Thursday, June 14, 2012

What's the Deal with Comics?

This was a blog post that should have come out a long time ago.

My friend Tobie shared this article on Google plus: What Do You REALLY Know About Comics? The Great Debate. The gist is this: Joe Mulvey attempts to spread the love of comics by asking people to try them out. He meets and interviews someone who is not a fan and who is determined not to give comics a try.  

Joe Mulvey begins by noting--

" Ok. Well, honestly, comic books and comic book properties are a pretty big resource in other types of media right now. Millions of people are willing to see the movies, watch the TV shows or play the games but they don’t seem willing to give the actual books a chance. Which is why I’m doing this..."

His respondent then says--

"I get your point and I’m sure you have your opinions on it, but if comics are this great resource for entertainment and everyones making comics into something else, why is it that I’ve heard of or seen the other things but not even heard of the books? You get my point? How good can they really be?"
I'll go to a dark place and pull out some probable reasons why people are content to watch movies based on comics and not read comics themselves. 

Have you seen the fans? 

The stereotype is that these are awkward and socially inept people who you would not want dating your sister. While some may be intelligent, good looking and personable, you know that a majority of them will never be rich or worth thinking of in terms of companionship because they're always going to be "still kids" in all the wrong ways that count. 

Their preoccupation with perceived "kids' fare"--with comics-- prevents them from thinking about (or actively meeting) real-world necessities: a steady supply of clean potable water and good food, a well maintained place to live that's never short of electricity or air conditioning, taxes, someone with whom you can share your genes and the products of that little eugenics project that we call family. As complicated as Clark Kent's life is in comics or comic book movies, the regular Joe's involvement with it ends as soon as the credits roll.  But not so for the fan who primarily reads comics. He's in the books and he never wants to leave. To read comics means to be associated with people who indulge in-, and encourage that kind of autism. 

Then there's the perceived deficiency of comics as a medium in itself. 

As the bastard child of Prose and Painting, it attempts --and fails-- to do the jobs of both. This is likely because of the technology available in the early twentieth century. 

You could have gorgeous technicolor photographs in your "serious" books and magazines, but why didn't we have that kind of quality in the funny books? Thousands of colors available for simulation in print and we're stuck with just fourWhere, beyond the alliterative appeal of names like Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Lex Luthor, were the lyrical lines that moved you, that made you swoon? Is it the fault of the non-fan if he hasn't looked hard enough for the works of Gaiman, Miller, Claremont or Nocenti?

People looking for subtlety won't find it in a medium whose colors are traditionally garish, whose characters are traditionally 2-D stereotypes in longjohns we'll never wear on our most drunken day, and whose most iconic lines often run along the lines of-- 
"Stop, Fiend! You'll never escape the claws... of Justice!"
Movies can be said to be fare for a lazy audience, and the non-fan is lazy. He wants to be shown, and pictures that don't move don't cut it. And how does one pronounce such SFX  treasures as "FRAKSHHZHHHGTTT"? So much better to see the action and hear the sound in the safety and comfort of an air-conditioned theater.

Compare the cost (on these Islands) of a compilation of Watchmen vs. the cost of watching the movie adaptation in theaters or even the cost of the DVD. 

Remember that the non-fan doesn't know there's a wealth of head-splitting background information that helps build up the story in the comics. Remember that the non-fan has work, has kids, and has neither time nor inclination to really try something "new." Given the choice between the Watchmen compilation and  the Watchmen DVD, which would he pick? If he could buy a copy of FHM with the money he'd save buying the DVD, then trust me, he'll buy the DVD. If I wasn't such a fanboy, that's exactly what I'd do.

Now all this isn't to say that comics hasn't evolved from its pulpy, four-color roots, or that you can't write good non-costumed-hero stories in them. Japan is home to a plethora of comic book titles spanning all sorts of genres from medieval and historical fantasy, to action, to romance, to sports, to science fiction, to erotica and tentacle porn. A lot of it is probably pap, but works like Ghost in the Shell  or Battle Angel Alita stand out for depth, or for the quality art. If the popularity of Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah with local adults is anything to go by, there's a lot that comics still have to offer us, and non-fans --regardless of their reasons-- are missing out.