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Why webcomics don’t work. Yet

Well. It’s been a few weeks. Or a week or three and a couple of days. if you read the Mail, then we’ve all been waiting for the BBQ summer, and have been bitterly disappointed by the non-emergence of the sunshine. Or, if you’re a normal human being, its been an English summer and it’s not really been that bad. My herb garden has grown and our tomatoes are lovely.

We’ve been camping, and we came back, and we’ve been to see ‘Banksy vs Bristol Museum’. And, sorry all, but I stand by my previous post. It just didn’t work in that setting. I like the work and I think it’s provocative (probably more provocative than I expected it to be), but it belongs in the street and on the side of a building making a point that we can all grin at and move on. Not in a gallery, and not in this pseudo-worshipful environment.

And then this morning I had a natter on twitter with Hazel Grian. Hazel’s smart, and has very interesting ideas, and this morning we chatted about webcomics. I think there’s something interesting fermenting, and it has (thankfully) got more to do with substance than style. Comics work (when they work) because they have been thought about very carefully, and are being created by people who do know what they’re doing. A comics page is a physical thing, that is read in a unique manner (when I say unique, I mean to draw attention to the manner in which the form is read – a manner quite unlike film, animation or practically any other literary form). Marvel’s motion comics are a waste of energy and attention in this regard,  and remind me only of why Watchmen is a work of brilliant, gem-like accuracy as a graphic novel, and a disappointing hack-job when it’s a film. For example, look at Dave Gibbons’ response to Alan Moore’s scripts in Watching the Watchmen. Issue 4’s repeated panels, issue 5’s symmetrical design. That is simply ignored in the film – in many ways quite rightly (as a film isn’t going to respond to that form in the same way) – and in place of it what do we get? Nothing. Snyder’s film is a hack job because it completely ignores how the original works, and instead only addresses the surface. Eddie Campbell reproduces Andrew Rilstone’s critique here, and he’s right to do so. Snyder doesn’t get it, and won’t get it, because he’s not interested in form.

So – a drink with Ms Grian in the next week or two. Ideas will happen.

Elsewhere, Largeheartedboy draws our attention to reviewsnthings, and as I’ve mentioned Eddie Campbell above, I have to repeat Neil Gaiman’s proposal for what the term ‘Graphic Novel’ means:

It is at moments like this Pádraig, that we remember what Dr Johnson said on the subject:

As far as I can tell, GRAPHIC NOVEL was a term coined by YAHOOS specifically to pester, irritate and lykewise get the GANDER of MASTER EDDIE CAMPBELL, such that SMALL BOYS and STREET URCHINS are said to shout it at him in the street (Viz, Here Comes Master Campbell, Have you written or drawn another Graphic Novel today?). Persons of QUALITY do not utter it, preferring such terms as BIG COMICAL BOOK ALL BOUNDEN TOGETHER WITH A THICK SPINE or even A COLLEXION OF PAGES WITH PICTURES AND WORDS PRINTED IN SUCH A WAY THAT BOOKESHOPPES CAN SELL THEM TO THEIR PROFIT.

Yep. That’s about it.


2 comments for “Why webcomics don’t work. Yet”

  1. I know I’m being thick, as I usually am, but when you title something “why X doesn’t work” the convention is that you then follow the title with an explanation, at least in passing, of why X doesn’t work.


    What motion comics and mediocre films have to do with webcomics escapes my feeble mind.

    Also, any debate on something ‘working’ or not, depends entirely on your definition of ‘working’, a definition which is likely to vary depending on where you stand on the scale from populism to elitism.

    Anyway, I’m going back to spending my vacation drinking coffee and reading romance novels.

    Posted by Baldur Bjarnason | August 21, 2009, 5:08 pm
  2. You really should fix that floating smiley bug (the CSS style ‘float:none;’ for the ‘wp-smiley’ class should to the trick, maybe with a smiley specific padding/margin tweak for good measure).

    Or you could turn off graphic smileys in comments.


    Posted by Baldur Bjarnason | August 21, 2009, 5:12 pm

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