Joy of Webcomics is not serious business
John Avatar at the On Life, The Universe, and Everything blog makes a simple plea: stop over-intellectualizing comics.
I love Eisner’s work, and consider him to be the greatest graphic novelist in history alongside Tezuka Osamu (godfather of manga), and of course what he wrote in this book’s pages are the musings of a veritable grandmaster. But even halfway through, I can’t help feeling that he over-theorizes on what is essentially an art of doing. In more recent times, an equall guilty culprit would be Scott McCloud. After skimming through pages and pages of how panels can portray time, how images prompt eye movement and how gestures illicit shared experiences, I wonder how many students of such theory translate these learnings into bestsellers.
But there’s the cautionary disclaimer – knowing the airy-fairy theories doesn’t make anyone a good comic writer at all. In fact my hypothesis is, to get your work to a larger audience, one can use really simple layouts and obvious pictures to win over people who don’t usually read comics at all; that’ll run counter to the complex compositions of Eisner and McCloud.
Despite this being one of the most over-analytical webcomic blogs around, I do have to agree with John Avatar to an extent. Just like any art, webcomics are about doing, and sometimes we do get too serious in analysis. People sometimes forget that webcomics are fun, and when you’re a stickler, you’re a bit of a killjoy.
BUT… that same criticism about critics can be applied for any art, can’t it? Painting, literature, music… you name it. You can spend your whole life studying literary theory to create the greatest novel in the world, but the some guy named Charles Dickens comes along — who is getting paid by the word, mind you — and his wildly popular books leave conventional theory in the dust. But sometimes we also need to reverse engineer what we know (a.k.a. over-analyze) to try to create something new — a fresh approach to how things have always been done.
Different people are called to do different things. Maybe you’re the next Charles Dickens. Maybe you’re the next James Joyce. Either path is pretty great, but for that second path it helps to have some terribly over-analytical people on your side.
In more “wink wink nudge nudge say no more” type news, Dwight MacPherson (of The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo and Zuda’s Sidewise) posts about comedy. In a sudden reversal to my previous link, Dwight’s suggestion is to “analyze”:
It is impossible to write comedy successfully without a good grasp of what comedy is. Sure, we all find things that make us laugh, but that doesn’t mean we understand what makes them humorous.
Take a moment to think about a real-life event that made you laugh until you lost control of your bladder or bowels–or laughed so hard your windpipe constricted and left you a convulsing, heehawing wreck on the living room floor.
[T]here is more to effective comedy than a funny word or statement. There are many factors that will make the event comedic. Writing down humorous events is one of the best ways to understand what makes certain things funny, and understanding is one of the first steps to writing effective comedy.
After reading these last two somewhat contradictory posts, The Webcomic Overlook has come to a stunning conclusion: do whatever, man.
Meanwhile, Coyote Trax takes a look at Valentine-themed webcomics.
And while we’re on the subject of Valentine announcements a day late, don’t miss out on the excellent LOST themed Valentine cards at Adventuring Company. I sent my wife, a huge LOST fan, the Sayid one, and she loved it.