02 May 2009

Mr. Bookstore Guy Can Bite Me (or... Why I Love Comics)

There's an annoying trend in bookstores, a red-headed stepchild situation, and it was never summed up better for me than when an obviously bitter guy trapped in a dead-end job while he pursues his dream of being the next Jean-Luc Goddard said to a trainee (right in front of me) "yeah, that's where we put the comics, but who cares, no one goes there except the freaks."

Then, my bitter friend, I am most certainly a freak. A card-carrying, anti-literati, book reading liberal.

I adore comic books. Though I choose to express myself with the language of film, the language of comic books is one that I deeply respect and can't get enough of. Maybe it's because I'm a flick-maker that I love them so much. Comic book writers aren't constrained by budget concerns. If they want to blow up a planet and send an infant to earth in a homemade rocket ship, they can (as long, of course, as the artist can draw it).

My favorite type of comic, like a film, a novel, a TV series, is that the comic book produced is unique to the artform and cannot be reproduced in another medium in its current form. The process of adaptation is really translation - translating from the forms and structures of one medium into another, and making something likewise untranslatable.

Filmmakers are under the misconception that a comic book panel is just like a film storyboard. Here's where they fail miserably in understanding the art form - they view the comic book as incomplete in comparison to their art form. Sometimes they disguise that as reverence - Rodriguez did it in Sin City, actually proud of the fact that he used the comic books as storyboards, and not using any sort translation into film. The film suffered greatly because of this. Though I haven't seen Watchmen, I have a feeling that's what Snyder did as well. He definitely did it with 300 which, aside from some cool looking visuals, was a waste of two hours.

But comics are complete. Their panels are not storyboards for a fantasized movie, they're complete works that fit within the confines of the language of the medium. They're frozen moments in time, which, when paired with conventions such as the nine-panel grid, the gridless page, the splash page, etc., create a form of art that is unlike anything else... except maybe cave-painting - in my mind, the velociraptor to the modern avians of today's comics.

So Bitter Bookstore Guy - I'm a freak, and I'm ok. Bite me.


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