Monday, February 20, 2012

An Open Letter to Comics

by Scott Speegle

         Human beings tell stories. It’s been an integral part of our existence since we developed the ability to do it. And while the tradition of telling stories orally is undoubtedly the original storytelling medium, there is another form of conveying narratives and histories that has deceptively shifted its form to suite the times for almost as long as oral storytelling: comics, or more appropriately sequential art.

        The practice of accompanying text (or something of the equivalent) with images to relate a story is one that easily reaches back as far as the Mayans, and Mesopotamian cultures before that with little effort. And while 17th century craftsman were not calling their streamlined and concise tapestries comics, that’s exactly what they were making.

There is something largely unique about the interaction between words and pictures, as it exists in comics. What comics uniquely offer is vastly different than film in that the range of abstraction and direct representation is infinitely more balanced. Printed word exists at the furthest end of the spectrum of visual abstraction, offering the most room for interpretation from the viewer.
And while filmed images lie on the furthest opposite end of that spectrum, drawn printed images, much like paintings and sculptures, fall somewhere closer to printed word in their capacity for abstraction and personal association. The comics creator has at his disposal an infinite space to build in, a sandbox without constraints in any sense. He has access to an infinite budget to create with and an equally infinite time space to develop his characters to their fullest extent. Comics utilize a specific interplay between the elements of words and visual representations in that within this infinite space each element can be manipulated to shift its respective capacity for abstraction in relation to one another.

       It’s probably clear by this point that the underlying mechanics of comics as a medium deeply fascinate me. But the real point of this letter is not to gush about how much I enjoy comics. Instead the point is to address comics themselves, rather the people that currently oversee the course of development of the medium in our modern age.
I’ve been reading and collecting comics since I was young and even though I’ve personally witnessed a very small segment of the mediums’ lifespan I have witnessed changes and trends. Some of these changes, I feel, have been less beneficial to the overall well-being of the medium than others, namely among these is the current infatuation with the cycling of seemingly countless films.
Now I’ve said some pretty harsh things about the people who are involved in these films and where exactly I think they should stuff certain things, but here in this letter I want to speak in a different tone. If anything this should be taken as a sincere plea. A plea to those making money in the comics industry to afford comics as a whole the respect it deserves.

         I know for a fact that there is a plethora of active talents within comics right now who work absurdly hard to contribute to betterment of the art form that has given them so much. But for every one of those people it seems there are an equal number (if not more) of people who see comics simply as a machine from which gains can be had. Does the person or team of people responsible for the decision to cross cast Ryan Reynolds in two entirely separate universes really care about the impossibility of reconciling such an action?
If they do that care is easily out weighed by the potential to make money. I’d like to pause to note that I’m not some overly idealistic hopeful who doesn’t understand anything about the world or the machinations of human nature that propel it. I don’t have a problem with people trying to take advantage of a system because without those people the opposite end of the spectrum cannot exist. The problem that I have is with the complacency of the fans that allow theses things to happen.
I’m not the only one who is upset by cross casting in films but it still happens. In the next installment of Ghost Rider Idris Elba will play a part despite appearing in Thor. Is that something that will faze children of casual viewers of the films? Most likely not but the demographic extends much further than those two isolated segments.

         In fact the truly dedicated portion of the demographic would seem like the one that should be catered to the most, sadly this is not the case. So again the purpose of this letter, written more for my own sake than anything else since it will most likely be very marginally viewed, a plea to those who have experienced the power of sequential storytelling: Please end the complacency. Please stand for the medium where it can’t stand on its own. And to those exploiting the medium: Please stop the blatant disrespect. Please stop abusing a medium that is greater than yourselves. Comics deserve so much more than we are giving it and this is deeply saddening. This plea is one that I know will go unheard. What I feel is more important than trying to appeal to those who have selfish intentions is appealing to those with selfless ones. My true plea that I would like to submit is to you: Please don’t give up the fight. Comics have always faced obstacles and to combat those there have been defenders who have risen out of a sincere love for the art.
People whose work has inspired those that came after them. Those who have given themselves to a medium that gives so much. So please, write, draw, makes comics that you would want to read and others will want to as well. I promise I will.

Thank you,
Scott Speegle

1 comment:

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