As regular readers will be all too sick of hearing, I love the Batman. He’s not the reason I started reading comics in my late teens, but he is the reason I kept reading them.
But I still haven’t seen The Dark Knight, and I won’t be making the trip to my local Odeon cinema to see it any time soon. And before you say it, yes, I know. I’ve read the reviews. I’ve seen the trailers. Many of my friends have seen it. All agree that it looks awesome. I accept that in waiting for the DVD release I’m missing out on some of the visual spectacle, and I regret that.
But I’m still not going.
Because I hate cinemas.
Well, actually, that’s not true. In fact I love cinemas. I love sitting in the silent darkness with a screen the size of a small continent mere feet from my ever eager eyeballs. There is no absolutely no doubt in my mind that films are best seen on a big screen – “home cinema” is at best a pale imitation. But however good they are, there is one major drawback with films at the cinema.
Other people really, really piss me off when I go to the movies. They talk. They eat sweets in crackly wrappers. They munch noisily on popcorn and slurp fizzy drinks through straws. Their mobile ‘phones go off and they answer them! Hell, the last time I watched a film in a cinema, somebody actually made a call in the middle of the show.
And so I sit there, gently fuming, my enjoyment of the film totally destroyed. And for that, they take eight quid off me. No way. I’ll wait for the DVD and settle for the small screen, and the peace and privacy of my own home. I just can’t stand to have a story interrupted. This is why, however much better a movie is in the cinema I’ll always prefer to watch it at home. And this is why, however good a movie is, a comic will always be better.* Over in Busted Knuckles, Battlin’ Beau Smith points out that these days comics are pretty much the source for most movies anyway, but that’s not the only reason why comics are superior.
Look at your average comic. Cheap**, portable, and containing data which is literally accessible anywhere. I really can’t imagine a place where I wouldn’t be able to read a comic. Plenty of places where it would be inappropriate, but none where it wouldn’t be possible.*** Film just isn’t that accessible. Oh, it’s getting better. These days you can load a movie onto a palmtop computer or a PSP, but not without forking out for the hardware first, and however expensive some comics are getting, they’re nowhere near as expensive as a PSP. Comics don’t run out of battery power either, and generally speaking you tend not to run the risk of getting mugged for a comic.
So, comics are cheaper, more accessible, don’t suffer from battery deadness, and won’t get you beaten up. But there is yet more. As Scott McCloud has pointed out, space does for comics what time does for film. A film can only run at one speed – if you alter the speed, the narrative ceases to makes sense.**** The same is not true of the comic. If you want to spend an hour exploring one panel, then you can.***** When you’re ready to move on, then the rest of the story will be there waiting for you.
More than that, comics are an infinitely more democratic and inclusive medium. As I type this, a whole load of people who move and shake in the world of comics are in San Diego. With them are a huge amount of people who might well be characterised as “regular folk”. People who are not creators of comics, but consumers. At San Diego, and a whole host of other, smaller****** cons, festivals and expos around the world, the people who create the comics mix freely with the people who enjoy them.
No other medium does this. At various Bristol and UKCAC events over the years I have shared a drink with Bryan Talbot, swapped jokes with Jim Lee, bought Joe Quesada a pizza******* and discussed the whole Mods Vs. Rockers thing with Dave Gibbons – to name but a few of the major comics “names” I’ve crossed paths with.
I’m pointing this out not because it makes me special, but because it doesn’t. Pretty much anyone who ever went to a con can tell tales of the bug names they’ve spoken to, drunk with, or helped out. Our big stars are totally accessible******** . Try turning up to a film festival as a regular punter and having a beer with Harrison ford or Steven Spielberg. If you actually do try that, remember to drop me a line from the prison cell********* you end up in.
You see my point? Comics are visual stories, just like the movies. Unlike the movies, they are permanently accessible and hassle free, as are the people who make them. They are the perfect medium, and we perhaps ought to be less impressed when an inferior medium, such as film, nicks our ideas.
*See? You knew I’d get around to comics in the end, didn’t you?
**Well, cheapish. I spend fifty quid (about $100.00 US) in Destination Venus this week, which doesn’t really feel all that cheap. But bear with me…
***Do feel free to try and think of some.
****Although some movies are improved greatly if you watch them on fast forward, and I’ll concede that the films of Ridley Scott are so beautiful they’re worth watching in slow motion.
*****And there are comics where such attention and dedication are well worth it.
******Because there’s nothing bigger than San Diego, baby.
*******At least, I think I did. I certainly meant to, but it was quite a confused evening, I wasn’t expecting him, and he might have ended up paying his own bill – although if he did that means I paid for a stranger’s pizza. Joe, if you paid for your own meal at Pizza on the Hill, and if you’re reading this, I stand ready to reimburse you…
********Well, mostly. Alan Moore hasn’t been seen for many years, Neil Gaiman apparently exists purely on the internet, and Warren Ellis never leaves the pub in Southend, but generally speaking most pros are pretty easy to get to meet if you put your mind to it…