Welcome to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.
The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add them to the list…
This week’s question comes from James and is as follows:-
“We all know that every medium has its strengths and weaknesses, but what do comics bring to the table which no other medium does? Which medium is superior – comics, movies, books, or something else?”
If done right (whatever that means), comics can combine artistic, cinematic, and literary values and elements. You can make comics that are objects of art as well as literate stories. Look at Jimmy Corrigan as one example. It all depends on what the creator(s) want to accomplish, what the goals are for the comic in question.
I would never claim that one medium is superior to the others. Each has their place, and their advantages and disadvantages. I just happen to like comics best, but that’s me.
Vince Moore is the editor for DarkStorm Studios, a comics company started by Kevin Grevioux of Underworld fame.
Every medium is cool. Comics, films & books are all cool. However, comic can do things that no other medium can do. Expand the possibilities of story telling. A great comic book can do want no other medium can. Expand your imagination. All the great special effect films (Star Wars, The Terminator, The Matrix, etc.) are just Hollywood technology catching up to ideas that have been expressed in comic books for decades. Moreover, comic books can be anything without a monster budget. Comic book are the best inexpensive entertainment as well. That’s what comic books bring to the table. Zo Out!
Alonzo Washington is the creator of Omega Man and a noted black rights campaigner.
Sweeping generalisation: the right hemisphere of the human brain specialises in pattern recognition, while the left hemisphere is the seat of language and logic.
Books are read and understood by the left brain, the right brain automatically creating the pictorial images suggested by the text.
Movies and television are watched primarily by the right brain, with the left brain needed to make sense of the plot.
Computer games are also mainly a right-brain phenomenon. They may require a high level of physical coordination, but mostly don’t need conscious thought.
Only comic books require simultaneous effort by both hemispheres, as the words and pictures are mentally married together. I guess this is one of the reasons that people with no history of comic reading often find it difficult to take up comics. Their brains aren’t used to the work required of them before enjoyment can be felt!
Alan Grant, writer of Dredd, Batman, and the slightly mad Doomlord, can be seen currently with Arthur Ranson on Judge Anderson in the Judge Dredd Megazine, and the superb Com.X trade collection of The Last American.
There is no superior medium, anyone who says differently is selling something. Comics brings pictures wedded to words, but in a way that film cannot accomplish as comics is still using text and not spoken word. There’s less left to the imagination than novels but not enough spelled out like the moving pictures. The art of allegory, counter-point and still-life realism can be explored in comics more than any other medium. If you’ll open your textbooks to page …
Fiona Avery created No Honor at Top Cow, and currently writes Amazing Fantasy for Marvel, issue #1 available this week.
Hmm, if there was ever a question which cried out for a scientific approach, this isn’t it.
But let’s have a go anyway, and see which medium comes out tops.
1. Accessibility – i.e. can you read/watch/listen to the medium wherever you want whenever you want to?
Prose: Yes, you can carry a book anywhere you want, even overseas if a beach beckons, plus you don’t need to use any apparatus to read it – unless like mine your eyesight’s a bit wonky. That’s why God created contact lenses.
Poetry: As above (although if you’re anything like me, some pain killers are generally required shortly thereafter).
Music: Forty years ago you’d have needed to be near a source of electricity. Oh, and a record deck usually proved somewhat useful. Now all you need is an iPod or some cheap and tawdry equivalent, and you can carry it everywhere – on the buses, into shops and even onto said beach – and you probably bloody do. However although it is (technically) possible to listen to vinyl with but a very sharp finger nail and improbably accurate spinning technique, on the whole you do need equipment.
Film: Cinemas don’t generally come portable. Oh, okay, there’s the DVD now, but a player’s still required.
Comics: A definite “yes”. You can read a comic anywhere you like, and unlike prose you can probably finish it in the shop you’re visiting without having to pay for the privilege. Result!
2. Variety available.
Prose: Only three books have been written so far, I’m afraid. Useless for a medium over 500 years old. What’s taking them so long? (Correct answer: tons of variety, I don’t know how many different novels etc. are available at my local Waterstones, but I do know that I’ll never be able to get through them, even if you take out the Jeffrey Archers – which you would, patently.)
Poetry: No variety at all. They all belong to that genre called Cryptic Crossword.
Music: Well, there is in my collection. Ouch, did I just use the word “collection”? Seriously, plenty on offer, from “My Old Man’s A Dustman” (old cockney ditty – my, how I laughed when I was three) to “Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)”. That one’s for editor Craig Johnson.
Film: Well, not at your local multiplex, that’s for sure. Plus so much of it gets deleted so quickly. If you include television, basically the same medium where one frame replaces another in the same space, denoting the passage of time (not fast enough when the soccer’s on – and that too is for Craig!), then the variety on offer is… probably even lower.
Comics: Very much depends on your local comic shop, doesn’t it? I think you know what I’m talking about here.
3. Emotive potential.
Prose: Exceptional when handled correctly. It can make you laugh, cry, and even (try this sometime) think. Actually that cry bit’s rubbish. I’ve never cried whilst reading a book, although I came close after the twentieth page of Sir Philip Fucking Sidney’s “The Countess Of Pembrokeshire’s Arcadia” (first published 1593 – do not try it at home).
Poetry: W.B. Yeats does it for me, but on the whole anger is the only emotion elicited. That and frustration.
Music: Wins hands-down. Especially on a litre of vodka, the evening after you’ve been ditched.
Film: A close second to music. It’s made me want to have sex, adopt a puppy and even wear black leather, sometimes all at the same time. Probably why I was last ditched.
Comics: Comics have moved me to tears (“Pedro & Me” by Judd Winnick, “Uncanny X-Men” #137 – oh my god, was that my credibility I just saw evaporating before me?), they’ve made me laugh over and over and over again (and that would have been just a single page of Roger Langridge’s “Fred The Clown” – available as a book any second now), got me very, very angry (oh wait, that was when Mark Millar was censored on “The Authority”), made me sick (“From Hell” honestly came close to making me throw up after the cab scene with Netley), and even persuaded me to open a comic shop. And I’ve not opened a record store, book shop or cinema, so, y’know, that sounds persuasive to me.
4. Are they any good?
Prose: Brilliant. I’ve usually got two books on the go at any one point, and my shelves are creaking.
Poetry: Bloody rubbish. Apart from the bits of W.B. Yeats I actually understand, and a couple of Thomas Hardy’s. Oh, and A.A. Milne.
Music: Better than comics! Noooo!
Film: Marvellous. But I don’t buy that many DVDs.
Comics: They’re all right. Wouldn’t kick ’em out of bed.
So there we have it, another scientific experiment under my belt, and the first since Dr. Cann last said, “Put the water on the floor, and back away from the Caesium!”
I didn’t do well at science.
And the winner is…?
What do you think?
Comics are bloody brilliant, aren’t they?
(I had an earnest answer all lined-up about the juxtapositioning of images where space equals time, and you can compare panels between two graphic novels which immediately reference each other by way of the instant impact of an illustration which you can’t do with words, and… I couldn’t actually be arsed.)
Stephen L. Holland runs Page 45, Nottingham, now officially the best comic shop in the UK, with Mark Simpson and Tom Rosin. He also has a monthly column in Comics International. CI #177 and 178 will – if all goes according to plan – be dedicated to recommending Christmas presents for all your friends and relatives, from mouldy old Grandma to cocaine-snorting cousin who works in advertising. There’s a comic for everyone, even those on drugs.
All mediums are good. They can all do different things in different ways. DIFFERENT is not superior or inferior. It’s just another flavor. Isn’ t this like asking which is better, a mouse, a rhinoceros or a clam? Apples and oranges, people, apples and oranges.
Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once…including writing a column for SBC at this link!
Comics, much like radio stories of yesteryear and our old friend the novel, bring the required use of the reader’s imagination to the table.
Which medium is superior? That’s for YOU to decide.
Jesse Leon McCann is a New York Times Best-selling Author. He’s currently editing the fourth Simpsons TV Episode Guide for Bongo Comics/Harper Perennial, and writing stories for DC Comics’ Looney Tunes and Cartoon Cartoons.
Comics bring a cheap,fast and easy way to enjoy crazy ideas without a million dollar budget. Comics are the mullato offspring of novels and film, that save the reader time from scene description without the exactness of film.
There are no CGI studios creating Baby Hellboy, just a guy named Mike at drawing table. Comics are’nt “two years in the making,” hell comic readers get pissed if they have to wait two months!
I think that is why manga is beating the snot out of comics and a whole NEW generation of KIDS are reading them. They don’t have to suffer the spastic scheduling of WBkids or Cartoon Network. They don’t have to wait until every Autumn for new episodes.
Nope. There’s an entire library of comics out there for them to explore. No release dates, no typeface, and easy to digest.
Kwanza Osajyefo is the founder of funkyComics, home to Jim’s Ninja and a number of other forthcoming comic book properties.
Portability, accessability, and imagination. I think comics are the best of all worlds. In fact, how many of us have a soundtrack when we read? You can throw in music to that mix too. Comics are films for the mind. Movies are films for the eyes. Books are radio for the mind.
If I were to pick a superior medium, it would be music, however. Music evokes emotion and response to that emotion. Comics are starting to come that way these days, with Eightball, Diary of a Teenage Girl, and other independent works. Hey, I’ve read comics that made me come close to tears…and thats why comics are in second place. Once a comic makes me bawl like a Prince or Stevie Wonder song, then they take first place.
Vito Delsante’s creator owned mini-series, “The Mercury Chronicles”, with artist Jim Muniz, is now in development with Image Comics and will hit stands late this year. “Batman Adventures Vol 2: Shadows and Masks” (DC Comics) is out now! He will next be seen in Reflux Comics #3 (August) and in X-Men Unlimited #5 (October).
Clearly, comics are vastly superior to every other medium 😉
Well, okay, I shouldn’t say that. I’d seriously hesitate in calling any medium “superior,” considering that we all seem to be aspiring to the exact same thing, the telling of stories in an entertaining and somewhat universal way. That said, what comics excel at in direct comparison, is purity of creative vision. It’s pretty ironic that the subject of “editorial interference” is always good for making both fans and creators bristle, but when dealing with things like TV and movies, you’re almost creating by committee. But I suppose large amounts of money eases the pain of that somewhat.
Still, if you have a story to tell, and want it to hit the streets with your pure, unfiltered words and ideas behind it, short of writing a novel, you’ve gotta go with comics. It’s the best of both worlds really, the narrative potential of long form novels, with the powerful visuals of cinema. Except that since the imagination knows no budget constraints, sometimes we can even beat movies in the visual forum, offering up stuff that it’ll take five years to recreate on the silver screen. In a way, the only limits we have are the ones we place upon ourselves, and that’s either encouraging or terribly depressing, depending on your stance.
Brandon Thomas is one of the writers of Spider-Man Unlimited #3, scripter of Youngblood, creator of Cross and long-time Ambidextrous columnist.
That second half of the question is a bit silly. Depends on the kind of story being told and how it is being told. Comics are perfect for the D.I.Y. type of creator, of course. It is a bit harder for one person trying to produce a movie, pursuing their unique vision free from the interference of others, etc. Of course, one’s vision may be a bit TOO unique for a lot of the readership/audience.
Case in point, my graphic novel, Winging It, which always seemed to me to be a very good example of what you can do with the comics medium. With all the odd gender categories among the characters (is Arichel male or female, for instance? Is Zehaphet both?) and leaving the readers on their own to make their own conclusions for a greater part of the story. Perfect for comics since you don’t have to play those cutesy pronoun-games as you would with a text novel or let the voice of the character give any clues. Of course, for every reader sending me feedback saying how brilliant they thought it was, there must have been ten others who totally didn’t get it… or maybe comics readers as a whole are not too comfortable with material which tweaks with the whole male-female continuum. Someone even told me they didn’t read it because they thought it was a funny-animal comic, since some of the characters are animal-headed, and someone else thought it was too ‘religious’ and THAT scared them off. So, maybe comics readers may tend to have too many set ideas about what they are reading, or what they prefer to read, and are not open to work that pushes the envelope a bit.
There are still plenty of copies of Winging It available on my website, by the way…..
Roberta Gregory is the creator of “Bitchy Bitch”, who not only stars in Roberta’s Naughty Bits comic book (ex from Fantagraphics), but also appears on television worldwide in animated adventures, the latest being the “Life’s a Bitch” series on the Oxygen Network.
The thing that makes the comic book medium unique and great is it’s infinite potential for creativity. Computer animation has certainly opened the door for some crazy effects in movies and televison shows, but those visuals cost a ton of green. Even if a film miraculously scored a $500 million budget it still could not equal the balls-out insanity that can be created in a comic book. A comic can always hit you with something bigger and more spectacular, and it doesn’t cost anywhere near as much to produce.
The second big advantage that comic books have is time. Even well crafted epics like Lord of the Rings can’t match the character and story depth of a comic book series because there’s only 2-3 hours of film per movie. They simply aren’t able to develop the characters or the stories as well as comic books do.
The medium closest to comics in terms of pacing would be the television show, which gives producers time to develop characters and plot. But again, budget is a problem. On a TV series there is even less cash to go around than a film. And without big funds TV just can’t duplicate the action and effects of a comic.
The one medium that can match comic books in terms of unlimited budget is the novel. I really enjoy reading books. If you have a good imagination they can translate to something special in your head. And in my opinion, nothing sucks you into another world like a good novel because you have to create all the images yourself. But the problem with books is that they take a lot longer to process and a lot longer to finish. Comics, movies and television give you fast gratification. People seem to be more and more busy these days. Unless you’re a librarian chances are you’d rather spend two hours at the movie theatre or reading a graphic novel than reading two chapters of a book. With comics, television and movies you get complete stories in less time.
I could probably write a lot more on this subject, but the bottom line is that the comic book is the superior medium. They aren’t limited by a budget like televison and movies are. They have more time to develop plots and characters. Comics stories also take less time to read and enjoy than a novel. To steal a phrase from the movie Blade – The comic book has all of their strengths. None of their weaknesses.
Markisan Naso is a Senior Editor at SBC. He interviews comic book creators and performs behind-the-scenes work like editing and web coding. Some of you may remember Markisan from his year-long stint on SBC’s rumor column, All the Rage, where he went off on fanboys for their love of puffy sleeves and detailed his drunken convention experiences. Markisan also likes monkeys a lot.