Saturday, March 10, 2007

"Comic-bookies": Literature Or Not?

Are these quickly-weaved together tales meant to thrill and astonish readers at a dirt-cheap (hey - DC!) price true literary works?
Can these pale imitations of great prose, often invoking all the classics, along with mythology, current events, trends and historical facts, be thought of as great works themselves?
Do they, effectively, duplicate for those who cannot access them, the great books of old?
One would be foolish to want to replace Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dumas, Verne, Camoes, Coelho, Colette and Wells (to name but a few) with Friedman, Waid, Wolfman (the writer named Marv - not the creature of the night!) and the Busiek-Michelinie-Veitch-Conway-O'Neil-Thomas-Harras or Schaefer-Veitch-Morrisson-Priest-Loeb-Didio(t) or Mishkin-Cohn-Byrne-Claremont-Wein-Skeates-David-Larsen or Straczynski-Bendis-Giffen-Loren Fleming-Moore "scribes-du-jour"...
(The only one who ever came close to literary achievement in this four-color world was the late, great and unlauded BOB HANEY anyway...)
As it is, all that they do is indeed derivative (such as the blond jungle adventurer below; Tarzan Properties could sue... They did before! A Frenchman cartoonist found out to his dismay that his "Tarzoon, la honte de la jungle" was not as well received as "George of the Jungle" because he clearly lampooned the original while George merely mimics him but is clearly the lone loser in the equation... The Frenchman's conclusion was: "Tarzan is like their Joan of Ark". I wouldn't go so far, sapristi...)

Nonetheless, "sequential art" (the refined way to refer to comic-bookies) is meant to be taken seriously now: it is substantially much more than just Archie and Disney comics now. Frank Miller's success out of the medium, while he brings elements of his comic-book material to the big screen (re: 300) is tangible proof that these are a force to be reckoned with now. In the creatively-bankrupt Hollywood of today, comic-books are a well of ideas for new movies to be made and keep the wheel turning... 300's director gave it away when he said, in an interview, "I look at this and ask myself 'have I ever seen in this a movie before? No? Let's shoot it!' And we do it!"
How very interesting - and telling! Of course, while he was saying that, he was perusing a copy of Frank Miller's 300...
We could have seen this coming too - comic-book artists have drawn the storyboards of so many films over the years - their attempts at giving birth to a new breed of literature that makes a dynamic "organic" use of imagery combined with striking words to produce something totally astounding (if not quite "new" per say...) had to lead them into filmmaking as well...

Good books are more demanding, intellectually as in terms of mere EFFORT as well - to read a book, one needs to make a considerable effort of concentration; and not fall asleep! Comic-books (so named because, originally, they were all funny animal hijinks and nothing else! Then came the westerns, wartime material, super-heroes - and, in recent decades, far more 'hardcore' fare as well...) take, generally-speaking, less effort to read... And movies are the most popular medium for the simplest of reasons: it is effortless to partake of...! But I digress with the evident stuff here...

So, to get back to comic-bookies: literature or not? Sure, literature - for the masses. Elitists will rejoice; but it is a mere fact.
Comic-books have their place, as it is with them that the majority of 20th Century adults learned how to read (in the Western world anyhow) - and so, we are led by people whose original ideal of a "man with honor" is the likes of Captain America, Brick Bradford or the Green Lantern! Hmm - no wonder things get cartoony sometimes, out there, in the "real world"...
(I fondly remember the best caricature of Ronald Reagan I ever saw: Ron, sitting in the Oval Office, reading an issue of Captain America - and dressed up as Cappo too - minus the mask! The caricature of him trying to fly up, up and away with Superman is merely number two... But I am digressing again...)

Comic-books can also ease the learning process of another language - I am a perfect example of that, having started out with French versions of comic-books, moving on to their original editions and from there - the sky was the limit! I am equally at ease with Shakespeare and Molière since 1985, I'd say (approximatively) - faut le faire!
Onwards to new, or rather novas moradas...!

In conclusion, a sample of some of the comic-books that I remember having read over the years follows: see you (and them) on EBay - next!



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