Seeking to disprove stereotypes that comics are merely simplistic or juvenile entertainment for the uncultured; to enlighten the open-minded and encourage the broadening of one's horizons; to examine comics as a text; to deepen appreciation for comics, comic books, and graphic novels as a formidable form of art in all cultures.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Word of Mouth

Check out this installment of a podcast hosted by the writing center at Brigham Young University, my alma mater.

I would have personally given a few more details as to the economic influence that has encouraged the prominence of superheroes in the comics medium over the years, and the hosts are a little monotone and unnatural, but they pull in a couple guests who are more lively, and the podcast in all is a good intro for someone who is curious about looking at comics more seriously and understanding the phenomenal popularity of comics-related media in the last decade (original post at

Thursday, March 5, 2009

NY Times Introduces Graphic Books Best Seller Lists

The New York Times today introduced its first-ever listing of best seller graphic books, split into three categories: hardcover, softcover, and manga!

George Gustines, author of the article, compares/links this newfound recognition of the medium with the feature-length Watchmen movie that is soon to be released. While Watchmen certainly is an important work in comics -- one of the first superhero comics to take itself seriously and explore the strengths of the medium -- this list comes long overdue, since before Watchmen was collected into a single volume.

That being said, this is definitely a big step in the right direction. The country is finally starting to recognize the important impact that comics have had on our culture. Granted, it's not exactly time to jump and shout for joy just yet. After all, this doesn't necessarily mean that people are going to be looking at comics as being anymore valuable than commercialized sludge pandering to children, and looking at some of the bestsellers it's obvious that the majority of the comics audience maybe isn't always demanding the quality of literature we could be getting (Batman R.I.P. being a major one that stands out to me -- a storyline that delivers soap opera plot elements and cheap gimmicks as a scheme to increase controversy, and thus readership).

But a step nonetheless. And, as I've shown, it should provide a useful tool for measuring the artistic appreciation of popular audiences for the comics medium.

What are your thoughts on what this reflects and where we are to go from here?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Review: Making Comics

Making Comics is Scott McCloud's third installment of graphic comics instruction, and a definite must-read for students of the form. Scott takes you through the basic artistic theories and guidelines that go into creating a comic. Mind you, this is NOT a step-by-step "how to draw" book -- while there is some instruction on the matter, the author largely assumes that the reader already has that skill and is ready for more tips on details that will bring his storytelling capabilities to the forefront.

In contrast to my somewhat harsh reaction to Reinventing Comics, I really, really enjoyed this book, probably because it relies less on giving debatable opinions on the future of comics and more on what already works, WHY it already works, HOW it works, and produces solid examples, both through McCloud's own drawings and published works of other noteworthy authors.

As a student of film, it was fun to find a lot of ideas in McCloud's book that I was familiar with already but applied to a different medium. For example, deciding how to frame a shot will have similar emotional implications in both forms (super low shot empowers the subject, super high empowers the viewer, etc.). The idea of producing an establishing shot in each new scene to give the reader an idea of spacial relationships is also prominent in each medium (and sometimes challenged).

One of the most insightful chapters deals with facial expression and the importance of really nailing it so the reader instantly understands what is being communicated. McCloud deconstructs the human face into its various muscle groups so the reader can understand how it functions, and then shows how different basic expressions combine to form more complex emotions that communicate more than one thought at a time (see excerpt included in this post). I've seen cartoonists draw a page of expressions of different characters as a guide for themselves, but never have I seen the mathematics behind them like McCloud so successfully shows here.

Understanding Comics showed us how comics are digested by the brain, their roots in history and the arts, and how to dissect them. Reinventing Comics showed us how comics have more potential than the popular world gives them credit and where the future should take them. Making Comics shows us the artistic implications in building a comic and what certain choices will mean for the reader's experience.

I highly recommend this book as another great demonstrator of comics' unique form and contributions to the artistic kingdom, and as an entertaining way to gain insights to the intricacies of the medium. Pick it up!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Comics in a Digital Era

I already commented just a tad in former posts about webcomics and their potential as "comics," and thanks to Scott Kurtz's reference at PvP, I came across this nice illustration that briefly criticizes some webcomics for straying outside of what an actual comic is, explains that definition, and shows what the author means through form following concept. (WARNING: some strong language in the first few panels, but it cleans up once it gets to the meat!)

about DIGITAL COMICS by ~Balak01 on deviantART

I think this Balak01 fellow has hit the nail on the head. He keeps comics pure by not straying from their basics -- images in a deliberate sequence -- but still makes them dynamic and manipulates time by taking advantage of the visual space properties that are unique to the digital format.