay made me wonder whether the differences between “pop” comics and “lit” comics (I know, I know—let’s try to not get hung up on the terminology, though; you know what I mean) run deeper than we’d generally expect them to.
My first instinct, certainly, is to embark upon a hazy monologue on how the way storytelling works in comics makes it impossible to separate “writing” and “art” in any meaningful way, because the notion of “narrative” in comics, in the way we tend to understand comics today, is something that can’t be narrowed down to either “writing” or “art,” but clearly requires something to happen on the page for which no better or more precise term than “comics” has been established.
But is that true for, say, Amazing Spider-Man? Or for 95% of the material that comes out of the direct market?
Most of these books, it seems, could be drawn by just about anyone: The artist rarely does more than to execute other people’s ideas, to realize other people’s scripts in a fashion that doesn’t seem to leave much room for actual collaboration when it comes to the creative decisions made on a page-to-page level.
I’m not saying that artists are interchangeable.
What I’m saying is that, by the time, say, Marcos Martin, whom I have a great deal of admiration for, gets anywhere near Spider-Man, both the story and the way it’s told tend to have been largely decided by people who are not Marcos Martin.
What I’m saying is that, under these conditions, it occurs to me that “story” and “art” appear to be separated from each other in a way that inherently contradicts the way comics work as a narrative form.
In other words: Are Chris Ware and John Romita Jr. working in the same medium?
I don’t have anything to add to Wonder Woman’s much-publicized costume change this week. She just looks to me like she may have been in the Avengers in 1993.
Over at Techland, the ubiquitous Douglas Wolk has a preview of the English-language edition of the latest book by Norwegian cartoonist John Arne Sæterøy, alias Jason, that’s coming out this week, titled Werewolves of Montpellier.
At American publisher Fantagraphics, you can download another one.
Jason’s work, which combines anthropomorphic animal characters with ridiculous plots, absurd situations and fiercely mundane settings, is as good a reminder as any that it’s the how that counts, not the what.
In plot terms, Werewolves of Montpellier is about an art student/thief who dresses up as a werewolf before he goes out to break into people’s homes at night, which a society of actual werewolves is not amused about.
What that boils down to on the page, though, are scenes of people sitting next to each other at the laundromat, looking at each other in silence or talking about French actresses while playing chess—and each time, it’s utterly fascinating, and the scene draws you in almost immediately and you don’t want to stop.
Jason tells stories with comics in ways that never occur to a lot of people who make comics.