Comics: My last Frontier

18 Aug

There comes a point in all creative people’s career (I use the term ‘career’ loosely here) where they can no longer simply consume at in whatever medium they chose to devote themselves to. The more you know—the longer the ‘analysis switch’ stays on, and eventually you can’t turn it off. I got my first hint at this when I asked my Dad, masterful musician and director, what he listened to when he wasn’t working, when he wasn’t thinking about what he should play next or what to include in the next week’s service. He laughed and said, “Nothing. I don’t actually like music very much.”

I love books, writing, stories of all kinds—it’s the kind of passion that doesn’t go away, ever. Hence, it’s the only thing I’ve ever felt comfortable getting symbolically and literally engrained into my flesh.

But sometimes, I don’t like reading very much. I can’t turn the evaluating part of my brain off—the part that picks apart, steals, dismisses, criticizes, questions. At some point, perhaps because I have a fairly cinematic style of writing myself, movies and TV started to be the same way. I remember a time when my thought process reading or watching a series was not much more beyond “I like this, I will continue,” or “I’m not really enjoying this, I think I’ll stop.” Don’t get me wrong—I don’t want to go back, ever, but sometimes I just want to consume media without evaluation past the little subconscious yay or nay.

Enter: comic books. I ‘understand’ comics/graphic novels well enough to teach themes and arc and basic symbolism. (Thanks, Scott McCloud). But I don’t think in comics. I don’t story board; I don’t consider what’s told and not told in terms of frame and gutters and all that good stuff. The result is comics is one of the last mediums that I can just take in, like, or dislike. That nit-picky, critical bitch in my brain shuts up, and it becomes a nice way to spend that last mindless hour before bed. (That, and video games.)

I don’t really have the vocabulary for critiquing visual art. Sure, I took an art appreciation & art history class in undergrad, so I have enough to get by at cocktail parties. I mean, that’s why we take those classes in school right? To sound smart to smart-looking gents at cocktail parties? But I don’t really know enough to stand up to questioning. The composition and line of this is so unique,
it really puts the horizon into an unusual focus, says the girl with the curse of a (very) little knowledge. I can tell the god awful from the masterful, but I don’t think I could look at two contemporary or similar artists and give a thoughtful evaluation of why one is better, or what have you.

I couldn’t even tell you why this is so creepy-bad, even considering than its source.

So perhaps comics will always be safe from my interior critic, but occasionally I wonder…It appeals to the massive nerd in me (there’s very little else in there, actually) to start taking my comic collection, small at is now, more seriously and branching out from my usual daily web reads and familiar series. But at what point will I suddenly start to evaluate? Should we do anything to preserve our last frontiers?




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