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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2001 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There has been a lot of discussion about what IS a comic and what ISN'T, and most of that discussion has been based on Scott McCloud's two different definitions:

1. From UC: Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence. (Based, in turn, on Will Eisner's own "Sequential art.")

2. From RC: A temporal map.

So rather than debate what specific examples may or may not be comics based on these existing specifications, let's create a new specification that we can all agree upon.

This specification needs to be strong and flexible enough so that if anybody ever wants to debate the topic at any point in the future, we can point them to the final post in this thread (whenever that comes) and say: "This is comics."

Unlike other threads where we are free to disagree (which is, don't mistake me, a good thing), we will have to work harder here to come to an agreement.

Ready? Go.

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gazorenzoku
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2001 1:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

this is going to be one loooooong string...

i think one possible problem is that definitions can change with time. or, rather, new ideas or things often call for changes in definitions.

however, i will do my best to think of some ideas to throw into the pot. nothing for right now, though, since i am again running late for something that will not really be seen as that important when i am on my death bed, but seems really important right now...

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Jack Masters
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2001 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The problem with definitions is that they always hinge upon other definitions. Perhaps before you define comics you should first define "juxtaposition", "sequence" and "deliberate". Not that there is anything unreasonable about these words, it's just that they're rather abstract in themselves.

[Edited for spelling]
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Jason Tocci
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2001 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am writing a 20+ page final paper for one of my graduate classes this semester which partly focuses on this.

Short answer:

"Comics" is a very vague and broad term that people use to encompass panel comics (like The Far Side), comic strips, comic book periodicals, online comics, graphic novels, etc. What all things that the vast majority of our society refers to as "comics" have in common is that they spring from an influence by the comics tradition that developed recognizable conventions in the U.S. and Europe in the mid 19th century. A "Far Side" cartoon is called a comic by people just as readily as DC's "I Paparazzi", even though the former is not "sequential art" and the latter includes no cartooning, panel borders, or word balloons -- but they're both recognized as descending from the comics tradition.

Nevertheless, comics belong to some broad forms of art, which might be better defined by how the reader responds to them. These forms include "image/text" and "sequential art," and others I haven't been able to find a name for. Sometimes these forms overlap, as in a comic book that has sequential narrative and the juxtaposition of images and text.

So perhaps comics are better defined as: a visual medium that sprang from cartooning traditions, in which certain forms (such as sequential art and image/text) often meet and/or overlap.

I love Scott McCloud's work, but I kind of have to reject the notion that an Egyptian wall painting is a comic. It is an example of the much broader form of sequential art, to be sure. But the word "comic" comes from somewhere, just as the notion of comics themselves comes from somewhere.

Personally, I see more promise in taking the form represented by comics to new places rather than attempting to redefine the word "comics" in an attempt to change perception of it. While graphic novels are "comics," they challenge a lot of notions that people have traditionally had about comics (i.e. that comics are traditionally marginalized, that they are temporary things, etc.). Some people look at this and say, "Look, proof that comics are a valid form." Others look at it more like, "valid work that utilizes the same form that comics utilize" -- equating comics more with their tradition and the societal view of them rather than the form that they utilize and represent.

But the funny thing about definitions is that neither of these is wrong. If you think that "comics" is the term we should use for all works of sequential art and image/text that have ever and will ever exist, you can't be proven wrong. And if you define comics as a permutation of that form rather than the form itself, you're still not wrong. It's probably most useful to just recognize that people are going to disagree.

Jeez, and that was the SHORT answer! Now I welcome people to debate or expand upon any of that, especially since I need to write this paper this week and I welcome all comments for or against this that I can get.


Jason


[ This Message was edited by: Jason Tocci on 2001-12-01 14:32 ]
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Randy
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2001 3:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How about this "Sequential art is sort of like love, you know it when you feel it." Do we really NEED a defintion? Will it make us like it any more? Will it make us like what is not any less?

Later,
Randy

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John2two
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2001 11:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greg, I appreciate the positive thrust of what you're attempting with this thread. It IS better to put effort into building a consensus about principles than to endlessly argue about particulars.

I just disagree that any of it is necessary.

I think Jason and Randy are right when they say that no matter what words you come up with to sew a bag around this mess, some part of it all comes down to perception. Different people will *always* perceive given instances differently, which will always leave plenty of room for arguing. That's why I abstain from the threads arguing about whether to include an individual work or technique inside the label. I think they are pointless.

Part of the idea of art in the last couple centuries has been to locate cultural assumptions and challenge them. Setting out an attempt at a comprehensive definition of comics will amount to little more than a challenge to artists to create works that will break the definition. While I will probably appreciate the fruit of such rule-breaking efforts, I see no value in working to construct the firm boundary that will provoke them.

John
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Jason Tocci
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2001 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, what John said.

In retrospect, I guess my post was more suited to a thread in which people offer different ways to consider the definition of comics, as opposed to a thread in which people come to a consensus.

I read a post by Scott somewhere, where he said that if we don't define comics with something new and more applicable, then the old definition will just rush in to fill the void, as nature abhors a vacuum. But even if a large group within the "reinventing comics" community at large were to decide what the definition of comics ought to be, would it really be picked up by the greater part of the country? Would anybody besides us care enough to make a difference?

I prefer the strategy of creating comics that defy old stereotypes and definitions to the strategy of trying to change the way people think by changing definitions. If you make an amazing comic and people insist on only calling it a "graphic novel," let 'em. We'll know better. As long as what is essential to comics continues to grow and evolve, I know I'll be a happy man.

Jason
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gazorenzoku
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2001 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with pretty much everything said by the people hesitant to attach a definition. I think that as creative people, we can continually offer definitions by example. So far, everyone that has posted in this string that I have checked out has pretty interesting comics on their sites.

But if someone thinks it is fun to offer up a definition in plain text, sure, why not? It should not limit those of us who are searching for new ways to create comics, though. So, as long as the definition is not taken too seriously, or in so far as it doesn't limit the creator, I think it could be a good exercise to come up with some interesting definitions. A definition could actually inspire some great art... It's possible, at least, that a "liberating definition" could help somone realize that "hey, I can do something different than the stuff I always thought I had to do!"

The thing is, a real comic that pushes the envelope could probably do the same thing more effectively.

But I am interested to see what things people have to say about the so-called "last word" on the definition of comics. However, whatever that "last word" is, it is only a word... and not a comic.

...or is it?

I just finished re-vamping the site! No new graphics, but the comic files are way smaller, fit on the screen better, load faster, and the ease of navigation is a LOT better (though maybe not just perfect yet...)

Come by and check it out!

vince
gazorenzoku@hotmail.com

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gazorenzoku
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2001 11:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just thought of something...

Maybe we could have a comic book definition page (a more snazzy name might be good, but I couldn't think of one) where links to various online comic projects are given. People could get exposure and people out there in the world would get a better idea of what comics can be by seeing all sorts of examples.

Some cons to the idea that I just thought of:

The definition site could become static, like the Lourve in France, and only have comics that fits its personal definition, leaving out a lot of good stuff either by laziness or on purpose

Also, how could the site get popular enough so that people normally not so interested in comics would come and check it out?

As a matter of fact, thinking along that line, I see the major task of us folks interested in the future of comics as this: getting people into it. Or not... some people may prefer the low level of interest in comics because it gives a lot of freedom... But I personally would love it if more people thought comics in general, and my comic as well, were cool...

That would be, for me at least, way more satisfying than having a definition that was only used on this page and only used for the purpose of telling others what can't be comics...

any comments?

vince
gazorenzoku@hotmail.com

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glych
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2001 3:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a pretty broad definition of "comics":
Words and Pictures in deliberate composition for the purpose of conveying information.

Wrather than debate around the definition, I thinks it's best to start tackling it and spring board from there, yes?

-glych



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2001 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

Words and Pictures in deliberate composition for the purpose of conveying information.


I like that one, but how about this one: "Pictures in deliberate composition of the purpose of conveyance"

I deliberately left out words, cause if it have to have words then Jim Woodring's "Frank" isn't a comic. I also left out "information" because it just seems more fun to leave the whole idea of what can be conveyed up in the air. Technically, I suppose "conveying information" is probably best...

Anyhow, I also thought of something else. It seems like the main thing people are thrusting at is a whole new way of perciving and creating comics. A new definition is supposed to allow us to guide public opinion, and guide ourselves as well when we create. All fair and good. Public perception needs to be changed (I think so, though I know others might not), and also I think a lot of people who might be great comic creators if they only had a well oiled definition to get them started could use a little push in the right direction.

I don't know if I am correct in stating the above as the main reasons for coming up with a new definition, but if they are the main reasons, then I still think that making TONS of wonderful comics and getting them in the public eye would solve both issues without the need for a definition. Then we could let the folks who push paper for a living handle the definition.

I think, personally, we should all take a look at what our goals are in making a definition that everyone should stick to, and then see if there isn't a better way (or ways) to get to that goal.

Just drawing great comics is one answer, but it just isn't good enough if the goals are to change public opinion and furnace those on the brink of almost liking comics to get into the biz themselves. If those are the goals for making a definition, then lets instead brainstorm about how we, as a group, can achieve them.

It can be done. The Impressionists started out as a small band of rogue artists, and now they and their works are mainstream.

However, I think one of the reasons people are so interested in defining comics is to escape the old definition, which definately sucked. Is creating a new box to live in going to be any more comfortable than the old one?

Let's through away the box all together. Let's just blow the lid right off with great comics full of inspiration. Let's find out how to get the word out that comics aren't just for kids and "nerds", and move it on up to the level of art & literature in the public eye.

LET'S
FORCE THE PUBLIC TO GIVE US A NEW DEFINITION
, AND THEN LET'S BUST THAT NEW DEFINITION
WIDE OPEN
in another 20 years or so.

The way to do this? I propose the following:

1) Make great comics

2) Promote your great comics & other great comics

3) Make contact with those who guide the public eye. Do whatever it takes to convince those around you that comics is a field of art and/or literature with a crazy amount of potential

4) Organize
together
to do publicity stunts, performance art, mainstream advertising, selling your soul to Satan (same thing?), and whatever else it takes,
as a group
, to get the public to see us and love what we create.

As I write this, I am in a all out war sort of mood, but in the morning I might be kind of embarrassed... Anyhow, I did spend some time drawing comics today, so I can't be all that bad of a guy.....

vince
gazorenzoku@hotmail.com

come see the revamped site and let me know what you thought!! new comic material is up!
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2001 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

On 2001-12-03 11:03, gazorenzoku wrote:
The Impressionists started out as a small band of rogue artists, and now they and their works are mainstream.


by the way, by this statement i didn't mean that we should all be mainstream, just that public opinion can be altered. of course, i know someone is going to bring up the fact that Vincent van Gouh (sp?) died a poor crazy man (though he technically was a "post impressionist"), and that his brand of art was only accepted as art after his death, but he was a guy who stuck to the easle and didn't really concern himself in "self promotion". not that we all have to be slick-smelly internet ad company execs.. but I think "getting the word out" might be something worth looking into. It can be done on our terms (whatever those may be), which means that we could have fun with it. I think that there are probably lots of things that could be done to alter public opinion if we just brainstormed on it for a while...

...after all, we are supposed to be creative people, right?

vince

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Doc MacDougal
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2001 1:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why should a definition even be made? I don't think that comics artists should be thinking about it as they create, as that could obviously stymie invention and innovation in the artform. However, I think that a definition that can, at least, tacitly be agreed upon by a majority of people is an important step if there is ever to be a serious critical and/or theoretical discussion of comics.

So, if I may throw my hat into the ring with another possible definition, how about "Images arranged in space to narrate"? I'll just parse it a little to explain why I phrased it in this particular way.

I chose "images" because it can just as easily include picture and words without requiring them both.

"Arranged in space" was picked to separate the comics form from film and animation.

I chose "to narrate" in an effort to differentiate from illustration, which could conceivably be included by some of the earlier definitions. This makes the images the primary narrative device and, thus, separates illustration as something distinct.

Thoughts?

Doc.
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Scott McCloud
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2001 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quick clarification:

The "temporal map" idea in RC wasn't being offered as any sort of counter-definition to UC's "Juxtaposed Pictorial etc, etc..." It was just a functional description that I thought was more provocative to the imagination when considering new shapes online. I don't see the two as incompatible (though as I mention in RC, the term "temporal map" could describe more than just comics).

On definitions generally, I agree that we shouldn't expend too much effort haggling over them (I spent about 3 pages out of 215 in UC on the subject, because it seemed worthwhile to clarify what I was going to discuss before discussing it), but, if there's a definition of consensus that limits what comics can do, it's worth at least positing an alternative and that's what I was trying to do.

Is ground-breaking new work always going to be more important than academic efforts? Absolutely. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be one or the other, and in the last 15 years we've seen progress on both fronts.
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gazorenzoku
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2001 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

here's a definition that is likely to take flack:

a series of emotional or informational states presented in a visual format.

Yes, this allows for sculpture, performance art, and lots of other stuff including film & facial expression in a conversation to be comics. But, why not let it all be comics?

If there is to be a definition, I would rather see it liberate comics than confine it to a new (and possibly slightly more roomy) prison.

I really like this definition, so I look forward to seeing if anyone wants to refine it in any way... I am thinking about adopting it as my own personal guide to the realm of comics.

Perhaps replacing the word with "emotional" with "phychological" would be something to consider...

vince
gazorenzoku@hotmail.com


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glych
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2001 3:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's Art!

^_^ Sorry...I had to...

Hmmm...I suppose I was limiting in my earlier statement using the words "words and pictures" only...

What about icons?

Or a series of paintings in a gallery?

Or even watching the number climb on the builboards for McSatan family restaurants...isn't that somewhat like a comic?

But I think others would agree with me that composition should be in there somewhere, because even if you're sculpting, painting, animating, carving, chisling, etc. there has to be some referrence to the fact that the peice itself was planned that way...

The creator didn't just scribble out random lines onto a sheet of paper, scan it in, and call it a comic (unless it's done in a "modern" style in which velvet on a wall could be considered art...(sorry...recent disappointing art experience at the Getty...)...

The creator drew specific shapes, lines, and forms to convey the idea of whatever they wanted to express...

Whether "words" are part on this image or not isn't important, that doesn't limit it from being a comic, it merely makes it harder to identify.

It's the identity itself that's really at stake here...what is a comic anyway?

Does it have to contain both words and pictures? Does it have to be extended over more than a single panel? Does it have to involve over-muscles men fighting each other in technocolor tights? No!

SO maybe we should start from -not what is a comic, but what isn't...

Maybe what we're defining isn't a form..maybe it's a medium itself.

*gasp for effect*

(a new type of art? Never!)

I mean.."What's the difference between sculpture and pottery?" to give you an example.

-glych


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Jason Tocci
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2001 3:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Why not let it all be comics?"

I shudder when I remember James Kochalka's "my sneakers are a comic" argument on the comics journal message boards...

It's really really hard to come up with a definition for comics. Most people wouldn't call the stations of the cross a comic, even though they're juxtaposed images etc. etc. Most people would call a wordless Far Side cartoon a comic, even though (technically) little sets it apart from "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus," which practically no one would call a comic. Why would the Far Side be a comic? The argument I made above is that it's decended from the comic tradition, but it's really much more simple than that -- people THINK it's a comic. I just don't offer that generally because it doesn't fly when discussing art theory.

This is why I so much prefer terms like "sequential art" and "image/text" because they are (I think) undeniably different art forms from plain text or from paintings or sculptures, mainly because they are received differently by the reader -- you read and process a comic differently from how you read a regular book. They are easier to define than "comics," and non-restrictive enough (I think) that you can do a whole bunch of new things with "sequential art" and "image text" on your mind without feeling constrained by old conventions. I guess I tend to think of "comics" as the modern form of sequential art and image/text that most directly developed from cartooning in the 19th century, and sometimes the term is applied to cartooning that appears in the same format as comic strips (i.e. newspaper comics pages, online "webcomic" sites, compilations of cartoonists' works, etc.).

(I forget where I got the term image/text from ... I'll find it soon enough... one of the books in the class I'm taking now on "Word, Image, Book" at UMass Amherst, which will be a comics mecca by the end of the decade if the Forces of Good have anything to say about it.)


Jason

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sandy carruthers
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2001 7:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was watching the movie, 'When Harry Met Sally' last night. My favorite line was when Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan were in the museum and Crystal said, 'I think Egyptian heiroglyphics are actually just a comic strip featuring Sphinxy'.
My two cents worth.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2001 8:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glych: I think composition is probably a good idea. Now, a series of paintings in a gallery wouldn't automatically be comics. They'd have to have been planned to be viewed in that way and composed to that end by the artist.

Doc.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2001 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry for my glibness, earlier. Not my intention. This is a good thread. Traditionally, my definition of true comics is art and writing combined to tell a story in the printed method of reproduction. This is when comics really got pegged as a seperate means of storytelling than say, the childrens book, or the editorial cartoon. But i believe evolution and change has mutated 'comics' into a new hybred which cannot be limited to the printed medium. This in turn, allows us to open our minds to seeing comics throughout the history of humankind. Just differint forms/executions of storytelling. Comics on the web are comics. Just a differint FORM of comic. With this, I place it into the realm comfortably. Storytelling. It's welcome in any form. Seeing it as an artform is the best way of looking at it. The way we see movies or TV commercials as an artform. (don't chortle. Watch an ad on tv in this frame of thinking: eg: actors/sets/sound/music. It's cool.) This is not an elitist form created for the printed page alone. Though, personally, my favorite form of choice. Best.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2001 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

But does a comic have to "tell a story"? Does it have to be "planed" by the artist? Aren't these potentially limiting factors?

Is there room for experimentation with these definitions? Should that conceptual art be allowed in the realm of comics? Should chance art, chance narration techniques be allowed? I think that whether one likes these things or not, they shouldn't be dismissed from the definition.

The comic book can not be defined by it's medium, like, say, oil painting. An oil painting is an oil painting if it uses oil paints. Simple. A comic can use ink, pixels, paint, and basically any other medium it wants.

It can't be defined by it's content, either, like a novel. A novel is a novel if it has a logical succession of events. Simple. A comic can theoretically be composed of non sequeters and make no sense in terms of story. This is comics as pure visual art, and is something I try to incorperate in my work.

Comics can not be defined by their expressive qualities, like poetry because... hey, wait a minute, maybe they can? Maybe comics are like visual poetry. Or a better way to put it: comics can encompass the entire spectrum of formal storytelling to expressive poetry in a visual format, operating in a visual sequence.

This idea probably has a lot of holes in it too... but I like it because it allows a little bit more experimentation.

---

By the way,I don't think anyone would have trouble seeing commercials as art. When the big companies want something sold, they shell out the big bucks to produce top quality art that will really draw in a big crowd. I love watching good commercials, and would love to make them if I weren't so bad at doing what I am told to do...


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2001 9:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Furthermore, I propose the following questions:

Does comics have to be 2-dimensional?
Does comics have to have a decernable story?
Does comics have to contain words?
Does comics have to contain images?
Does comics have to consist of static images?

Does comics have to be formated in a book?
Does comics have to be formated on the web?


Can comics excell as a visual art form, as well as as a form of literature?

Does a comic have to be planed out?

Can random images and random literature techniques be utilized in comics?

Personally, I think that asking the above questions is like asking if comics needs to contain at least one superhero, detective, cowboy, or mythological figure. I do not personally endorse all of the ideas expressed in the questions above, but I feel it would be wrong to leave them out in a proposed definition. Anyhow, comics that aren't received well by a fairly large crowd probably won't succeed anyhow, so it will be personal taste that guides whether experimentation works or not... and even if crazy stuff that isn't likes sticks around because the artist is hard core enough to do it without pay (like most of us here now), then what is the harm in accepting it into the group?

Oh well..... time to draw more stuff...


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Jason Tocci
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2001 1:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One of the most interesting questions along those lines I've ever been asked is, "Do comics need to be marginalized?" Once they are no longer marginalized, are works of sequential art losing something that made them comics?

Depends on how you define comics, of course. And just about everybody here would probably say "no" based on their definitions. But I think it's a really interesting question, and raises a new line of questioning in a way...


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sandy carruthers
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2001 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting points. I personally think comics have to tell a story. That's the whole reason why they exist. I am not limiting 'story' to just fiction. If you create a story based on history, it still is telling the story - only your interpretation of it. Maybe 'story' is the wrong word... interpretation is better. My personal views on questions asked:
Does comics have to be 2-dimensional?
In connection to the traditional craft of comics: yes. This is what comics is about. When comics become 3d, it becomes interpretive dance, or theatre: a differint artform of storytelling. If you sculpture your 'pictures', (3d illustration) it still must be translated to 2d to reach the mass market(another defining feature of 'comics': created for the masses, not the elite few who visit galleries.

Does comics have to have a decernable story?
As far as I'm concerned: ALL comics are decernable, anyway. Even the superhero ones. Think about the last time you tried to get a non-comic reader into comics. People have a difficult enough time bending their brains around flying super people in their underwear saving the day all the time.

Does comics have to contain words?
No. The images tell the story. It involves the reader on a deeper level, I believe. Frank Millers Christmas Sin City story comes to mind. Powerful!

Does comics have to contain images?
I remember John Byrne did a story years back (Alpha Flight?) where a quarter of the story was set in a snowstorm. Pages of pure white panels with speech balloons/sound effects. I found myself more cynical at that approach, and a little 'cheated'.

Does comics have to consist of static images?
Only if your Howard Chaykin. For printed medium, of course, yes. For e-quential art: have a party! Daniel Goobry's 'death of an animated gif ' (http://www.e-merl.com/bank1.htm) comes to mind.

Does comics have to be formated in a book? I hope so. The printed medium is amazing. Nothing beats the tactile sensation of a book. Spielglemans(sp) Maus comes to mind.

Does comics have to be formated on the web? Format on the web is differint. You're no longer linear. This is where experimentation of the form can really take off. There's some very cool approaches out there!


Can comics excell as a visual art form, as well as as a form of literature? It already has. The Europeans and japanese totally figured it out. We 're still slow on the uptake. (I'm speaking about the general population, now)

Does a comic have to be planed out?
Planed, or planned? Planed... yes. Planned... yes. Comics is a communication device. It must be tangible to the viewer. This is what creators should struggle with constantly. it's apart of the craft, and the challenge!

Can random images and random literature techniques be utilized in comics?
Like mixed media. I hope so! Look at the Swamp Thing comicbook during the Moore days. Incredible experimentation.

That's it.



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