Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Web Comics

Every now and again, I evaluate the webcomics/manga floating about the land and see what's worthwhile. As a kiddie, I gobbled up Tintin, Asterix and Obelix, Nausicaa, the Far Side, and Garfield. Then I matured and read many morbid Bronte books because they seemed safe. Mmm! Well, except for Garfield. Not all children develop taste right away. But, now, there is Garfield minus Garfield, so partial redemption is possible.

Comics are a powerful medium. When the plot couples impeccably with the image it's so...beautiful! Enthralling! Delightful! But comics will never achieve the depth of a Dostoevsky novel. I'd contend that the medium doesn't lend itself too well to thoughtful reading or reflection. The space to write is contracted, making the writing/narrative produced somewhat simplistic and absorbable. Or maybe it's just my modus operandi that gives me that idea - I tend to inhale/snort webcomics. Om nom nom. (Tangentially, I am quite proud of the fact that I've taught the wee Italian boy I watch, in Rome, to say "OM NOM NOM" when he is eating.)

More action is required of comics than of books, faster timelines, more comedy. Which is not to say that complex moral questions and dilemmas cannot be conveyed, or meaningful dialogues. These questions, dilemmas, and dialogues can be highly compelling as there is an aesthetic "oomph" and an intellectual component that appeal to our human nature. However, most comics will opt not to delve deeply into complex issues and focus on adventure, action, comedy, etc.

Nevertheless, comics aren't prose novels and don't attempt to pretend to try to be such - they're something else, entirely: a blend of image and word. In their own right, they stand as a remarkable medium in which to convey a story.

Here are some webcomics/manga (loosely speaking) that I love. They're not particularly deep, for the above reasons, but they're awesome:

- Lackadaisy Cats
- Hyperbole and a Half
- One Piece (DON'T base your judgment of One Piece off the English anime dub)
- Star Drop
- Buttercup Festival, series 1 (I think it's funny.)
- Ellie Connelly
- Beaver and Steve (on hiatus, but if you haven't read it, it's a good'un)

And these are some rules I have:
1. No magic princess plotlines in which the princess - the only one able to save the kingdom - is spirited off to another world and learns of her heritage when called upon to save the land at a conveniently adolescent age when she also has T'EH HIGHSCHOOL PRESSURES to deal with. ZOMG!

2. No comic which has a "Hmm... Your clothes are inadequate - let's buy you new ones!" story arc. It's pointless and doesn't endear me to the character. It makes me want to punch the character.

3. Gorgeous art + no compelling plot = bad comic. It does take practice to become a good writer - but if you ain't got the spark, you ain't got the spark. On the other hand, good plot + bad art = good comic. Content drives form!

4. Depressing comics without a note of hope are on my poo-list. I really don't care if a comic is principally sad. But when it presents a world in which there is - essentially - no hope of ANY kind of redemption (personal or eternal), it's just wrong. I'm not talking about characters in a comic who don't believe in redemption. Most great books are built on the tension a character feels towards that possibility (the Power and the Glory, anyone?).

5. Excessively violent comics are out. Depending on the type of comic and the type of violence, this is more or less palatable to me. Depicting violence for the sake of violence because you think blood and guts are pretty is...disturbing. The fascination with dark things taints a lot of comics, subtly influencing our aesthetics and damaging our perception of the world.

6. Full-out frontal noodity/rampant sexuality are also right out. A number of comics resort to these shock-tactics in order to get attention. This is a mark of a poor writer and seriously disordered passions.

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