Monday, February 13, 2006

The Eddie Campbell interview from the Comics Journal.

I like the idea that Graphic Novels should be novel, as in innovative, and not just any comic with a spine. The notion that even though the format and majority of the creative techniques are shared between graphic novels and comics – they are separate ‘beings’ or ‘entities’ doesn’t really translate when you try and compare it with other mediums.
The idea of high art/low art only exists in a few mediums and its really hard for a dunce like myself to tell the difference between them. There are movies and cinema but besides the opinion “Cinema is everything I think is good, movies are for the rest of you” is there anything that really separates them? Is it a matter of quality, structure, themes?
In TV it seems even more complicated, the basic format and structure stays the same; the only difference between good tv and bad tv is superficially a matter of opinion and advertising, and analytically a matter of budget and production. In books there’s fiction and there’s Literature or books you can buy at the airport and books you can’t.
I’m not that smart when it comes to art, how to define it, compare and value it – I have no appreciation of its history because I’ve been too busy watching Jackie Chan films and reading comics. Because of my lack of smarts I need guidelines to define what’s high art, what’s low art and what differentiates Graphic Novels from Comics, and if it’s a matter of other people telling me “this is a graphic novel because we say so, pip pip” then I don’t find that very satisfying at all.

Though, even though I agree that Graphic Novels should be celebrated for their originality what happens when the innovative becomes the norm? Pekar, Spiegleman and Campbell can be celebrated for their introducing their autobiographical works in a spandex world but with Blankets, Perpolis, Epileptic and Pyongyang on the market does American Splendor lose its graphic noveliness? Dark Knight Returns introduced the world to Grim and Gritty but since Hal Jordan went nuts is Miller’s book just a comic with a spine?

Another point raised in the interview, has made me rethink my position regards the position of graphic novels/comics in bookstores. I always thought that Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan should be shelved in between Warden and Warland, not in the comic ghetto found between Science Fiction and Calendars. But then I wouldn’t expect Hansen’s version of LA Confidential on DVD next to Ellroy’s book, or ‘Pieces of You’ next to “A Night without Armor”, The Proposition with the Nick Cave cds. Two different mediums. Sure graphic novels and books share a distribution model, size, materials, etc, but they are two different vehicles of telling stories as different as radio play and theatre. Makes obvious sense. As an attempt to be taken seriously as a medium there’s a sense that comics are waving their arms in the crowd shouting “we’re just like you!! Please love us!!” instead of extolling what comics can do that’s different from anything else.

Lastly its nice to read a comic related interview that has a nice flow of conversation and covers a number of points – I may make more of an effort to pick up TCJ in the future.


douglasbot said...

Very nicely put. And no spelling mistakes. For a minute there i wasn't sure if i was reading you or an exerpt from the interview.

It's like Bizzaro Mark.

Mark Selan said...

hmm Bizarro Mark Week seems like an interesting concept