“Comics? Not comics? It only matters in so far as it means someone will (or won’t) pick up the book and take it home.”
–Geoff Grogan, co-editor of the newsprint anthology pood and creator of the multimedia comics (hey, I’ll say it if he won’t) Look Out!! Monsters and Fandancer, on the only definition of “comics” worth a damn. Whether it’s Prince Valiant or Kramers Ergot 4, I’ve gotten a lot less concerned with using definitions to define a given work right out of the comics discussion. The best way I know how to put it is this: Comics is any art you can read.
Neil Cohn is a doctoral student at Tufts University who studies the way people read comics—or, according to his bio, “the relationship of the cognition guiding the comprehension of comics to the processes used in understanding language.” He blogs, rather infrequently, at emaki.net, where he finds interesting bits of research about how people read and create comics and other media.
Now you can help: Neil has an experiment up right now, and anyone is invited to participate. It’s basically an online survey—no wires and electrodes, no strange drugs—and only takes a few minutes to complete. So go, be a guinea pig. As an added incentive, participants have a chance to win one of two $50 Best Buy gift certificates.
Neil doesn’t just study comics—he also illustrated the non-fiction comic We the People, so his creator credentials are in order. Here’s a short interview with Neil at Dimes for Nickels, which gives a bit more background on his research.
(Via Scott McCloud.)
Web comics creator and manga editor Shaenon Garrity has penned a ten-point manifesto on comics at comiXology that is well worth a read. I’ll summarize her ten points here for brevity, but you should really go over and read Shaenon’s explanations, as she expands on every point:
1. Newspaper comics are dead: I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone. Most of their creators are dead as well.
2. Monthly comic books are dead: Shaenon chalks this up to the deficiencies in the direct market.
3. Format is infinitely mutable: It’s all comics, and people will read it in the format that suits them.
4. The audience is infinitely fragmented: When you take the wider view, lots of people are reading different types of comics, and they no longer fit the standard stereotypes. ” Open the discussion to webcomics, and the audience fragments all the way down to the tip of the long tail; on the Internet, everyone is famous for fifteen people.”
The best way I’ve come up with to explain it is that looping animation (and sound, for that matter) still communicate a static span of time. If panel 2 clearly comes after panel 1 and before panel 3, it still feels like comics, even if panel 2 is a short loop of some sort.
It’s a good point, and in this case, the motion gets more and then less pronounced as the comic goes along, so there is a progression to it. Scott says,
The point isn’t whether or not we want to give it a particular label or not, but whether a given comic works as storytelling. Does it feel whole? Can we lose ourselves in the reality of the strip? And in this case, I’d say yes.
I agree that the animation fits the story, but looking a the comic as a whole is a bit like trying to read a comic printed on a bowl of Jell-O.
Paul Gravett looks at the influence of the British boys’ comic Eagle, home of Frank Hampson’s Dan Dare, which was favorite childhood reading for John Byrne, Chris Claremont, and Bryan Talbot, among others.
Casey Brienza isn’t just a manga reviewer, she’s a grad student studying paratext, the trappings of manga that make it manga. That’s more interesting than it sounds—check out her slideshow and brief writeup of the importance of trim size to American manga, and the way it was not only standardized but was used to define non-Japanese books as manga.
Faith Erin Hicks contemplates the uses of drawing as she compares Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto with Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy and throws in some thoughts on Kate Beaton for good measure.
Richard Bruton, who is not in the target audience by any means, picks up Twilight: The Graphic Novel and finds it… not terrible. Sean Kleefeld, meanwhile, finds some interesting parallels to a vintage comic (mainly, both seem to be incoherent).
Tintin dissenter Noah Berlatsky remains unmoved by The Castafiore Emerald, although his son loves it.
Kent Worcester reviews Art in Time: Unknown Comic Book Adventures, 1940-1980, which is the sort of book that would make me stay up nights.